Aug. 27, 2006 – In many ways, the beginnings of HOPE (Helping Others in a Positive Environment), was almost inevitable.
Six years ago, HOPE CEO Ivy Moses was in Atlanta working for Atlanta AID, where she provided case management services to people with AIDS, when she said the Health Department asked her to come home to work in its HIV/AIDS program.
"They were extremely persistent," she said.
Moses was reluctant to return to her native St. John, but when Health officials pointed out that Moses was doing for Georgians, Floridians and Alabamans what she could be doing for Virgin Islanders, she capitulated.
She came home in October 2000 to work for the Health Department as a case manager.
However, she said that as a case manager, her job was to refer people to services usually provided by nonprofit agencies; but there were few such services available.
From that beginning, HOPE grew to a nonprofit agency with five full-time staff members and several contract employees.
Four years ago, HOPE opened its office in the Professional Building located adjacent to the Fort Christian parking lot on St. Thomas. In 2004, HOPE began providing services at Myrah Keating Smith Community Health Center on St. John after receiving a grant from the Centers for Disease Control.
For starters, HOPE provides a slew of outreach programs focused on prevention. The organization offers confidential testing in both St. Thomas and St. John and runs a meals-on-wheels program to provide breakfast and lunch for people too sick to shop and cook for themselves.
The meals-on-wheels program also provides fluids, like juice and water, for its clients because maintaining fluid intake is an important component of HIV/AIDS treatment.
Moses said the program also provides small refrigerators and microwave ovens to its clients to make it easier for them to keep and heat food provided by the program.
According to Moses, HOPE also has a mobile van to reach people not likely to visit its offices on St. Thomas and St. John. "More individuals now know of our services," she said.
Moses said the AIDS crisis is growing, with five cases at HOPE in just the last two and a half months. She said in 2005, HOPE tested 700 people, but had no positive results. "It will get worse before it gets better," she said.
In the St. Thomas/St. John district, risky sex is the main reason people get HIV/AIDS, Moses said.
According to Moses, the AIDS crisis is growing because people have multiple sex partners, won't use condoms and don't have the negotiation skills necessary to insist that their partner use a condom. And she said that people don't realize that having multiple sexual partners puts them at risk for getting the disease.
She said it's important for people to know if they are infected with HIV/AIDS, so they don't pass it along to others.
Moses said she set out to be a clinical psychologist but realized as an undergraduate student at Tuskegee University in Alabama that she'd need to get advanced education if she wanted to get a job. Faced with the need to find employment as soon as she graduated, she ended up with a bachelor's degree in social work. She went on to get a master's degree in clinical social work at Florida State University in Tallahassee. And she's now studying for her doctorate in clinical psychology at Walden University thought its Internet program.
Visit HOPE for testing and other services at the agency's Professional Building office on St. Thomas. Hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday; and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday. On St. John, HOPE staff is at Myrah Keating Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. .
Call HOPE at 777-1611 or visit its Web site.
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