Gina Moore-Herring was devastated when she got the news that her sister, Brenda, had been diagnosed with AIDS. It was 1992.
Fortunately, Brenda throughout her illness had the resources to pay for medications and medical visits.
“My sister was blessed to have coverage for most of her services and medications through Medicaid and disability,” says Moore-Herring. “The rest was covered by family members.”
Unfortunately, however, Brenda’s 21-year battle with AIDS ended last September. She was just 53. Her body was ravaged with lung cancer, liver and kidney disease, and she’d suffered a heart attack and stroke. Years of untreated hypertension and inadequate healthcare eventually caused Brenda’s kidneys to shut down, causing her to go for dialysis three times a week. Each visit cost roughly $3,000.
“Brenda relied on us to pick up personal items and necessities for her whenever she was admitted to the hospital, but that was it. We didn’t experience a huge financial burden like many other families.”
Not everyone has the same experience when it comes to handling the financial implications of being diagnosed with HIV and AIDS. In fact, some have a tremendous amount of difficulty keeping up, with many even losing their homes in the process.
Feb. 7 marks the observance of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, which is meant to raise awareness and increase education about AIDS and HIV in the black community. More than 1.1 million people in the United States are living with the disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control. About 44% of new HIV cases in 2009 (the most recent CDC data) were found among blacks.
Often forgotten during this observance is the fact that many HIV and AIDS patients struggle to pay the bills. In honor of this day, here are four resources to help ease the financial strain of living with HIV or AIDS.
1) The Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS program is managed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Program grants are awarded to assist AIDS patients with housing and social services. Specifically, grant money is used to acquire, rehabilitate, or construct new housing units. Money from the program is also used for rental assistance, payments for the operation of facilities, short-term payment assistance to prevent homelessness, health care and mental health services, and assistance with daily living.
2) Partnership for Prescription Assistance provides resources for AIDS Patient Assistance and co-payment programs.
3) In concert with city, state, and community-based organizations, the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program offers services to HIV/AIDS patients who are underinsured and have limited financial means. Part of this program, called The Minority Aids Initiative, is tailored specifically to minority populations. Through this initiative, medical services are provided in addition to education services and access to medication.
4) In addition to blogs, health articles, and general coping tips, The Body, an HIV/AIDS education website, has a resource page for HIV and AIDS patients with a directory of programs around the nation offering financial assistance.
Moore-Herring, a member of AMFAR (The American Foundation for AIDS Research) since 1998, continues to be a crusader for HIV and AIDS awareness in her community. She is working on a documentary, called Not Just Another AIDS Story, to honor Brenda’s life. Moore-Herring is also working to keep her sister’s business alive. As a result of constantly being hooked up to the dialysis machine, Brenda developed a fistula, or a growth on her arm where the line entered the skin (this area on the arm is also called an access). Gina, Brenda, and her family started a small side business in 2010 called B. Moore Inspired Access-ories, selling fashionable arm bands to help kidney patients cover their fistulas, since they can grow to become quite large and unsightly.
Moore-Herring is also working to create a foundation in Brenda’s name (B. Moore Inspired) that will help others dealing with the emotional and financial toll of HIV and AIDS.
“I’m hoping that people will be blessed by Brenda’s story,” says Moore-Herring, “and how she overcame despite her illnesses.”