Between 300 and 800 people are living with HIV or AIDS from Mount Pleasant to the bridge.
That may not seem like a lot, but many of them are living in secret and in need of a lot of care.
Now many will have access to even more help because of a new grant.
Learn about the impact that will have in this week’s MedWatch report.
Lisa Shoemaker has HIV, but she’s living a healthy, happy life, better than she ever thought possible.
“I rule it, I tell it what I want to do and there’s so many people that allow the virus to be the primary thing, and so I have someone to talk to about anything, no matter if anyone’s around or not,” says Lisa.
But Lisa has had a great support system.
She’s been a patient at Munson Medical Center’s Thomas Judd Care Center since around 1995.
“Knowledge to me is power, and you can survive a lot better when you have knowledge,” explains Lisa.
She got infected from her dentist in Florida in 1989. He died in 1991.
She almost met the same fate.
“I just wanted to kill myself. I didn’t want to live. I was afraid, everything I heard about just terrified me, and I actually tried to do away with myself. I called all my friends and family and said goodbye, and I miraculously lived,” says Lisa.
But she credits her care in Northern Michigan as part of the reason she’s still here.
“That’s how Thomas Judd has really treated us as individuals and not just a number, as Bob Seger would say in his song, and that’s what important, because each person is an individual,” explains Lisa.
Nick Erber says, “For many of our clients, we’re the only people in the world who know their status, so we’re the only groups of people who they can be truly genuine and open with and they’re not hiding something from.”
Nick Erber is the manager of the Thomas Judd Care Center, a place where people with HIV and AIDS can find support, health care management, and now as part of the new clinic, primary care services.
“The integrated health model works really well, because it addresses their physical needs, the specialty need of their HIV and their behavioral health, or their mental health, if there are any,” explains Nick.
He says new drugs are helping patients like Lisa live longer, healthier lives.
“Being undetectable dramatically improves their quality of life, so they’re not experiencing all the opportunistic infections that are associate with HIV and AIDS. They’re not on prophylactic antibiotics, they’re simply taking one pill, once a day, and monitoring any side effects of the medication,” says Nick.
But it’s not just the physical health that these patients need.
“It’s important because it inspires hope that they have someone they can call that will be a hope giver instead of another dead end. So I think it’s important to stay well, you need hope, encouragement and compassion, and things like that. That’s kind of what we live and breathe here at Thomas Judd,” explains Nick.