Hepatitis C, Hep C,  awareness, prevention, counseling, social services, referrals and placement

Hep-C Info
Hep-C News & PSAs
About Siren To Wail

you can make your
donations via

Music With A Message

New Orleans City Business

Nonprofit Spotlight

BY Ian McNulty, Staff Writer

The potentially deadly virus hepatitis C is sometimes described as a “silent killer” because its symptoms can take years to manifest themselves. In New Orleans, this silent killer has met its antithesis, someone who is making a lot of noise in her struggle to combat the blood-borne disease.

Two years ago, Timothea Beckerman was diagnosed with hepatitis C. Almost immediately, the professional rhythm and blues singer involved herself in the nascent effort to educate the public about infection risks and available treatments. Within six months, she formed her own nonprofit organization in New Orleans dedicated to the cause. She has big plans to expand its referral, education and support services.

“As soon as I was diagnosed, I knew what I was going to be doing,” says Timothea, who uses only her first name as her public and performance persona.

“I know music is a universal language. Even if someone doesn’t want to hear what you have to say, they’ll listen to the song, and then they’ll listen to you. Especially kids. You can’t put a doctor in front of a bunch of kids saying ‘You shouldn’t do this, you shouldn’t do that.’ But you put someone like me up there in front of those kids singing ‘Wang Dang Doodle’ and then say ‘Now, let me tell you about myself.’ It works every time. I get their attention.”

Timothea’s story involves days of injected drug abuse that she says could have been the source of her infection more than 20 years ago.

Those days are behind her but the virus remained, undetected until it showed up in blood tests in 2000. Timothea had a regular singing gig in Florida at the time. When she learned about her infection she sought out a Florida-based nonprofit called Hep-C Alert, an advocacy group founded by a woman named Andi Thomas after learning she had the virus in 1996. Here, Timothea learned about the virus and treatment options. Thomas also showed her how to organize and run a public health advocacy group and prepared her to carry the group’s message to Louisiana.

Returning home, Timothea converted half of her Annunciation Street home into offices for a new organization, named Siren to Wail after her aspirations to alert the community about the virus. Now she maintains a hotline staffed by herself and volunteer social workers. They refer callers to doctors, send them information, arrange discounted testing and counsel them on avoiding exposure and weighing treatment options.

Timothea’s connections in the local music community have been a vital tool for the new organization. Concerts are the group’s principal fund-raiser. She uses the allure of the music scene to interest doctors who now sit on her board and volunteer their time, including Robert Perrillo who heads the gastroenterology and hepatology section at Ochsner Clinic Foundation. Perrillo and a host of prominent local musicians appear in a public service announcement produced by Siren to Wail, which airs on local television stations.

Earlier this year, Siren to Wail formed support groups for people suffering from hepatitis C in New Orleans and Covington. Timothea plans to start an education tour of local public schools when classes resume this fall.

The group’s next goal is to raise money, find grants and secure a location to start a clinic devoted to hepatitis C testing, treatment and patient support. Siren to Wail has been run on a shoestring, steadily growing from a total budget of $28,000 the first year to $50,000 raised so far this year from individual and corporate donations.•

07/15/2002 - Vol. 102 - Issue 107 - Page 15


Home | Info | News | Support | Events | Donations | Volunteers | Links | Contact | About | Guestbook

Website hosting & design by
LAlink, Inc
Contact the webmaster