A new HIV support network in Palm Beach County focuses on a large, and underserved population: HIV positive people who had the disease before the widespread use of effective antiretroviral therapy. The Metropolitan Community Church of the Palm Beaches (MCCPB) started the new network this year.
The mission of the HIV Long-Term Survivor Network is to develop and maintain a resilient community of long-term survivors by providing social and educational activities that nurture relationships with others and promote life-affirming self-care.
In short, the goal is to provide long-term survivors a social outlet that’s fun. The first gathering was held this spring. “Group members planned, shopped, and prepared a spaghetti dinner, which was a great bonding experience,” said Chris Lacharite, MCCPB’s HIV Program Manager, and himself a long-term survivor, in a statement. “It was a great success, and everyone had a good time.”
Long-term survivors of HIV face a variety of physical and emotional issues that affect the quality of their lives. Cory, who did not want his last name use, knows those issues well. He was initially diagnosed in 1994. When he didn’t respond to treatment, he lost his job. These days, Cory feels better. He attends other support groups but prefers this one because, well, it’s designed to be enjoyable.
“I like groups like this one where everyone can check in,” he said. “Then you get to know people better.”
A Lunch and Games day took place June 9 at Compass and a pool party is planned for the Fourth of July weekend. The network wants to add movement classes soon, as well as dances, group outings, and an annual conference on HIV and aging once additional funding is obtained.
“At the Metropolitan Community Church of the Palm Beaches, we consider long-term HIV survivors to be the true heroes of the epidemic,” says Rev. Dr. Lea Brown, Senior Pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church of the Palm Beaches, in a statement. “Many have participated in clinical trials, marched in the streets for treatment access, and survived and thrived through multiple losses. We honor these survivors and celebrate valiant lives they are leading.”
For more information about MCCPB’s new Long-Term HIV Survivors Network, please call 561-775-5900 or visit the Long-Term Survivors page on Facebook.