Memphis, TN – African Americans diagnosed with AIDS between 1997 and 2004 are not living as long as their counterparts, Latinos, Alaska Natives, American Indians, Asian Americans, or Whites, according to the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta. But chances for having a full life after diagnosis of HIV/AIDS is much better today than it was when the disease was discovered in the 1980's.
Marye Benard, Family Nurse Practitioner for the Adult Special Care Unit at The Med, says she doesn't do funerals anymore, and that's because of changes in treatment options for those diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. She works people infected with HIV/AIDS. Early detection increases treatment options, making life livable for those infected.
Previously, patients were prescribed many pills per day, which was very difficult for them to comply. Michele Daniels, Program Manager for Project Styling with the HIV Community Network and an AIDS survivor helps quell fears once someone is diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, including help with medications.
Friends for Life, as well as the Adult Special Care Unit at the MED, provides provides many services for HIV/AIDS patients in the Mid-South, help with housing, jobs, education, food, and medications. They also provide spaces for HIV and AIDS patients along with family and friends to help to mitigate the effects of stigma on their patients.
Still, stigma is a huge obstacle to overcome. For Michele Daniels, the stigma of her husband's death due to AIDS was so great - she felt she had no one to confide in, and in turn, she developed a $200-a-day heroin addiction. Eventually, she kicked the habit, and many years later, she began losing weight. Soon, she was diagnosed with HIV, and because of her knowledge and positive attitude, Michele began helping other HIV/AIDS patients who were newly diagnosed.
Michele Daniels continues to head Project STyling, while helping those who've been newly diagnosed with HIV or AIDS come to terms with their illness and learn how continue to live.