How Hoosiers living with HIV are dealing with coronavirus outbreak

Living with HIV during coronavirus outbreak

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Todd Fuqua lives with HIV. ​He was diagnosed back in 2013.​

“For me, really in my situation, as long as I continue to take my meds, I’m at no greater risk than the average 52-year-old, with my underlying health condition. Not everyone with HIV is that lucky,” Fuqua said Tuesday.

He’s one of about 7,000 Hoosiers living with HIV in central Indiana. ​He and his family take daily precautions against the coronavirus.​

“Brandon and I went to the grocery store last night. Kind of practiced as much as we could that social distance model. Really trying not to touch our face. Sort of all the things we’re hearing,” Fuqua explained. 

Fuqua’s photography business is also on hold right now because of the coronavirus. ​But he was careful with a client’s photo album delivery Tuesday morning.​

“I basically asked the same questions that the Damien Center asked of me when I showed up: ‘Have you been around anyone that has any symptoms? Are you having any symptoms?'” Fuqua said. 

“We really have to tell people to be careful and recognize that it’s a dangerous disease no matter what. If you have a compromised immune system, it’s even potentially more dangerous,” Alan Witchey, president and CEO of the Damien Center, explained.

As Indiana’s oldest and largest HIV/AIDS service center, the Damien Center isn’t taking chances, either.​

Coronavirus concerns have forced the Damien Center to limit who comes into the building, meaning visit are by appointment only. They’ve also got plenty of hand sanitizer around. And they’re asking anybody who has a fever, a cough or who might be sick to wear a face mask.The Damien Center has also canceled any walk-ins for HIV testing.  ​

“It’s really important for people to know their status but also during times like this, we have to do very limited testing, because we can’t have the public in and out and potentially bring the virus in to people that already know their status and are accessing care here,” Witchey said.

As the coronavirus spreads, Witchey said the most important thing for people living with HIV to remember is​ “…to be in care, make sure you’re taking your medications, make sure you’re self-isolating, make sure you’re eating well and doing all the things that help you stay healthy.” 

Staying healthy through the coronavirus outbreak is exactly what Fuqua is doing.​

“What’s going to keep me motivated is my love for my fellow human beings and the fact, as you said earlier, we’re in this together. As long as we keep that mindset, we’ll get through this,” Fuqua said.