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May 8, 2019

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HEROS Site Visit

HEROES organization was founded in 1995 by was founded in 1995 after struggling within a healthcare system that constantly said 'no' to the needs of women and children with HIV/AIDS. The Office of Women's Health provided our seed money--a $25,000 grant. Over 20 years later HEROES programs have touched the lives of more than 10,000 people affected by HIV and AIDS in the rural South.brings lifesaving services and assistance to those who are impacted by HIV in the rural South and education to the community. Their outreach programs, retreats and educational initiatives are tailor-made for the issues faced in Northeast Louisiana.

The South had 52% of new AIDS diagnoses in the U.S. in 2015 and the highest rate of HIV diagnoses. Louisiana ranked first in new HIV infections overall 15% of people living with HIV/AIDS in Louisiana live in rural areas. The deep South is not monolithic despite characterizations to that effect. The most recent CDC data reports ‘progress’ in Louisiana. No funds have ever been earmarked for prevention, treatment and care in rural areas. Recent advocacy efforts in Louisiana focus exclusively on metropolitan areas. Upon meeting Mrs. Monica, we were unable to take photos as a group due to the fact that the HEROES headquarters was destroyed by a fire. All computers and wires were fried. Although their building was under reconstruction, they are still working

hard to ensure their yearly retreat still holds and their impact in the community continues.

HEROES (Helping Everyone Receive Ongoing Effective Support). Founded by Monica is focused on improving the physical, economic, and social health of people impacted by HIV/AIDS in rural Louisiana. Her journey began with a 1985 letter informing Johnson, who was then attending Monroe's Northeast Louisiana University, that the person whose blood she received during a hospital stay the previous year had died of AIDS. Four years later, Monica learned she was pregnant and her son, Vaurice, was born HIV+ in 1990. He died three years and six months of age from HIV/AIDS complications. Through these experiences, Monica quickly learned about the absence of services, and the prevalence of stigma, surrounding HIV in rural Louisiana. After hearing ‘No’ one too many times, HEROES began in 1995 when Monica was determined to turn all of those into ‘Yes’.

After speaking with Ms. Monica, we learned more about the yearly retreat held by HEROES organization, we learned about their finances, they reach out to people infected with HIV/AIDS as well as people affected by it. The retreat is a weekend of empowerment, health, prevention and fun activities for the people. Here, people are coming together to fellowship, they have that community that they do not have and the support they do not have from the society. Men and women who come to this retreat are taught how to lie with AIDs. It is either funded by grants or personal donations, working hand in hand with volunteers who come down to the camp to help out by feeding the guests and bringing up games and activities. Finance being the greatest issue

of the whole organization. The retreat is the biggest thing they do for the people asides from providing them with healthcare and their medicine, this is the one thing the people really look forward to. To have the retreat costs between $8000 – $20000 every year, along with volunteers.

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