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They struggle in silence…more than a million people in the U.S. are living with HIV. They suffer not only medically, but also with the isolation that comes from having a disease feared by those around them. A program called Doorways is working to improve living conditions—and attitudes. Reed Galin reports.    

 
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SCRIPT:

(Locator: St. Louis, Missouri)

It’s 18 degrees with eight inches of snow. But Emily Edwards is warm and safe at Doorways, a St. Louis group home for those with HIV and AIDS. Six months ago Emily was homeless, working as a prostitute to support a drug addiction.

Emily Edwards, Doorways Resident: “I had a love affair with drugs, not people, for 30-something years.”

At Doorways, Emily enjoys hot meals, medical supervision and comforts of “home.”

Emily Edwards, Doorways Resident: “When I first got here, I flipped my light switches up and down, up and down, because I had lights. I bounced in my bed, because I had a bed that I didn’t have to sleep with a big knife under my pillow and dressed in my clothes.”

Over 20 years, the challenges have changed along with the clientele.

Lynne Cooper, President, Doorways: “When we started, it was mostly young, gay men who had AIDS and most of them were Caucasians. At this point, the people who have HIV are people who are poor; they’re people of color, youth, young women.”

Area churches like Lafayette Park United Methodist help Doorways to provide affordable housing. Church members also offer emotional support.

The Rev. Kathleen Wilder, Lafayette Park United Methodist Church: “You can’t get AIDS from loving them and caring for them. You can only find your life enriched by knowing them.”

Staff member: “How are you today?”

Scott Luckett found an open door here, after a bad experience at a hospital.

Scott Luckett, Doorways Resident: “I was in their parking lot for two nights because the doctors there kept saying, ‘Well, there’s nothing else we can do and we’re tired of you coming in here.’”

Lynne Cooper, President, Doorways: “We do it because it’s the right thing.”

Emily Edwards, Doorways Resident: “People look past the drug-addicted prostitute. Now, I am just a beautiful person trying to get my life right and live with HIV.”

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Lafayette Park United Methodist Church has a long history of reaching out to those with HIV and AIDS, and other illnesses. The church has a banner with the names of members who have died of AIDS. And there’s also an arrangement of their favorite flowers in the sanctuary.

Recently, the church helped Doorways build affordable apartments for clients because taking AIDS patients off the streets is an important tool in stopping the spread of the disease.

For more information on Doorways call 314.535.1919.

Also, see: Doorways offers care for those with HIV/AIDS

Posted: Feb. 25, 2009