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Texans With HIV Cope With Homes And Medicines Ruined By Hurricane Harvey

Sarah Varney, Kaiser Health News People With HIV Went Weeks Without Meds After Hurricane Harvey

This story by KHN senior nationwide correspondent Sarah Varney aired Nov. 24, 2017, on Here & Now.

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Angelia Soloman watched out the window of her ranch home in northeastern Houston because the floodwaters rose as much as the windowsills.

She huddled inside together with her three adopted kids (ages 12 to 15), a nephew and her 68-year-old mom. “They were looking and crying, like, ‘We’re gonna lose everything,’” stated Soloman. “And I’m like, ‘No, it’ll be OK.’”

When the water started dashing beneath the entrance door, filling up the home like a bath, Soloman led her household outdoors, and plunged right into a river of water as much as her chest.

The hurricane couldn’t have come at a worse time for the 47-year-old single mom, who was identified with HIV in 2011. Just earlier than the storm, in a troubling signal, the depend of her T cells — the cells that HIV kills — had plummeted from the stress of dropping her job. She had used her final unemployment verify to purchase faculty garments and provides that now confronted sure smash within the floodwaters.

“It was like 5 feet of water. We just lost everything. Cars, everything,” stated Soloman.

The destruction included her HIV remedy. When I met Soloman in Houston, it had been a month since she had taken her final HIV tablet. There had been simply too many crises to take care of — coping with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to rebuild her home, discovering a automotive and enrolling her youngsters in one other faculty district.

Many Houstonians with HIV confronted comparable issues. The hurricane closed pharmacies and clinics for per week — or longer. Floodwaters ruined medication. People who fled to different states couldn’t get their prescriptions crammed for HIV medication.

As the times ticked on, many frightened the quantity of HIV of their blood would improve and change into immune to therapy.

Donnall Walker waited out the storm along with his 12 brothers and sisters outdoors Houston. The 52-year-old former clothier left his HIV remedy behind. His household’s home hadn’t flooded as soon as in his lifetime, and he assumed he could be again house the following day.

Every week later, when he lastly returned, all the things inside was ruined.

“My biggest emotion was racing in the house to check for my medication because I hadn’t had it and it was underwater,” stated Walker. “It was in my nightstand and my nightstand was floating.”

Walker went to his pharmacy the day it reopened, however he had gone almost two weeks with out his HIV medication.

“On top of all this disaster, I could possibly die and have that burden on top of my family,” he stated.

He stated he feared for his life — not solely from the missed doses however as a result of HIV had weakened his immune system. “I had been in a lot of floodwaters. I didn’t know if I got hepatitis,” Walker stated. “I didn’t know what my condition was.”

There are some 25,000 individuals with HIV and AIDS residing in Houston and Harris County. Dr. Thomas Giordano, medical director at Thomas Street Health Center, a public clinic that provides HIV providers, stated it can take months to find out — by a sequence of blood assessments — whether or not his sufferers’ viral masses had been affected by the storm.

Giordano stated he worries most about his sufferers who haven’t made it again to the clinic. Hurricane Harvey upended so many lives, scattering individuals to reside with pals or household who might not know their standing.

“A lot of people don’t want their friends or extended family to know they have HIV, and so they can’t get the assistance they might need to get to the pharmacy to get a refill or take their medicines with their meals,” stated Giordano. “And so a lot of them stay undercover until things are stabilized again.”

Soloman, the only mom who waded by the waters together with her household, lastly discovered a journey to the county clinic to refill her HIV prescription.

I requested her the place she is headed subsequent. Back to her sister’s home, she stated, the place she and her youngsters reside with 16 different family till her home is mounted up.

She doesn’t really feel aid and even hope, she stated. There remains to be an excessive amount of to do.

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