The AIDS Care Group was incorporated in 1998 in order to serve the needs of an outcast group of people living in Chester, PA who were unable to access care and social services for their HIV disease.
Patients living with HIV disease are among the most outcast in almost any society in which they live. In Chester, PA they have not been spared disenfranchisement from their neighbors. Their HIV disease, layered upon years of poverty, poor housing, lack of jobs, crime, and drug addictions continues to help spread the disease and puts patients at stress within the community in which they live. Chester was identified as a medically underserved area by the Public Health Service in 1975, which established a community health center to meet basic medical needs of the population. The city’s troubles with HIV disease began to emerge in the late 1980’s when a local syphilis epidemic was identified. Within years, injection drug abuse compounded the HIV transmission rate. In 1991 Mother Teresa visited the city and established a hospice called the Gift of Mary for women dying from HIV disease. Not only was the city of Chester a center of HIV transmission among its own population, but was receiving patients from throughout the metropolitan area dominated by the City of Philadelphia. The patients were principally minority and were clearly becoming more identified as women of color with histories of prostitution, substance abuse, or crime.
In approaching HIV medicine, the agency staff took the view that the underlying conditions of poverty, low educational attainment, poor housing, high crime rate, lack of adequate transportation, food insecurities, and disenfranchisement all had to be addressed as a basic prescription for the care of each of their patients. It is from this philosophy that the AIDS Care Group established food, housing, and transportation programs as essential services required to achieve success with its basic HIV medical and dental care protocols.