A local HIV advocacy group received renewed funding last week, so it can begin offering meetings outside of Alachua County.
The advocacy group, Let’s Talk About It, is a program offered by local nonprofit organization Rural Women’s Health Project. The group offers HIV-positive women of North Central Florida support and health education.
Previously, the program only offered meetings in Alachua County. With the new funding, Let’s Talk About It will be able to provide meetings in Marion and Putnam counties, said Angela Bakidis, project coordinator for the program.
Jean, a 61-year-old HIV-positive woman from Levy County, was one of the first to join the advocacy program. Before joining Let’s Talk About It, she was a member of an online support group, which had taken her a year and a half to find.
Women try very hard to make it to meetings, she said.
“There’s some that rode a bus. There’s one that’s a student that rides a bicycle,” she said.
However, many women stop attending because transportation is difficult, she said. And some women have young children they can’t leave alone for long.
Robin Lewy, director of education at the Rural Women’s Health Project, said Let’s Talk About It currently has about 30 members who attend the meetings, but at least 120 women participate in the program through its self-titled magazine.
Lewy said she hopes more women will come to meetings when it is easier to attend.
Jean said talking with other HIV-positive women about their experiences helped with her depression.
“It’s like being on a deserted island,” she said. “No one else can understand it except someone else going through it.”
A version of this story ran on page 8 on 9/11/2013 under the headline "HIV advocacy group to expand beyond Alachua County"