Alton brewery partners with nonprofit to help people with HIV

The beer called ‘Oh Yeah!’ is a tropical-punch-inspired beer and with every pour during Pride Month, it can help one more person.

ST. LOUIS — On Thursday morning, Vice President of Operations Tawnya Brown worked hard to make sure everything is running smoothly at Vivent Health.

It’s because multiple services are happening in one spot.

“We offer medical care, pharmacy, case management, behavioral health services, legal services and a dental clinic all in one location. In addition to HIV testing, STI testing, and treatment,” Brown said. 

Brown said the name used to be St. Louis Effort for Aids. It had a 30-plus-year history of providing HIV prevention and care services in the region.

Then, it merged with Vivent Health in 2018. 

It soon became a medical home model of care and set a national standard for healthcare outcomes for people living with HIV.

Brown said the organization is vital and it helps patients on both sides of the river, regardless of their ability to pay.

“We’ve served over 3,300 people living with HIV in the last year,” Brown shares. 

This is double what they served in 2018.

She said this type of structure breaks down barriers in order to access several services.

Brown said if someone tests positive, they can walk around the corner to see a doctor that day and can walk out with medication if they are willing.

Brown said they’ve learned dental services are a big need. 

Just last month, it served 600 people.

“What we’ve uncovered is a significant unmet need for dental services living with HIV. A lot of people living with HIV, not everyone, but a lot of people don’t have insurance,” she notes.

Other reasons also include a lack of providers working in the HIV community and dental community. Plus, some practitioners retired and haven’t been replaced.

To do more, Brown said Vivent Health needs everyone to join the conversation.

“What we need is for people to feel like they can have conversations, to know where to go if they need help. All of us can play a role in those things,” Brown tells 5 On Your Side. 

That’s where Old Bakery Beer Company comes in. 

For the fourth year, its partnership aims to raise funds for Vivent.

The beer called ‘Oh Yeah!’ is a tropical-punch-inspired beer and with every pour during Pride Month, it can help one more person.

Bartender Joel Watson said, “We’ve been intentional to put that on our label so people know where a portion of their proceeds are going to.”

Brown explains these donations are crucial. 

“Any amount they can contribute helps us do that much more for patients that need our care,” she said.

Even $26 can serve a person in its food pantry. 

Watson also said this can also spark an important dialogue.

“This topic is so difficult to speak on and being in a social environment and a safe place, it makes it easier to approach this topic,” Watson said.

While donations and conversations are needed, Brown shares, it’s the visibility that matters too.

“Exposure is very important because it’s going to take all of us being aware of our risks and knowing our status, getting in our care, and getting healthy to turn the tide of HIV in St. Louis,” Brown said.

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