It’s been an exciting fall at AIDS Project Rhode Island. Since August, APRI has nearly doubled its staff and has launched a variety of new programs that are providing critically needed support services for Rhode Islanders living with and at high risk for HIV.
This means that APRI is now providing a dozen different services, including brand-new ones such as housing advocacy assistance, legal, and early intervention case management, which seeks to increase HIV testing for people at highest risk and linking them to other services to help ensure they stay negative. In addition, APRI has relaunched its Buddy Program, which pairs trained volunteers with clients who can benefit emotionally from having activity partners and companionship.
The new staff members, include Ryan White; Director Mikel Wadewitz; Housing Advocacy Administrator Anthony Faccenda; Housing Advocacy Coordinator Tuckerman Jones; Buddy Program Administrator Dominique Torres Ramos; Buddy Program Coordinator Anthony Torres; and Early Intervention Case Managers Jordan Rego and Blake Piel.
The new staff boast diverse backgrounds in social service and HIV/AIDS service organizations. For example, Wadewitz was most recently director of communications for APLA Health, an HIV service organization and LGBTQ- focused federally qualified health center in Los Angeles; Faccenda worked as the men’s services coordinator for Sojourner House in Providence; and Torres Ramos previously worked as a case manager with the Providence Center.
“This is a tremendously exciting moment for us and greatly expands our ability to provide crucial services,” APRI Executive Director Stephen Hourahan says. “We know that if people living with HIV have stable housing and a social network they have a better quality of life and are more likely to remain adherent to medication. We also know that giving young men who have sex with men access to HIV and STD screenings, and linking them to PrEP and PEP services are also crucial components to ending the epidemic. We are proud to be part of a statewide effort of working toward that goal.”
APRI’s housing advocacy and early intervention case management programs are funded through the Rhode Island Executive Office of Health Human Services’ Co-EXIST grant, for which APRI is partnering with the Rhode Island Public Health Institute (RIPHI), which will be launching a social marketing campaign aimed at young MSM to educate and link them to HIV/STD screening as well as PrEP services.
Relaunching the Buddy Program now makes sense, as long-term survivors with HIV grow older and deal with complex medical needs, as well as feelings of isolation and depression. The Buddy Program is funded through a “90-90-90” grant from the Rhode Island Department of Health. 90-90-90 aligns with the global UNAIDS initiative to ensure 90% of people living with HIV know their status; 90% are on antiretroviral therapy; and 90% achieve an undetectable viral load. When a person is undetectable, they cannot transmit HIV to a sexual partner.
For more information on APRI:
Please visit aidsprojectri.org, or follow @AIDSProjectRhodeIsland on Facebook and @AIDSProjectRI on Twitter.