Puerto Rico HIV/AIDS Organization Still Without Power After Hurricanes

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San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz speaks to reporters at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center on Nov. 1, 2017. She told the Washington Blade after the press conference that her administration is doing what it can to help people with HIV/AIDS after Hurricane Maria devastated the U.S. commonwealth in September. (Washington Blade photo by Tom Hausman)

(WB) An organization that delivers meals to people with HIV/AIDS in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico has been without electricity for more than two months.

Food and Friends in D.C. has pledged to donate between $30,000-$35,000 from its annual Slice of Life pie sales fundraiser, which ends on Thursday, to the San Juan-based Bill’s Kitchen. Food and Friends spokesperson Abigail Seiler told the Washington Blade on Wednesday in an email the donation will help Bill’s Kitchen purchase a John Deere generator that will power their facility.

Food and Friends Executive Director Craig Shniderman spoke with Bill’s Kitchen Executive Director Sandy Torres on Tuesday night, according to Seiler.

Torres told Shniderman that Bill’s Kitchen has not had electricity since Hurricane Irma brushed Puerto Rico’s northern coast on Sept. 7. Hurricane Maria devastated the U.S. commonwealth on Sept. 20 when it made landfall on the island’s southeast coast with 155 mph winds.

“They have been without electricity for more than 70 days,” Seiler told the Blade, referring to what Torres told Shniderman. “[The] power went out during the first hurricane, Irma, and never came back.”

Statistics from the Puerto Rican government indicate that half of the island remains without power nearly two months after Maria made landfall.

Torres told Shniderman that 25 of the 28 people who work for Bill’s Kitchen “have no electricity at home.” Torres also said the small generator that her organization is using to prepare meals “periodically breaks down” and it “can’t run their (air conditioner) or walk-in (refrigerators) in any case.”

“It’s in the mid- to upper 80’s with high humidity,” Seiler told the Blade. “Their staff are starting to experience significant stress-related anxiety and depression. Clean water is still a serious issue. Their current meal capacity is 20 percent of the pre-hurricane service.”

  

Puerto Ricans with HIV/AIDS even more vulnerable after Maria

Torres and other advocates on the island with whom the Blade has spoken in recent weeks have said LGBT Puerto Ricans and people with HIV/AIDS are even more vulnerable after Maria because of the lack of power, food, medicine and other basic services. They are also among those who have sharply criticized the Trump administration’s response to the hurricane.

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz told the Blade earlier this month during an interview on Capitol Hill that a clinic her city’s Department of Health operates is dispensing medications to people with HIV/AIDS and providing them with food and water. She also said her administration is working with the AIDS Healthcare Foundation to provide generators to people with HIV/AIDS who need them.

Cruz told the Blade that community-based organizations in Puerto Rico are also “canvassing the neighborhoods and ensuring that what (people with HIV/AIDS) need is solved.” 

 

— Michael K. Lavers, Washington Blade courtesy of the National LGBTQ Media Association.


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