NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) -- It's the first and only free-standing nursing home in the state for people with HIV/AIDS. And despite obstacles, New Haven's Leeway has found a way to accomplish its mission.
Heather Aaron knows all too well the reality of HIV/AIDS.
"AIDS is still alive and well," said Aaron.
She's the Executive Director of Leeway: the skilled nursing home offering care to hundreds of people with HIV/AIDS.
"At Leeway, we continue to work with population that needs us the most," said Aaron.
For nearly two decades they welcomed the uninsured and underinsured, who also faced other chronic conditions such as liver disease and mental illness.
"The state worked with us for years and now that has changed," Aaron said, "the state is saying we can no longer do that, you need to follow the regulations."
Regulations which did not allow treating able bodied adults.
"Some of my patients have been to the major facilities in our area five-six times in a four month period and they decompensate," said Aaron.
To stem that tide of care and costs, Leeway now has a pilot residential program to ensure people like Kevin.
"I came here not expecting to leave here," said Kevin.
Living with AIDS, continue to get the help they need.
"I got my health and my strength back together, my legs and my feet and helped me to focus in on what I have to do in my life, once I leave through those doors," Kevin said.
Fellow patient Terlayne with HIV is stronger and more confident.
"I was able to heal spiritually and physically," said Terlayne. "I'm in the process of leaving. I'll probably come back volunteering, give back."
"We are all just a statistic from anything. I could have been that person on that bed, you could have been that person on that bed. So I don't think our option has ever been to judge the situation," Aaron said. "Our option is to care."
A permanent residential program at Leeway has received state funding, but is still $3 million short.
Once completed, it will be able to treat 30 residential patients.
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