CANFIELD, Ohio (WKBN) – Next month, the Ursuline Sisters HIV/AIDS Ministry clinic will celebrate 20 years of serving the community.
“When the sisters first started the ministry back in 1993, they did so because there was a lack of community resources and they were encountering more and more people living with HIV,” Director Daniel Wakefield said.
Over the years, they’ve grown. The clinic was established in 2001 and now offers food, clothes, household items, tutoring for children, transportation, advocacy and support, to name a few.
Wakefield said over 80% of people they serve also live in poverty.
“We’ve been very fortunate to receive some wonderful grants some local foundation support. The Youngstown Foundation has been really great in supporting our children’s program each year, and we recently got the Walter and Caroline Watson Foundation to donate some funds for us to purchase some new furniture for our clinic space,” Wakefield said.
Wakefield said there has been a steady increase in cases throughout Trumbull, Mahoning and Columbiana counties. He said there are about 770 people living with HIV, with 410 receiving services at their clinic last year. They also saw 18 new cases of HIV diagnosed in the community in 2020.
It’s important to note that until the mid-1990s, HIV was seen as incurable, but medical advances have allowed people with HIV to live longer, which affects the total number of cases in an area.
“Now with medications, people can become virally suppressed. What that means is the level of the virus in the blood is so low that you’re not able to sexually pass on the virus to anyone else, so that’s also part of the importance of seeking out medical care for yourself,” Wakefield said.
According to the Ministry’s November 2020 newsletter as of September 2020 the clinic had achieved a viral load suppression rate of 93%, which is the highest it’s ever been.
The advances in medical care and the access to that care and other necessities the clinic provides for nothing in return is all part of the ministry’s mission to help end the HIV epidemic.
Along the way, they also hope to end the stigma around HIV so that those living with it don’t feel as though they are different or worthless.
“We thank everyone along the way that’s helped us,” Wakefield said. “The Ursuline Sisters who stepped up in the community and did what they always do, which is fulfill and meet a need in the community that they had.”
Anyone that would like to donate to or needs the services of the ministry can call them at 330-793-0434.