For people living with HIV and AIDS, social distancing, masks, and gloves are not new.
“One of my first thoughts when COVID first hit was, 'are we going down this road again?' ” said Perry Junjulas, Albany Damien Center's executive director. “Am I going to start seeing masks, deaths at the Damien Center?”
It's why the Damien Center is not wavering in helping support such a vulnerable group of about 400 people.
“We are keeping spaces very clean and very sanitized for persons still struggling with HIV and AIDS,” he said.
For 32 years, the Damien Center has helped people living with HIV and AIDS secure jobs, food, housing, and other resources.
“It’s just a family you don’t have,” said Carol Sorrano, a longtime member at the Damien Center.
Sorrano has been staying at home most days with the exception of quick trips to the pharmacy at the center.
“I see a lot of people passing by; they’re not wearing masks,” she said. “They don’t realize they’re more dangerous to me than I am to them.”
So the Damien Center and its volunteers are bringing meals and supplies directly to Sorrano and other clients.
“I mean, if it weren’t for the Damien Center bringing me food and other things, I’d be in trouble,” she said.
As a result of new protocols and precaution, there have been no confirmed cases of the coronavirus at the Damien Center or among its members.
“It really has been in an effort to ensure that we are doing our part to keep the community safe from COVID,” said Junjulas.
Now the community once again awaits treatment.
“Not that we haven’t stopped wishing for the cure, but we ended up getting a treatment which is what’s kept me alive for the past 25 years,” he said. “And so I’ll take the treatment.”