AIDS Foundation of Western Mass. Empowers People Living with HIV/AIDS

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aids_wmaMonthly Program Provides Tools to Live with Dignity and Good Health

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — The AIDS Foundation of Western Massachusetts, Inc. (AFWM) is proud to announce a new program to support people who are infected and affected by HIV/AIDS in Hampden and Hampshire counties. From April through December 2013, AFWM will offer free monthly educational programming that will provide vital information and insightful discussion about topics relevant to living one’s best possible quality of life with HIV/AIDS.  People living with HIV/AIDS, family members, caregivers and case managers are encouraged to attend.  Presentations will be made by local experts on topics such as Medications and Adherence, Tenancy Rights, Tips for Your Financial Health and HIV & Depression. Programs will also include refreshments, an open question and answer session and packets filled with information to empower participants to reach out for community support following the program.  This initiative is sponsored in part by a grant from The Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts.

Programs will be held on the third Tuesday of each month at the Community Room of Sacred Heart Church, 391 Chestnut Street, Springfield, MA 01104. Registration is encouraged, but walk-ins will not be turned away. The hour-long presentations will begin at 5:00 p.m.  The first program, held on April 16th, will be HIV and Substance Abuse. Joaquin Rodriguez, BS, LADC II, Outreach Specialist and Trainer, will discuss the strong correlation between HIV transmission and substance abuse in our community. Participants will learn more about this connection as it relates specifically to substances that are prevalent in Greater Springfield. This presentation will also address the variety of available services and supports.

This program comes at a critical time for the community, as rates of HIV infection continue to rise. According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Holyoke and Springfield report the fastest growing rate of infection in the state. [pullquote][/pullquote]According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Holyoke and Springfield report the fastest growing rate of infection in the state. [/pullquote] There are currently 1,786 individuals reported to be living with HIV/AIDS in Hampden and Hampshire counties, 1,1,026 of which live in Springfield alone. The Center for Disease Control asserts that these numbers do not include the 21% of people living with the virus who don’t know that they are infected.  “Due to the number of our neighbors who are struggling as a result of an HIV positive diagnosis, it’s important that we make education and supports readily available,” says Executive Director Jessica R. Crevier. “The lack of education and the unfortunate stigma that still surrounds the disease can make it difficult for the people to live with health and dignity.”  This program will allow people to come together in a safe envioronment and learn from presenters who are not only experts in their fields, but also have a stong understanding of the epidemic’s effects on our community.

If you’d like more information about this topic or to register for a program, or to schedule an interview, please call  413-301-0955 or email info@aidsfoundationwm.org.

[From a News Release]