Chuck Nicholls grabbed the microphone and brought the meeting to order.
“Ok, everyone, quiet down,” Nicholls said to a room full of gay men Tuesday evening in Fort Lauderdale. “We’ve got a guest speaker I want you to hear from. He’s from an important organization in our community.”
The speaker was Rob Bullock, representing Broward House and the occasion was the monthly dinner meeting of Tuesday’s Angels. Since 1993, Tuesday’s Angels has served a vital role in providing care to South Floridians living with HIV/AIDS.
Nicholls, fulfilling his duties as vice president of the board of directors for Tuesday’s Angels, introduced Bullock to the men seated inside Mojo Restaurant. It was another full house for the monthly dinner group.
“You really are making a difference,” Bullock told the group.
Bullock is Development Director for Broward House, the longest serving HIV/AIDS agency in Broward County. Last year Broward House worked with more than 3,200 clients. The agency started 29 years ago as a housing program and assisted living facility.
“So many people back then didn’t have a place to go after they found out they were HIV positive,” Bullock said.
Today Broward House owns 10 apartment buildings in Broward County – 72 units total and every one occupied.
“Sadly, 30 plus years into the epidemic housing is still a major issue with our clients and what we do and it is the single biggest part of our programming,” Bullock said.
The group also heard brief remarks from Paul J. Rolli, President of the Central Area Neighborhood Association of Wilton Manors. Rolli plugged an upcoming Smithsonian exhibit at Art Gallery 21.
Before raffle prizes were awarded H. Scott Johnson, a retired Opera singer from the Bronx, N.Y. performed two songs. Johnson, who winters in Oakland Park, drew applause with his own rendition of “Send In The Clowns.”
Tuesday’s Angels members, supporters and future members pay $25 to attend the monthly dinners. Assigned table seating also allows for networking opportunities and, possibly, new friendships, said President Mike Ross.
“Most people come for the camaraderie and the socializing,” Ross said.
Related: Friends Raise Money For Angels
Bullock’s speech was a reminder of those in need of help. With the change in Washington, D.C. there is great uncertainty to how HIV/AIDS agencies will be funded.
“We’ll all be holding our breath,” Bullock told SFGN. “Congress has not authorized the Ryan White Act.”
Along with housing needs, Broward House provides testing services for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. What makes Broward House “unique,” Bullock said, is the agency has an inpatient and outpatient substance abuse treatment program.
“We have a huge epidemic of opioid abuse and heroin abuse in South Florida,” Bullock said. “We still have people sharing needles and our state government doesn’t allow for needle exchange. So we have people sharing needles and sadly we still see HIV. It would be so easy to stop and it’s still a big issue.”
Bullock said there are plenty of success stories as well, noting it is not uncommon for an HIV positive person to go through the Broward House program, get off drugs and become self-sufficient again.
Tuesday’s Angels, Bullock said, has provided bus passes for Broward House clients who do not have cars. The bus passes get Broward House clients to “life-saving” doctor’s appointments, Bullock said.