Rev. Dr. Lea Brown, Senior Pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church of the Palm Beaches (MCCPB), the largest faith-based community in Palm Beach County dedicated to serving the local LGBT community and its family members and friends, today announced the creation of a program dedicated to long-term survivors of HIV. 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 connecting relationships with others and promote life-affirming self-care.”
Funded in part by the SMART Ride 10% Lifeline, the new HIV Long-Term Survivor Network held its first event last month. “It was a great success and everyone had a good time,” says Chris Lacharite, MCCPB’s HIV Program Manager and himself a long-term survivor.
“Group members planned, shopped, and prepared a spaghetti dinner, which was a great bonding experience,” adds Lacharite. ‘We are planning a Lunch & Games day on June 9th at Compass, and a pool party over the fourth of July weekend. Our goal is to add massage and movement classes soon, as well as dances, group outings, and an annual conference on HIV and aging once we obtain additional funding.”
Long-term survivors of HIV face a variety of physical and emotional issues that affects the quality of their lives. Approximately 25% of all those living with HIV were diagnosed prior to 1996 when HAART (highly active antiretroviral therapy) was not yet widely available and when being diagnosed HIV positive was often times equated with an almost certain death sentence. Additionally, about half of all people living with HIV are over the age of 50, which means they are also dealing with aging issues. As a result, many long-term survivors isolate themselves and are forced to manage multiple medical problems as well as mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and a higher rate of substance abuse.
“At the Metropolitan Community Church of the Palm Beaches, we consider long-term HIV survivors to be the true heroes of the epidemic. 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,” says Rev. Brown.
For more information about MCCPB’s new Long-Term HIV Survivors Network, please call 561.775.5900, email [email protected], or visit the Long-Term Survivors page on Facebook.