Julie Lewis: A Seattle local on surviving HIV and leaving a legacy

Julie Lewis is the founder of the 30/30 Project a partnership between Julie, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, and Construction for Change to build healthcare facilities across the globe. She is the recipient of the 2015 Nelson Mandela Changemaker Award. She is a Mother , Grandmother and a local Seattleite.

Who is Julie Lewis?

Julie Lewis is a health educator who spent most of her mid-life raising kids. She moved back to Seattle from Spokane thirteen years ago when her children went to college. She has spent most of her adult life in adult education in HIV and AIDS because she was infected with HIV when her 32 year old daughter was born. She was a high school health and science teacher and after her diagnosis she became a public health educator for the health department in Spokane. For ten years she was a speaker for them, educating mostly youth about blood borne pathogens. 

30/30 Project

30/30 project is geared toward building medical facilities. Julie had been volunteering for an organization called Construction for Change for three years. As she started to approach the 30th year she had survived being HIV positive it was her family who came up with the idea of doing a project to commemorate that day. Because she had so many friends  who didn’t survive 30 years with HIV she wanted to do a pay it forward project that did something good for someone else.

The Diagnosis

Julie was infected in 1984 but wasn’t diagnosed until six and a half years later in August of 1990. At that point her children were 2, 4 and 6 years old. Her children and husband were tested and were not infected.

In 1990/1991 we didn’t know as much about HIV as we do now. There was a lot of fear. They didn’t tell anyone about Julie’s diagnosis for four years because they didn’t want their kids to have to deal with the stigma that surrounded the disease at that time. There was one medication that had just come out of trials in 1990. They hadn’t done any trials on women or children. She was taking a drug that the doctors were just guessing the dosage of which made her very sick and she couldn’t even tell anyone she knew that anything was wrong. In 1994 when they went public about the disease it was a relief and the catalyst to her public speaking.

Getting a project off the ground

• Money has to be raised before they break ground

• The land has to be owned: If you build on leased land the landlord might see a really nice building and decide to take back the property

• They design the building with the help of two architecture firms

• They hire local building crews and use local products

• At the end they hand the building over to the organization they are working for with the only expectation being that they send them an evaluation so they have great data that the building is being used well.

What they are looking for in an organization

• An organization has to have a good track record of doing quality health care in areas around the world that are difficult to do health care in.

• An organization has to be well imbedded in their community

• An organization should be working with government programs

• If they are going to build a building that lasts 30 years they want to be confident that the organization will keep having programs for 30 years and be able to maintain a building for 30 years.


Getting involved with 30/30 Project

• If you want to make a donation you can do so on their website 3030project.org

• If you are a construction professional they are always looking for people to do pre-construction trips. This means going for a few days to a week and accessing a project and setting up some of the professionals in the community that will help build.

• They are always looking for project managers to work for 6 months to a year. This is good for retired professionals or people just out of construction management school.

• Specifically they are currently looking for French speaking project managers to work in the country of Togo in West Africa because they have four projects there and French is their native language.

• They do a lot of events if you would like to host tables or help manage events. They just had a fundraising event and will have another one in late fall or early winter.


Contacting Julie and 30/30 Project

You can find Julie on Twitter @juliealewis or Instagram @julew206.

You can find 30/30 Project on Twitter @3030project or Instagram @the3030project.