Manny Andrade saw his friends dying and knew he needed help.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – In the 1980s, HIV / AIDS was a medical mystery that was considered a death sentence, but improvements in treatment had extended the lives and quality of life of many patients.
But at that moment, Manny Andrade saw his friends dying and knew he needed help.
“I will travel the world, then people start dying left and right and that is terrible and I know I have to do something,” Andrade said.
He is going to college in New York, learning languages when the first case begins to emerge. Andrade exchanged his dream to travel with the dream of saving lives. He volunteered and then took a job that he thought nobody else wanted: a prison educator. Andrade went to prison around the state of New York to teach prisoners about HIV / AIDS.
Finally, he became a case manager. The title he currently holds on the Northeast Florida AIDS Network. Everyday is checking non-profit clients.
Making sure they have enough food, can pay rent or utilities. When a client can’t – Network helps.
“It only ensures that there is continuity and we continue to show concern and care for the people we serve,” Andrade said.
The COVID-19 pandemic has presented several additional challenges. Patients with HIV / AIDS are considered a vulnerable population because of their weakened immune system and other potential underlying health problems.
Andrade said he had talked to his client to explain best safety practices and ascertain if they were showing symptoms, how to get help. He described the COVID-19 pandemic as deja vu.
He remembers a younger doctor in the news during the AIDS crisis – a New Yorker like himself – who took over: Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Fauci is now a leading member of the coronavirus task force.
“There were big demands at the time and I remember him holding very well and I realized that if he held himself very well during that time during stress,” Andrade said.
He added that when the situation changed, the message for HIV / AIDS patients in Northeast Florida would be consistent: stay healthy, be informed, and be connected.
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