BY CAIRRIL MILLS
“Everybody I know says they don’t know anyone with HIV, but we all do,” says Jill Stowers of Positive Link, a program of IU Health Bloomington Hospital. “They may not have disclosed their status to you, but odds are, yes, you do.”
Positive Link provides HIV prevention education and direct services for those infected with HIV in south-central Indiana.
“People tend to have one of two views about HIV,” says Stowers, clinical lead manager. “They think, ‘This is a disease with no treatment and I’m going to die’ or they see HIV as a chronic disease that’s very manageable. Neither of those is 100 percent true. HIV is very manageable, but it’s also pretty intensive management. It’s a disease that will have to be managed for the rest of your life.”
Positive Link takes a holistic approach to HIV care, providing free testing, education, risk reduction, and case management. Team members work with clients to provide everything from housing vouchers to medication management for as long as they need help.
Many of Positive Link’s clients are living in poverty. “If someone doesn’t know where they’re going to get their next meal or where they’re going to sleep that night, getting to the doctor is really not a concern for them at the moment,” says Tammy Baynes, lead care coordinator. “So it’s really about stabilizing their needs and then addressing other needs as they arise.”
Positive Link’s largest at-risk populations are African American females, drug users, and men who have unprotected sex with men.
Baynes emphasizes Positive Link’s holistic approach. “We not only look at their HIV status but also their basic demographic information — their housing status, what their financial situation is, do they have mental health issues, is there any substance use, are there any legal issues or other medical issues,” she says. Positive Link works with other social service agencies to make sure clients get whatever help they need.
Those wishing to support Positive Link can join the Bloomington AIDS Walk on April 22. Visit btownaidswalk.org for more information. To learn more about Positive Link, visit magbloom.com/positive-link.