CHICAGO (CBS) — COVID isn’t the only disease disproportionately hurting people of color. HIV rates in Black communities have prompted a nonprofit to mobilize – literally.
They’re using a work van to make sure they can discreetly help patients in the areas that need it most.READ MORE: Jury Selection Under Way In Jussie Smollett Trial
Morning Insider Tim McNicholas rode along to talk about their mission.
From the outside, it looks like any other work van, but on the inside, it’s a lifeline.
“We don’t necessarily want everybody to know what’s going on,” Mikey Forbes said.
The van is a discreet testing center for hepatitis C, syphilis, and HIV; operated 3 times a week by Forbes, prevention program manager of the nonprofit Chicago House.
“I know that there’s a chance that I’m going to be delivering news to somebody that has a potential to alter their life,” Forbes said.
Chicago House launched at the height of the AIDs epidemic, providing hospice care to victims.
Thirty-five years and several medical advancements later, HIV patients can live long lives with proper treatment, but the fight is far from over.
“There’s been less funding, less an effort to address the [HIV] pandemic, because it’s no longer affecting everybody; just black and brown communities,” Forbes said.READ MORE: 17-Year-Old Boy Killed, 4 Injured In Evanston Shooting; Police Believe Shooting Was Targeted
The Chicago neighborhoods with the highest rates of new HIV cases are Washington Park, Grand Boulevard, and Greater Grand Crossing.
Those are the areas where the Chicago House van goes most often; for private testing by appointment, or at community events.
“Communities of color, particularly black communities,” said Chicago House CEO Michael Herman.
Herman said the goal is not just to test but to teach; about treatments and tools to prevent HIV, like PrEP.
“Health care is not an assumed reality in a lot of communities,” Herman said. “We really feel like we need to bring those services directly to people in the community.”
Forbes said the most important thing they can do is build trust.
“I add a little bit of humor, and I make it normal,” Forbes said.
“There are treatment options. There are therapies.”MORE NEWS: Woman Dead, Child Among 3 Injured After House Fire In Clearing
Chicago House has also relocated to the South Side to be closer to the neighborhoods with the most need right now.