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Social Workers in Our Community: Marlin Martin, AIDS Project of the Ozarks

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(Photo Credit: Shane Franklin)

http://ozarkspub.vo.llnwd.net/o37/KSMU/audio/mp3/social-workers-our-community-marlin-martin-aids-project-ozarks_33796.mp3

Just off the corner of Bennet and Glenstone is a simple sign with only three letters: A-P-O. Pulling up on this scene, for some, can be an anxiety filled event. When entering the doors of the AIDS Project of the Ozarks, the kind and welcoming reception helps calm that anxiety.  At the same time, the art on the walls, from clients of the AIDS Project, reminds you of the reality of the situation. People come here to be tested for HIV and other STDs.

Behind the heartfelt art and sincere smiles, in the back of the clinic, is the office of a very… very busy man. 

 “I want to make sure I’m delivering a message of hope.”

Marlin Martin is a licensed clinical social worker and the Director of outreach at the AIDS Project of the Ozarks. He’s responsible for spreading awareness, compassion, and hope to the 29 county region here in the Ozarks. Martin began his path as a volunteer at APO in the early 90s after HIV impacted his family. His cousin was HIV positive.

Now, he works between 60 and 70 hours a week overseeing other social workers in the community as they try to change the behavior of those at high risk for HIV and other STDs. Martin helps his clients create a strategy to reduce their risk. For his HIV positive clients, Martin listens to their needs and helps them change their behavior to live a longer and healthy life.

 “Our goal and our emphasis is that we meet clients where they’re at. We don’t have an expectation that they are going to come to our level and relate to us in a way that would make sense to us. We talk about the concept of meeting with people or the person in their own environment.”

 He keeps true to this concept as well. He often meets with clients at nightclubs or bars, or at the home of a client who has high risk friends stop by for a “testing party.”

 “We are flexible here at the AIDS project, so there’s no given week that’s the same. In my position as an administrator, I have to be here in the daytime very often, but I get to work evenings and weekends.”          

 Theresa Parrish is a volunteer, educating the community with the AIDS Project. She’s known Martin for more than 10 years. She was once his client, and now, she volunteers for him.

 “He’s supportive to people who are trying to do things. He does testing events to really bring the awareness out there about HIV and AIDS. [He is] very active in the community, and very concerned. He does a lot of education with his volunteers to make sure that they are knowledgeable about what to do, and how to do the things that they do when volunteering.”

Parrish spoke fondly of how Martin had been there personally for her, and about how he exceeds his obligations to his clients and the community as a whole. She said he gives help to those who need it when they need it and where they need it.

 “Things are better and I think we’re moving in the right direction, but work is not done. By any stretch of the imagination, the work’s not done.”

During this month of Social Work Awareness, Martin feels it’s important to recognize the work that has been done. There is hope for those with HIV, and it’s Martin’s job to spread that hope. For KSMU News, I’m Shane Franklin.