How the HIV Resource Hub is crucial in the time of Covid-19 Crisis
By: Oscar Solis, Health Educator at Center on Halsted
Center on Halsted in partnership with AIDS Foundation of Chicago, has rolled out the HIV Resource Hub, designed to provide our communities with full access to meet some of their most pressing needs in the hopes of helping Illinois get to zero new HIV infections by 2030.
A phone call, text, email, and when the shelter in place order is lifted, a walk into Center on Halsted, will get people connected to a member of our Rapid Response Team. These dedicated staff will then connect the person to a range of services from housing, testing, and healthcare, to Emergency Financial Assistance, food, and mental health services.
A young gay man who recently relocated to Chicago several months ago has been out of care for the past several months while trying to establish himself in his new city. He works in the service industry and has been out of work, with no idea when he will have gainful employment. He saw the HUB number on social media and decided to reach out. We connected him to our linkage to care services and referred his account to AFC for Emergency Financial Assistance. Through our highly coordinated services, he is on his way to greater stability.
In this time of uncertainty, not only do the Rapid Responders help to streamline processes and connect people to what they need, these dedicated staff do the important work providing a calming presence. They understand that feelings such as anxiety, depression, and fear must be met with kindness and patience. They also know they must have answers and will need to work every connection to help get the person to that next step toward safety.
At times, this is as easy as being a place that people can connect with easily for information such as the nearest open HIV or COVID-19 testing site. Other times, it might be offering emotional support to an individual who was treated differently because of their HIV+ status. And for some, it means being able to restate the facts of the potential impact of COVID-19 for HIV+ individuals, to individuals experiencing information overload.
In other situations, assistance involves basic needs. The Rapid Response Team had a client without food was seeking food assistance and could not safely find a food bank near his residence. We connected him with local pantries that could possibly deliver to him as well a referral for long term food assistance.
Our communities are responding in ways that reflect the impact of our current health crisis. From simple notes to our Rapid Responders of “Bless you” and people repeatedly expressing gratitude to saying that in this very scary time we were able to give people hope, our team is doing their part in making a difference in people’s lives.
Another team members call:
I had a client call from Cypress today expressing fear because he has been living with HIV since at least 2016, but has not yet been on medication. He has become very ill lately and knows that his CD4 count is dropping. He wanted to know if he should try to go back to the UK where he is from to try and begin treatment. I explained to him that HIV treatment can be started where he is, and if he takes it daily and works with his doctor his CD4 count will likely rebound. I also discouraged him from trying to travel right now with a compromised immune system. He repeatedly expressed his gratitude, and that in this very scary time I was able to give him hope. This honestly was one of the most touching calls I have had in my two years of answering hotline calls. Our work is saving lives in this time of crisis.
The Hub was established as an innovative response to the needs of our communities.