“It was night. There were people walking by. I was arguing with myself.”
What kept her from going over the edge that night were thoughts of her son. He was 16, living with her mother in Northern California after Jones had moved to San Diego in search of better medical care. The boy’s father, an important person in his life, had been murdered years before. He’d be without a parent.
She headed off the overpass, toward a hospital at the University of California at San Diego. It was a long short walk.
“I kept turning around and saying, ‘I’m going to jump.’ It was back and forth all the way to the hospital.”
At the emergency room she told people what she was thinking of doing. She was admitted to the hospital for a week.
Jones’s story is all her own. But it’s also emblematic of problems endured by hundreds of thousands of HIV-positive Americans like her. That is why she is willing to tell it.
“I’ve been waiting for this opportunity,” she said.
There’s a new term in the world of AIDS care and research: the cascade of care. It refers to the sequence of steps a person must take between becoming infected and getting on the path to long-term health.
A person must first get diagnosed with a test, and then be referred to a doctor. She has to go to the first appointment, and the doctor has to provide the correct treatment. She has to go to follow-up appointments. She has to take the medicines prescribed, every day. They need to work or be switched out for ones that do. If all goes well, the virus will disappear from the bloodstream. The patient will have an undetectable “viral load”— the goal of treatment.
Only 28 percent of the United States’ 1.1 million people infected with HIV are there today. Jones is one of them. It took a long time.
Keeping people on their feet along the cascade care is now a major source of effort and research in the American AIDS community.
The organization that helped Jones back on her feet is Christie’s Place, which has a project to improve use of HIV medical care for people of color in San Diego, and especially for Hispanic women.
Christie’s Place is one of 10 organizations that has gotten money from AIDS United, a non-profit specializing in public-private partnerships. AIDS United received $3.6 million from the Social Innovation Fund, which requires that federal seed money be heavily matched by private donations. In AIDS United’s “Access to Care” (A2C) initiative, matching will bring the total amount to assist the 10 grass-roots outreach programs to $14 million.
When Jones was discharged she was referred to Christie’s Place, an AIDS resource center. People there helped her get food, a bus pass, psychotherapy, a ride to her clinic appointment — little things and big things that are keeping her from stumbling again.