Hope Center was established in 1996 in response to a doctoral study conducted by Jeannie Gillian, Ph.D. at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. The purpose of the research was to discover the perceived nature of hope among individuals living with the human immunodeficiency virus who were advised that advanced HIV is not survivable. In-depth repeated interviews were conducted with 35 research participants over 24 months in natural settings. Analysis of the phenomenological interviews revealed the unexpected finding that fatalistic perceptions of a diagnosis of Advanced HIV were not shared by those who live with the virus. The patients defined hope as the belief in possibilities, regardless of illness progression. They described 12 specific themes related to the influence of hope on emotional and health outcomes. These findings suggest that offering a context for hope is a critical aspect of caring for people with this challenging illness.
With assistance from Richard C. Rose, MD, the Fort Sanders Foundation, and Covenant Health's Center for Community Health, Hope Center was established to address individual needs using a patient-focused hope model as defined by the research participants. Covenant Health supports the Center by providing the hospital space needed to offer supportive services at no charge to families affected by HIV and other serious illnesses. The nonprofit Center relies entirely on charitable gifts and donations for its existence. During the past 17 years, community volunteers have created fundraisers to sustain the Center. For example, the 10th Annual "Southern Summer's Night" fundraiser hosted by Rick Fox and Ralph Cianelli was enjoyed by nearly 400 guests on June 16, 2012.