The need for an organization such as Health Horizons grew out of a desire to meet the needs of two grieving mothers who had just lost their sons to AIDS in 1988. They formed a support group for similar family members and friends, but soon realized that there were other related needs in the community that they could not meet. They approached the first Director, Jerry Permenter, who organized the Nacogdoches AIDS Project. Because of the need to provide more than just support services and to include the other surrounding counties, Mr. Permenter and his Board of Directors decided to change the name of the newly founded organization from the Nacogdoches AIDS Project to the East Texas AIDS Project. By July 1, 1990 the grass root organization had been in existence for one year and had been self-supported. Mr. Permenter and his Board saw a need to apply for grants since the funds they were able to generate were insufficient to provide for the tremendous needs of those infected with HIV/AIDS. At that time the clients ranged in age from four to sixty-five years of age and Mr. Permenter indicated that they all had a need for assistance. Some of the earlier services provided included medical referrals, pharmaceutical information, free professional counseling, free professional health care evaluations, pre and post HIV Test counseling, referrals for HIV testing, group support, education, buddy system, and practical health including transportation and food. ETAP met on the second Monday of each month in the Board Room of the Nacogdoches Memorial Hospital from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m.
The first Board of Directors listed in the Articles of Incorporation filed on June 25, 1990 with the Secretary of State were Jerry Permenter, Barbara J. Cordel, Marcella Moody, and Kenneth King. There were a number of issues that the first Board had to deal with and one of these was the education of the community concerning HIV/AIDS. In a November 19, 1989 article in the Daily Sentinel on Local AIDS Support Group Helping Others In Coping, it was very clear that much work needed to be done on educating the community. Mr. Permenter was quoted as saying that one family member was so fearful they had their dying son live in a mobile home on their property. When he died, they burned the mobile home for fear of catching the disease. Ms. Laverne Neille the woman responsible for Mr. Permenter starting the Support Group made a similar statement in the same article when she said her son wanted to come to Nacogdoches and die, but they could not assure them that anyone would provide the necessary home heath care. Thus Mr. Permenter and the Board became a resource in the community on providing how HIV/AIDS was contracted and transmitted.