Thursday, April 17, 2014


AIDS and the homeless; a struggle for help, dignity - By Irma Widjojo/Times-Herald staff writer/     Posted: 03/18/2014 01:07:48 AM PDT

John Carter, a homeless man with AIDS sleeping outside the Vallejo public library, takes a sip from a drink supplied by a friend as he talks recently about his problems finding medical assistance in the county. Carter had just visited a local emergency room, having had a health crisis. He has now found temporary inside lodging, waiting for a medical appointment. (Mike Jory/Times-Herald)
John Carter was covered in his own excrement and too weak to speak when a few people found him about a month ago asleep on the concrete outside a Vallejo library.
With their help, Carter, 44, is now on medication and in transitional housing.
Carter was diagnosed HIV positive in 1989, and has been homeless for the past few years. Last year, his HIV developed into full-blown AIDS.
He said without the help of Good Samaritans, who brought him food, clothing and even took him to doctor appointments, he likely would have died.
Although a much healthier looking man today, Carter still has a basic question from when he was found in front of that library: Where was the help?
County and hospital officials said there are resources, but Carter and his supporters say they are difficult for those who are down and out to access.
"The system is broken," Solano AIDS Coalition's Izzy Drumgoole said. "I know (Carter), but literally this can be anybody. If you don't have insurance, you are poor, and you don't have access to resources. Is this what you deserve? No, it's wrong."
When Mario Saucedo, also of Solano AIDS Coalition, found Carter on Valentine's Day, he took him to the emergency room at Sutter Solano Medical Center.
However, Saucedo said Carter was given a blood transfusion, and was released hours later in the middle of the night, with no warning to Saucedo who was going to pick him up. He walked out with papers listing phone numbers and websites to available resources.
But Carter had no money, and said he wondered, "How am I supposed to call? I don't have a phone."
The Solano County AIDS Community Education Program's number to enroll in its Ryan White program requires a call-back number.
The program is available for those who "have no other option," said Cara Drake, the senior health education specialist.
If eligible, clients are provided a case manager, who arranges housing, food, transportation, health and other services for them. To be eligible for the program, prospective clients must have a letter of diagnosis, which is also problematic for someone in Carter's situation who may not keep documentation. The county, however, does provide free testing twice a month at its Vallejo clinic, 365 Tuolumne St.
Drake said each week many people try to get into the program, but there's only so much state funding. According to the state Office of AIDS website, Solano receives $136,220 for HIV Care Programs from July 1, 2013 until the end of March.
Saucedo said there's a breakdown in communication, and more outreach is required so potential clients like Carter don't fall through the cracks.
"They live on the streets," Saucedo said. "The county needs to go to the streets to look for these people, to tell them that the resources are here."
Drake said the program outreach must come from its community partners.
"I think the reason people are not calling is because they don't know about the services," Drake said. "We rely on the community to spread the word. If there's one person along the way who's willing to help, you're more likely to get care."
At Sutter Solano Medical Center, Carter said he spoke with a hospital social worker, but was unable to be immediately placed in transitional housing. The hospital offers Transitional Care Program in partnership with various community organizations.
Hospital spokeswoman Liz Madison said patients are treated and released "when they are medically safe."
"Upon discharge, the additional resources that are given to the patient ... we are really hopeful that they take the initiative to pursue them," Madison said. "There's only so much we can do in the hospital. It's important and appropriate for the hospital (and community organizations) to work on that end."
Through assistance from, and phone calls by Saucedo, Planned Parenthood paid for Carter to stay at a local motel for three weeks, plus meals. Carter also receives medication through the California AIDS Drug Assistance Program, and is applying for Medi-Cal.
"I was lost," Carter said when he first spoke to a reporter nearly a month ago. "I want people to get services that they need. I want people to get treated with dignity. I want people to be OK to be sick."
Saucedo said he knows there are many like Carter living on the street with HIV, or AIDS.
"We can't tolerate this," Saucedo said. "We are in 2014, and this is happening? Why does it take me to scream for things to happen?"
As for Carter, he said he's focused on getting healthy, and planning on helping Saucedo help others living with HIV.
"I feel supported," Carter said. "I don't want to go back to the street. I'm surprised I didn't die. ... I'd like to see people like me blend in, with no stigma. Treat us like a person. I am normal."
Contact staff writer Irma Widjojo at (707) 553-6835 or Follow her on Twitter @IrmaVTH.

(Kay's note:  He came in to my office on March 19th.  We filed that day and he was approved and received his first check on about April 15th.  He’s gained 25 pounds (having lost 60 in 3 months) and his T Cell count is working it’s way up.)
#ktracy #kaytracy #law #attorney #lawyer #fairfield #suisun #vallejo #vacaville #socialsecurity #disability #veterans #ssn

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