August 23 Article from The News Tribune (Kelly Kearsley)
AIDS agency keeps its focus on living well
health: AIDS Housing group marks 20 years
photo by Joe Barrentine
Patrick Powers says he moved into Three Cedars, a housing and care facility for people living with HIV/AIDS, for help and support when managing his illness became a strain. The Tacoma agency celebrated 20 years on Saturday.
Before moving into Three Cedars, a home for the chronically ill operated by the AIDS Housing Association of Tacoma, Patrick Powers was struggling to live on his own.
AIDS combined with a spinal condition made it difficult to walk and at times use his hands. He needed large doses of narcotics to manage his pain, but they left him feeling groggy.
Seemingly small tasks – going to the doctor or managing medication – “were becoming a strain,” Powers said.
He found the help and support he needed through AHAT.
The agency celebrated 20 years of serving people living with HIV/AIDS Saturday with a party at Three Cedars in North Tacoma that included a proclamation from the deputy mayor recognizing the day.
Powers, 48, arrived at Three Cedars – one of AHAT’s three homes – several years ago.
“It was like a family,” he said. “I felt welcome.”
AHAT aims to provide housing and services to people living with HIV/AIDS in hopes of stabilizing their health and increasing their ability to live independently.
Residents receive a range of care from help with bathing, medication management and coordinating medical services to meals, clothing and even counseling when needed.
David Strong, the agency’s executive director, said Saturday was about celebrating the accomplishments of people who have come through AHAT’s homes as well as honoring those who have died.
HIV/AIDS patients are living longer, Strong said, though death still remains a reality for the homes’ residents and agency staff members.
“We’re really focusing on helping people live well,” Strong said.
Joseph Mackin, 50, is trying to do just that. The former traveling nurse was so devastated when his HIV test came back positive a little more than two years ago that he tried to kill himself.
“I thought I was a monster,” he recalled.
His insurance carrier dropped him. Meanwhile Mackin became very ill, losing weight and sleeping 16 to 18 hours a day, he said.
He landed at an AHAT home in Fircrest six months ago and has since seen a marked improvement in his health.
“They gave me a chance and they gave me a place where I didn’t have to worry about nothing,” Mackin said.
The support of his housemates has been crucial, he said.
“That is the best thing of all,” Mackin said. “They went through what you did and they are there to coach you through it.”
AHAT has served more than 200 people in its two decades. The nonprofit has encountered some rough financial times in this economy as funding has dropped.
But Gary Hill, president of AHAT’s board, is optimistic about the agency’s future.
“I would like to say that we’ll be here another 20 years, continuing to do the work that we do, feeling ready