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Turn the lights on

January 27, 2012

What if the power went out in Philadelphia?

The water starts running in a little town near Oakwood and the power comes back on.

In 1928, the Conowingo hydroelectric dam was completed along the Susquehanna River just outside the town of Oakwood, Maryland. The dam became the 2nd largest power generating dam in the country, behind Niagara Falls. Impounding 105 billion gallons of water in a 14 square mile lake, the maximum capacity of operation allows 38 million gallons of water to pass through its 11 turbines to generate enough electricity to light 100,000 homes for a year.

The mechanism of generating power is simple. Water follows gravity downhill and rushes through and spinning a turbine, a large disc with blades. This spins magnets around copper wire and electricity is created. This electricity is sent out of the plant through power lines that travel miles to their desired location.

You flip the switch, and you have light. You didn’t create the light, but you utilize it for any of a thousand tasks.

When it comes to the HIV epidemic many are living and working in the dark. Individuals, communities, medical care facilities, and support programs are negatively affected in a variety of ways. For example, outdated information regarding diagnosis and treatment may prevent people from being tested or limit how medical providers initiate care with their current patients. Lack of training and awareness of support care programs represents another hindrance. Disintegrated care that does not consider the entire patient or their family and support system is yet another problem. For others a zeal to engage in the fight against HIV may be present, but no practical system is in place to utilize their participation. And others, may be unaware of how close to home the HIV epidemic actually is. Lastly for others, the hope of wellness appears to be too far away to be even considered possible. “I’m the only one,” they may say? It is a dark a lonely place.

Borrowing from power plants and electricity grids, we may have an effective solution.

We call it the Hub and Spoke. The Jacques Initiative, the working plant or “Hub” combines the power of experience, training, multidisciplinary collaboration, and comprehensive medical and psychosocial care and connects to the willingness of individuals, businesses, clinics, volunteers, and communities over a broad geography. Just as a light switch in Philadelphia accesses power generated 62 miles miles away in Conowingo, so it is true with our program. Connecting to the Hub provides access to all that we can offer. As we write in more detail in the coming weeks, we hope to include your ideas on this very topic.

The real power of Conowingo is that it is not the only supplier to the region. It is actually a redundant power system that kicks in if other power supplies fail. The real genius and effectiveness of the system as a whole is overlapping connectedness. The Jacques Initiative is one hub. We need to be connected to more. The city needs spokes. We need a network. Where do you fall in this picture?

HIV is at its worst in the dark. We can turn on the lights.