The coronavirus has affected everyone from healthcare workers to local businesses. Atlanta’s LGBTQ organizations are no exception. We sat down with the leaders of AID Atlanta, Positive Impact, and TRANScending Barriers to discuss how they’re continuing to provide their essential services to the local LGBTQ community while keeping members and employees safe.

 

AID ATLANTA

Nicole Roebuck, Executive Director 

What kind of problems, if any, has COVID-19 posed for your organization?

“COVID-19 has disrupted the normal way we do business in both our sites. Due to the close in person nature of how HIV testing and STI screening is conducted, we had to suspend these services during the height of the outbreak and shelter-in-place orders. We have still been able to provide STI treatment and HIV treatment on a scheduled basis, however, which has worked out well. We had to reduce the majority of our onsite staffing and allow them to work from home instead. We also limited public access to the building itself.”

How has your organization addressed and adjusted to these problems? 

We are proud to report that all services except for HIV and STI screenings have continued to be provided via telehealth methods. Case management, medical provider visits, mental health care, ADAP (AIDS Drug Assistance Program)/Health Insurance Continuation Program assistance, and housing for current members have continued through use of telehealth … Medications through the onsite AHF (AIDS Healthcare Foundation) pharmacy are still available in person, and we have also promoted our courier delivery services and mail order options. For those patients who were deemed medically necessary to come in for lab visits, those appointments were provided. Our Men Engagement Network took to social media to support members virtually. We conduct mandatory COVID screenings and temperature checks and provide masks for all members/patients that have to come to the sites.

What kind of services are you offering during the pandemic?

As indicated, almost all our services continued to be provided using alternative methods and continue to be provided. We are also in the stages of planning our phased reopening which will allow us to reinstate our HIV and STI testing services, but in a controlled and safe manner. Some services will utilize a combination of telehealth and in-person visits depending on the nature of the service in order to control the volume of people in the space at a time. We will continue to track the COVID case data in Atlanta and in Georgia overall as we continue to make important decisions about the scope and breadth of our phased reopening plans.

How can our readers support your organization and the people you serve during this time? 

One of the problems that our members have faced is the impact of loss of jobs that occurred during the height of the epidemic and currently. As a result, we recently launched a Client Assistance fund campaign to assist our members/patients in four specific areas: housing, food assistance, transportation assistance, and medication assistance. You can help us by spreading the word to who can donate any amount at aidatlanta.org/clientfund.”

 

 

POSITIVE IMPACT

Larry Lehman, President and CEO 

What kind of problems has COVID-19 posed for your organization? 

“It’s created several challenges and fear. Closing was not an option for us at all; we’re an essential service, we’re the largest HIV provider in the community. So, it was critical we continue with behavioral health, client services, ADAP programs, and pharmacies. The challenge was to figure out how to deliver the same services in a different model [through virtual services like telemedicine]…We did over 600 behavioral health visits last month by Zoom. Isolation and depression are heightened during this epidemic, so we want to reach out more and have more points of engagement with folks.”

How has your organization addressed and adjusted to these problems? 

“We’re only seeing by appointments, we don’t do walk-ins, which we really miss being able to do. We’re doing a support group Zoom chat, we added curbside pick-up for our pharmacy and moved to a closed-door model where clients can’t come inside. We worked with the state to get the AIDS Drug Assistance Program to do 90-day refills instead of 30 days.

We are starting to draft plans for the next transitional phase of moving services back into the building. We have about four or five phases of what that would look like, so we’re just starting to have these long conversations about how that would work. It all hinges on what’s happening in the community… There are so many unknowns to juggle.

We’re trying to convince our staff that we’re not going back to normal. We’re going to be new, and we’re going to be different. A lot of clients would love to use telemedicine for behavioral health and PrEP. When you’re working and you’re busy, it’s a thousand times easier. It’ll allow us to see more patients.

It’s a lot of adjustments, and I’m incredibly grateful we have a brilliant staff who has worked really hard toward the best interest of our clients. I want to be very optimistic. We will get through this; we’ll figure it out. We’re going to have some setbacks for sure, but that always happens. We’ll do it.”

What kind of services are you offering during the pandemic?

“We are offering every service. We haven’t discontinued any services. We have no plans to scale back, we even have future expansion plans that we’re still considering. We need to be there; we don’t want our clients in the emergency room right now or urgent care centers with folks that could possibly be infected with COVID-19.”

 

 

TRANSCENDING BARRIERS

Zahara Green, 

Co-founder and Executive Director 

How has your organization addressed and adjusted to the problems posed by COVID-19? 

“To fulfill our mission, we use community organizing as a way to connect and harness the brilliance of each other. With the COVID-19 pandemic, we are using technology, such as Zoom video conference as an alternative space to meet virtually for our Monthly TPEG (Trans Peer Empowerment Group) meetings. This allows us to continue our programs and social distance to protect our team and community.”

How can our readers support your organization and the people you serve during this time?

“As it was for the rest of the world, COVID-19 came unexpectedly. Our 2020 budget for direct services was small at the beginning of the year. Now with the COVID-19 pandemic, our community needs have increased exponentially. Unemployment is rampant, which leads to issues with housing and homelessness. We are having to serve our community with a very small budget relative to the needs of our community. We are needing additionally funding to fulfill the needs of our community. Individual contributions, through grassroots fundraising, is critical to meeting the community needs. Readers can assist with donating to TRANScending Barriers at secure.actblue.com/donate/transcendingbarriers.”

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