Last month, a man named John* reached out to us in need of help. He is living with HIV, struggling to find stable housing, and dealing with substance use issues. He urgently needed someone to help him get connected with care, and he got that help right away from the foundation’s Positive Force program.
John met with Brad Vanderbilt, a Treatment Advocacy Coordinator with Positive Force, and they immediately got to work on a plan. Brad and the staff at Positive Force link our clients to services and care in San Francisco. It is not easy work.
“John’s case is fairly typical of the clients we see, and the process of connecting him to care is a complex process—I met with no fewer than six different people in one day, from hospital administrators to nurses to social workers and lab technicians,” said Brad. “It was an exhausting day for me, so I can only imagine how much more challenging it is for community members who may already have health impacts from HIV, not to mention the stress of being newly diagnosed with the disease. It’s an arduous process that only magnifies my respect and admiration for the people we serve.”
Because Brad was there when John needed help, he is now on a path to better health. But there are other people like John in our community, and Positive Force is a one-of-a-kind program in San Francisco to assist men to connect them to care.
“Positive Force is a program by and for gay, bisexual, and transgender men who live, work, or play in San Francisco,” said Justin Jones, Positive Force Program Manager. “We are committed to building a strong, connected poz men’s community in San Francisco. We are here to provide that extra support to help people get through that gauntlet of what it takes to get the services they need for their health and wellbeing.”
“A lot of what we do is partnering with the city and the hospital systems to bridge our clients into care,” said Brad. “I really see our program as the warm and fuzzy side of facilitating connections to care. Because we are peer-based, we are able to form tighter bonds with our clients and we gain their trust quickly. We know what they’re going through.”
“We are very lucky to have such a robust network of services here in San Francisco, but it can be a daunting process to navigate, especially when you’re newly diagnosed or not insured,” said Jorge Vieto, Treatment Advocacy Coordinator. “I know that if we weren’t here to help, a lot more people would fall through the cracks.”
Positive Force provides more than just one-on-one services. It also offers drop-in groups like The Doctor Is In, a twice-monthly, physician-led discussion series on HIV health and wellness, or monthly social events called Urban Adventures, and the PLUS Seminar, a weekend-long, intensive workshop for guys new to dealing with HIV, whether newly diagnosed or addressing HIV in a new way in their lives.
For the staff of Positive Force, this is much more than just a job.
“I believe in peer-based services,” said Justin. “I believe in the importance of health and wellness for everyone. It’s a calling for me to serve this community. To do this work means everything to me.”
“I want all of our supporters to know that we have a lot of underserved populations in San Francisco, because of race, or class, or immigration status,” said Jorge. “While San Francisco has a lot to offer, it’s not always easy to access life-saving services, and that’s why we’re here.”
As for John, he still faces many challenges on his road to better health. But thanks to Positive Force, he’ll have help every step of the way.
*We have changed John’s name to protect his privacy.
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