An HIV/AIDS clinic in Montreal is working to help their meet refugee patients’ needs beyond providing medical treatment.
The McGill University Health Centre’s Chronic Viral Illness Service has set up a fund to help with patients’ unexpected costs, including everything from housing to bus fare.
“In the 30 years I’ve worked in HIV, I’ve dealt with a lot of poverty, but in the last few months I’ve had several patients say to me ‘I’m hungry,’” Claire Duchesneau, a social worker at the clinic, told CTV Montreal on Saturday.
“I have never heard patients openly say to me: ‘I’m hungry.’”
The fund comes as a lifeline to many of the 2,000 patients at the CVIS — nearly a third of whom are migrants.
“Most of our patients struggle with psychosocial problems, with economic problems,” said Dr. Bertrand Lebouché, a chronic virus clinician with the CVIS.
”You have to help them because if they don’t have enough money to get food and to get housing security, housing safety, the HIV treatment will not be able to help them.”
“Carlos,” who preferred to remain anonymous for this story, is one of the many people taking advantage of the service. He moved to Canada as a Rwandan refugee and has been living with HIV for nearly 20 years.
He came to Canada with the hopes of working and sending money back home, but when his illness forces him off the job, he can barely support himself.
“You get sick suddenly,” he said. “If you’ve got plans for what you needed to do, like sometimes say: ‘This year I want to make this kind of money’ and then suddenly I become sick, I’ll be sitting home like three to four months.”
Carlos says with the fund helping him along when times get tough, he’ll be able to stay afloat financially.
“I’ve got good doctors. I’m getting some good medicine and people care about me…so I think I’ll be reaching my goal.”
The clinic is hosting a fundraising concert at the Rialto Theatre in Montreal Tuesday night. Performances include contemporary singer Barbara Lewis and special guest Ben Griffin.
All proceeds will go to support individuals living with HIV/AIDS who are patients at the CVIS.