The entrance is hidden. The door is on the side of the building
behind a tall bush, slightly lower than ground level. On the door a
sign states, “Safezone: this place respects all people.”
Nervous clients, who sometimes park their cars blocks away and
walk to the building, pass through that door every day.
This building is the location of Northern Colorado AIDS Project,
400 Remington St. # 100, an organization that serves the needs of
eight counties in Northern Colorado.
NCAP gives confidential HIV test results to 900 people every
year. Most of them are lucky, said Christiano Sosa, executive
director of NCAP. Most of the people who pass through the doors are
given negative results.
Others, nearly 15 each year in Northern Colorado, receive
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment
published a report in September that said there are currently 3,530
people living with AIDS in Colorado, with the largest percentage
coming from Caucasian men ages 30 to 39.
NCAP’s caseloads have swelled nearly 15 percent in the last six
months, partly because AIDS awareness is less of a priority, Sosa
“There used to be a time when everyone wore a red ribbon and
there was all this awareness but those days have fallen by the
wayside,” he said.
Some clients’ families are unable to deal with the reality of
the disease, and NCAP tries to pick up where those family members
have left off.
“Oftentimes the family has shunned them and they have little
avenues for support,” Sosa said. “But that’s why we’re here, to
give them that support if their families can’t.”
More than the physical and emotional support, like many AIDS
projects throughout the nation, NCAP provides advocacy to clients
who have been discriminated against and fired from their jobs.
Built solely on donations, grants and federal funding, the
organization helps pay health insurance, rent and utility bills for
its need-based clients.
HIV and AIDS are not curable diseases; they trap their host and
slowly kill them. Medications can slow the process, but committing
to the pills, the injections and the side effects means the patient
will take the drugs every day for the rest of his or her life.
John McGlynn, 51, a Fort Collins resident who worked in food
service at the Durrell Center, is a long-term survivor. He has
learned a few things since being diagnosed.
“A little ounce of prevention goes a long way,” he said. “Had I
gone and gotten tested for HIV years ago, I wouldn’t be in the
situation or place I am now.”
His story started Thanksgiving weekend, 2001.
McGlynn had been feeling tired and was looking forward to
spending his break sleeping. He went to see his doctor, who
concluded he had emphysema because of his smoking habit. A few
weeks later, he went back to his doctor for more tests, and the
doctor said he had a severe form of pneumonia, called pneumocystis
carinii pneumonia, also known as PCP. The doctors told him 98
percent of people who contract PCP also have AIDS.
“And I said ‘not me dude. I haven’t had sex in years, no way,'”
The AIDS test came back inconclusive, and McGlynn said he gave
the doctor an assured I-told-you-so speech. The doctor was not
quite as convinced, and sent McGlynn to Dr. Charles Steinberg, a
nationally know AIDS specialist in Boulder, to talk about the test
“He got this model of a cell out and he’s going through all this
crap and explaining and I go, ‘Do I have AIDS?'” McGlynn said,
recounting the day in January 2002. “(Dr. Steinberg) goes, ‘Well,
yeah, hasn’t anybody told you?’ And I said ‘No, this is the first
time I have ever heard about it.'”
His tests had come back positive; McGlynn had passed the point
of HIV infection and his disease had turned into AIDS.
Doctors later examined McGlynn’s sexual history and concluded he
had been infected with HIV for nearly five years before showing
symptoms and getting tested. There was a time when McGlynn had
multiple partners and used no protection; to this day he is not
sure from whom he contracted the HIV virus.
“It didn’t really hit me then. It hit me on the way home from
the doctor,” McGlynn said. “I got really teary eyed and I had to
pull over to the side of the road and think about it.”
McGlynn said that he did not know much about AIDS when he was
diagnosed. He assumed he could take the medication and be back to
work within weeks.
He did try to go back to work at the Durrell Center, but because
AIDS affects a person’s immune system, his body was not strong
enough to fight off common infections that circulate in the
“I tried to do full days, but I didn’t even finish my first full
day,” he said. “I got chicken pox.”
AIDS took a toll on his body and McGlynn eventually had to
When he was first diagnosed, McGlynn was ingesting 18 different
medications. The pills were fighting off his PCP, chicken pox and
“It was just unbelievable, and I had all these side effects,” he
During the 1980s, when AIDS started to kill large numbers of
people, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration started to give AIDS
medication fast-track drug approval. This was in response to the
need for life-sustaining drugs. Now, because these medications are
available, people can live longer with the disease.
But because these medications are not fully tested, the patients
who are taking the medication are the test subjects, Sosa said.
“Everyone on HIV therapy is basically on clinical trial.
(Researchers) are finding side effects that they never intended,”
Sosa said. “We are finding clients that are passing away not
because of the HIV, but because of kidney and liver problems. The
bottom line is that we don’t know the long-term effects of these
McGlynn takes four different medications every morning. He is
also part of a clinical trial with the University of Colorado
Hospital in Denver and injects himself every night with the trial
medication. His AIDS medication bills total $45,000 a year. This is
not including doctor visits or other complications; these are the
medications that sustain McGlynn’s life. Because McGlynn is a
military veteran, the Department of Veteran Affairs covers all his
Each client who comes into NCAP has a unique story, and the
transmission of the disease varies as well. Sosa said most clients
contract the disease though unsafe sex because of decision making
that usually involves alcohol or drugs.
“We’re living in a very different age; intimacy can kill you
now,” Sosa said. “HIV is entirely preventable and it’s condom use
that’s going to prevent it.”
Women who have been in married, monogamous relationships for 20
years, have passed through the doors of NCAP and have been given
positive HIV tests, because their husband had not been honest.
“We don’t truly know what our partners are doing unless we ask
those questions,” Sosa said.
NCAP recently expanded to open an office in Sterling, a town
with a population of 11,000, to meet the needs of the growing
number of people in rural areas who are infected with HIV.
“The reality is there are people infected in Northern Colorado.
That’s the reason we’re here. If there were no AIDS in Northern
Colorado, there would be no need for this project,” Sosa said.