Earlier this morning our executive director Cheryl Potts made an appearance on WRNW1, Women’s Radio Network. Lisa Singer interviewed Cheryl about the work we do at Alexian Brothers Housing and Health Alliance and what drew her to the organization. Cheryl said that she committed to working in the HIV community many years ago because it struck her as the “biggest social justice issue of our time.”
Lisa asked Cheryl about the challenges facing this community today. “We’re still seeing a lot of stigma and discrimination towards people who are HIV-positive,” Cheryl observed. This is a particularly big problem because it also stops people from seeking treatment. Though having HIV doesn’t need to substantially reduce life expectancy, it will if stigma keeps people from seeing a doctor and starting medication.
Another obstacle Cheryl spoke about was misinformation. “While there’s a lot of information out there, there’s also a lot of misinformation,” she said. A lot of this is from outdated impressions of what having HIV is like that are based on how things were decades ago. People still assume HIV requires handfuls of pills to manage and causes severe side effects, but today many people just take one pill a day with minimal effects on their daily lives.
Of course Cheryl also spoke about how our work fits into this. At the Housing and Health Alliance, we primarily serve people who are homeless and have HIV. “Providing a home is first and foremost as far as treating the needs of people who are coming in,” Cheryl explained. We then build on this base to address physical health and mental health, and then we start helping people work towards their life goals, like returning to school or the workforce.