(Providence, RI) – AIDS Project Rhode Island is excited to reintroduce its buddy system, also known as the WellSpring program. The program, funded with a grant for the RI Department of Health is designed to provide compassionate, mental, emotional and spiritual care services that will improve the quality of life for those living with HIV/AIDS.
“There are plenty of programs designed to help people living with HIV/AIDS but this is different.” said Stephen Hourahan, Executive Director of AIDS Project Rhode Island. “Because of the stigma attached to HIV/AIDS, many of our clients experience isolation and loneliness in their daily lives.We are reviving the Buddy Program to offer companionship and care to our most vulnerable clients.” Hourahan continued. “Our staff and volunteers will help with everyday tasks that become more difficult for many clients as they age and their health declines. The emotional support that the volunteers provide is another critical aspect that can help ease the burden when battling this disease.”
“As my patients have taught me time and time again, the love and support of family and friends can be just as important as the clinical care that those living with HIV/AIDS receive. WellSpring will absolutely help bring that love and support into people’s lives,” said Director of Health Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH. “Similar to the Rhode Island Department of Health’s peer-based advocates program, WellSpring will connect people to buddies who offer emotional support and assistance with everyday tasks to maintain well-being. WellSpring will be a vital part of Rhode Island’s work toward our ambitious 90-90-90 targets. We are working tirelessly across the state to ensure that, by 2020, 90% of Rhode Islanders living with HIV know their HIV status, are engaged in care, and have a suppressed viral load.”
The program was originally created in 1984 to help those who were dying from AIDS who were isolated and often rejected by their families. For years, buddies helped our clients by escorting them to medical appointment, shopping for them, caring for their pets and offering overall life support for clients who were often too weak or sick to take care of themselves. The program ceased in 2008 due to lack of funding and declining interest. As clients live longer with the disease, we are seeing a renewed interest and need for this program.
Companionship and understanding can be crucial to the health and well being of those living with HIV/AIDS. Volunteers will help with a myriad of medical appointments and other daily activities that often become overwhelming to handle alone. WellSpring will ensure that those living with HIV/AIDS have access to individual and group counseling, nutritional support and countless other community resources.