Women involved with WORLD decided to create and organize a retreat for positive women.
In April of 1991, WORLD was founded by Rebecca Denison and a small group of her peers, HIV+ women. With the support of Rebecca’s husband, Dan Johnston, the first issue of the WORLD Newsletter was mailed on May 1, 1991 to approximately 200 recipients. The San Francisco Chronicle announced the formation of WORLD and Rebecca began receiving about 30 calls a day.
Newsletter reaching more than 12,000 readers in over 87 countries.
For the first four years of operation, WORLD was a very small, grassroots organization operating out of Rebecca’s living room in Oakland. After a few months, women involved with WORLD decided to create and organize a retreat for positive women. WORLD’s first retreat was held in 1991 at the Marin Headlands and 30 women were in attendance. After the first year, Rebecca became WORLD’s sole employee.
WORLD kept growing. WORLD’s AIDS Library began with a commitment to gather and share information on a variety of HIV/AIDS topics. WORLD’s Speakers Bureau soon evolved with HIV+ women speaking at schools, churches, jails, conferences, medical trainings, and elsewhere. In 1994, WORLD hired a second staff person to assist Rebecca and coordinate the WORLD Retreats, and WORLD moved into a real office located at 40th and Webster Streets in North Oakland.
Retreats became larger events with key workshop themes and brought together 100 women attending retreats on average.
Following one of the retreats, women continued meeting to develop HIV University (“HIV U”). HIV U was created as a peer-run AIDS treatment education class to provide easy-to-understand information on health and psychosocial issues, including Western and Eastern treatments. HIV U became a model program with WORLD training women in over 40 cities across the country to replicate HIV U in their communities.
In 1997, WORLD was able to hire two additional office staff to assist with Information Services and Volunteer Coordination. Three months later, WORLD staffed a Peer Advocate Program to provide one-on-one support, guidance, and information to other HIV+ women in the community.
In 1998, WORLD began support groups for youth (ages 25 & under) and women living with HIV. That same year, WORLD moved to 13th Street and expanded the youth support group to a youth program, Positive Youth Together.
In 1999, WORLD began offering pregnancy-related Peer Advocacy and also briefly offered free, anonymous HIV testing and street outreach. Also in 1999, WORLD held its first “You Are Not Alone” press conference and march through the streets of Oakland with the support of positive women and their allies.