Customer Stories

AIDS Foundation Chicago

AIDS Foundation Chicago use Cascade across their entire business to keep them razor-focused on strategy

Unifying For Impact: AFC's Strategic Journey Toward An HIV-Free World With Cascade

AIDS Foundation Chicago

AIDS Foundation Chicago

For over 35 years, AIDS Foundation Chicago (AFC) has been an unwavering force in improving the lives of those living with HIV and AIDS. Founded in 1985 through the collective efforts of physicians, advocates, and community members, AFC continues its critical, life-saving mission to put an end to the HIV epidemic and provide homes for all, not just in Chicago but beyond.

“Cascade has really helped us refine the way we approach strategy—we are able to adapt and refocus our goals and priorities based on the insightful staff updates we review each quarter. As a result, we have developed a more unified vision of the impact we aim to achieve through our mission-driven work,” says Justin Sta Ana, Sr. Strategy Specialist at AFC.

In the United States, HIV affects approximately 1.2 million people, with around 87% of them aware of their HIV status.*

AIDS Foundation Chicago (AFC) has an inspiring vision of a world where people living with HIV or chronic conditions will thrive, and there will be no new cases of HIV. To bring this bold, ambitious vision to life, AFC is all about rallying communities to champion equity and justice for those living with or at risk of HIV and chronic conditions.

AFC offers comprehensive support to individuals living with HIV through a multifaceted approach. Their services cover essential aspects such as medical care access, advocacy for fair healthcare policies, educational and prevention programs, housing assistance, mental health support, and engaging community initiatives. 

In February 2022, AFC reached a significant milestone with the unveiling of its Race Equity Plan—a comprehensive three-year initiative designed to rectify historical injustices and promote racial equity. This strategic plan is a vital step in addressing systemic racism and is crucial to the successful fight against HIV and homelessness within Black communities.

AFC plays a pivotal role in bridging the gaps in HIV care, ensuring that those affected can readily access essential resources and find a supportive community. Their dedication extends to policy advocacy, where they're driving systemic changes to enhance the lives of people living with HIV, ultimately putting an end to the HIV epidemic.


AFC realized that to turn their ambitious goals into reality and bring their vision closer, they needed a solid strategy. 

However, as they began crafting their bold 3-year strategic plan, they faced some challenges:

  • Lack of Centralization: Their strategy wasn't centralized, making it a challenge to keep tabs on what each team member was working on and whether they were all moving in the same direction.
  • The Wrong Tools: They initially tried to manage their strategic plan with Excel, but with the complexity of their strategy, it fell short. It not only failed to accurately track their progress but also created friction and made it hard to get everyone on board with the strategy.
  • Transparency Commitment: AFC is strongly committed to transparency, not only within their organization but also with their external partners and the wider community. This commitment highlighted the need for a more accessible way to share their strategy and its progress with all their vital stakeholders.
  • Adapting to Change: As the world around them evolved, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, they found that Excel couldn't provide the flexibility they needed to adapt their strategic plan effectively.

After wrestling with Excel to manage their strategy, they realized the need for a more seamless strategic experience that employees could engage with. That's when they found Cascade.


“It’s so important to ensure that strategic planning, goal tracking, and reporting are as straightforward and frictionless as possible. And Cascade helped us achieve that.”—John Peller, President & CEO.

In 2018, AFC adopted Cascade, crafting a strategic plan that combined structure with flexibility. This adaptability made it easy to seamlessly integrate their Race Equity Plan into their overall strategic plan in Cascade when it was launched.

The biggest benefit? Cascade allowed AFC to centralize its strategy in one place.

They put together their 3-year strategic plan, named "Unifying For Impact," making sure to incorporate all four strategic priorities. Within this plan, they carefully outlined their objectives, fitting them seamlessly under each of their key focus areas, resulting in a well-structured and cohesive strategy.

“Cascade gives us an excellent vantage point to see the amazing work happening across the organization and plays a significant role in our strategic planning process. We’re able to easily identify what we are doing well but also highlight areas for growth.”—Justin Sta Ana, Sr. Strategy Specialist.

Beyond being a versatile tool for crafting their strategic plan, Cascade has been instrumental in putting that plan into action and monitoring it in real-time, ensuring transparency in data and providing a clear view of their strategy's execution.

AFC made executing their strategy a top priority, intensifying their tracking and reporting efforts using Cascade's reporting features for quarterly and mid-year reports. This flexibility allows them to fine-tune timelines for better accuracy and gather up all the ongoing actions relevant to the period they're reviewing. By creating meaningful reports they gain visibility into what’s going well and what challenges need to be addressed.


Cascade brought about a shift at AFC, moving them from siloed to streamlined offering better visibility, smoother workflows, and more precise reporting.

By implementing Cascade, they’ve seen significant improvements in alignment. Now, they can effortlessly see who's involved in various initiatives, steer clear of duplication, and ensure that everyone works together towards their strategic vision.

Cascade also reinforced their commitment to being open and transparent. It worked seamlessly with their other communication channels, helping them share their strategy through their intranet and create visuals for external stakeholders. Allowing AFC team members and the community to understand challenges, celebrate successes, and be a part of the strategy at large.

But AFC's dedication and focus go beyond Cascade. It's part of their culture and how they operate, as seen on their website, which openly lays out their strategic plan and pillars. Their annual reports, also on their website, seamlessly align with their strategic priorities.

Their relentless strategic focus has shown incredible results across key business metrics:

  • AFC’s Ryan White case management program, which addresses the unmet health needs of individuals living with HIV and AIDS, reached 898 clients through home or community visits—a 10% increase over 2021. Within this program, an impressive 86% of people achieved viral suppression, up 1% since the start of 2022.
  • Within AFC's housing programs, almost 75% of clients achieved viral suppression, up by 2% since the beginning of 2022. This result contributes both to individual and community health, as someone who is virally suppressed cannot pass HIV sexually to their partners—this is known as U=U (Undetectable=Untransmittable).
  • Their positive impact continues to grow, with the HIV Resource Hub reaching 10% more individuals living with and vulnerable to HIV compared to 2022.

But AFC's commitment goes way beyond numbers; it's at the heart of who they are. It's the passion that fuels every member of their team, propelling them to work towards a better future. You can see it in the lives they touch, the communities they uplift, and the dreams they make possible.

At Cascade, we are honored to stand by AFC on their impactful journey as they pave the way to an HIV-free world. 

*2021 data. Source:

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