The late Don “DJ” Johnson was “the dresser of all of us,” says friend Larry Fremin, founder of the Krewe of Apollo. “He was our fashion coordinator.”
Then Johnson, who died of a heart attack in 2012, would surely approve of a new effort named for him by HAART (HIV/AIDS Alliance for Region Two Inc).
DJ’s Den will provide clothing and household items to the HIV/AIDS community. Last week, HAART Executive Director Tim Young sent out an email to members of Krewe of Apollo, First Thursday, Equality Louisiana and New Orleans Pride soliciting donations of clothing and household items .
“Don Johnson was a friend to the HIV/AIDS cause since the early ’80s,” Young says. “He was one of the first to get out in front of it … always a staunch advocate of all organizations serving the HIV/AIDS community. He was always calling me with a need someone had or someone in need … We (the HAART board) could think of nobody more appropriate to name it after.”
HAART offers care to people in the Baton Rouge area living with HIV/AIDS, including housing, primary care, medications, case management and supportive services.
DJ’s Den, 4560 North Blvd., Baton Rouge, is similar to Kelli’s Kloset, a dream of the late Kelli Richmond to provide clothes for women undergoing cancer treatment. HAART helped Richmond’s parents, Patsy and Ron Richmond, realize that dream by providing a location.
“We’re using Kelli’s Kloset as a learning example,” says Young. “It has a narrower scope, though. We’re offering a wide variety of items for men, women and children … especially for men and children.”
For several years, the Baton Rouge area ranked No. 1 in the nation in new AIDS cases, but new statistics released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently offer a bit of good news. The area, which includes East and West Baton Rouge, Ascension, Iberville, Pointe Coupee, East and West Feliciana, Livingston and St. Helena parishes, now ranks No. 2, with the number of new AIDS cases stabilizing. The Atlanta area is now No. 1.
According to the report, which presents 2012 data, Baton Rouge had an AIDS infection rate of 27.5, which means 27.5 out of every 100,000 people were diagnosed with AIDS. That’s down from a rate of 29.4 in 2011. The rate for Louisiana is 18 per 100,000.
If you have items to donate, donation program coordinator Jazen Smith will be happy to come pick them up and, as Young says, “gently take them away,” Smith can reached by calling (225) 424-1726.
“I know he’s smiling,” Fre-min says. “The entire project is just a continuation of what he did when he was alive.”