This morning is quiet, until we check voice mail. Three housing clients have called to request emergency funds for January. One is from a young woman who is HIV+, she has two children and her boyfriend was just laid off. They qualify for unemployment, but will be short paying rent this month until the benefits kick in. Another client’s message relays that he was beaten badly by a roommate who took off without paying his portion of the rent. Housing is the foundation to getting and keeping people with HIV on life saving medications and preventing the spread of the virus. Our housing program served 76 low or no-income households throughout western Montana in 2013. Last week we were able to bring six people onto the program from the waiting list. The other 17 people will remain there until a spot becomes available or their circumstances change.
As we are staffing the emergency housing requests, two people come in to use the syringe exchange. HIV and hepatitis C tests are offered as part of the exchange and one participant takes us up on the hep C test today. It comes back positive. While waiting 20 minutes for the test she recounts a childhood that would make you shudder. Now she’s 23 and she injects Meth, up to ten times a day. She is afraid to follow up on the test results because she doesn’t want a doctor to see her arms. We talk about vein care and strategies to let her arms heal. She’s been in treatment four times since she was 15. She would like to become a phlebotomist because she can “hit a vein in the dark in a moving car.” In May of 2013 we started operating Montana’s first and only above ground syringe exchange program with the goal of reducing drug related harm- for those who use drugs and our community at large. To date, we have registered more than 100 participants in the program and safely disposed of nearly 10,000 syringes.
A young man just diagnosed with HIV calls to tell us his parents were surprisingly supportive when he told them about his illness over Christmas, he’s looking for a job and a house to rent. Another, also recently diagnosed comes in to visit. He tells us no one in his family knows. Growing up he heard his father use words like “faggot” on a regular basis and he doesn’t think his parents would understand -about being gay or being HIV positive. He talks with his Case Manager and for now is just happy to be in his new apartment and making a life here.
There are two HIV tests scheduled for later in the day, and six more syringe exchange participants drop in. One of our housing clients comes to take out the trash for us and vacuums the lobby; he takes pride in these important tasks he does every week. As we wrap up the day we all cross our fingers that the grant notice we are supposed to receive on Monday comes through in our favor.
1500 W Broadway Suite A
Missoula, MT 59802
Hours for Syringe Exchange:
It’s simple enough: a small finger prick and minutes later you know your HIV and Hep C status.
Chlamydia and Gonorrhea screening also available –self administered, fast and super simple.
Hours for testing:
Closed every day noon-1pm
Schedule your appointment here or call