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UPDATED: Puerto Rico's HIV and LGBT Communities Need Help

Puerto Rico

The island nation territory has been devastated by Hurricane Maria, here's how you can help.

Puerto Rico has been devastated by Hurricane Maria.  “A day after Hurricane Maria razed Puerto Rico, its ferocious winds smashing houses, hotels, cellphone towers and the island’s entire electrical grid, the fear and frustration were pervasive on Thursday,” according to The New York Times. The story continues, “Power was out everywhere. Cellphones were mostly useless, forcing panicked residents to scramble for news from far-flung relatives. Much of the island’s water was undrinkable. Roads were carpeted in debris. And still the full scope of the damage was unknown. By day’s end, Puerto Rico’s governor, Ricardo Rosselló, said there had been no contact with officials in 85 percent of the island.”

I was able to communicate with Pedro Julio Serrano, who runs Paratod@s, San Juan’s [Puerto Rico’s capitol] largest LGBT and HIV community center via Facebook messenger where he told me he’s running a shelter. You can help by donating here.

NMAC Released the following letter today. Please consider contributing to them to help Puerto Rico rebuild in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria:

Dear Friends and Supporters:

Unprecedented storms have devastated significant portions of Texas, Louisiana, and Florida, leaving many residents with little or no access to shelter, clean water, and life-sustaining medications and care. This is especially true for our brothers and sisters living with HIV. For them, every moment is a battle for survival. They are in crisis. 
Now, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands need help too. Hurricane Maria has demolished homes and facilities across Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, leaving much of the islands without power or water. The destruction in these states and U.S. territories demands a rapid response from our community. In the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, the HIV Hurricane Relief Effort was established to rapidly provide grants to support organizations serving the needs of people living with and affected by HIV in Florida, Louisiana, and Texas.
Today, we are expanding the scope of our efforts to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. So, we are calling on all our friends and supporters – individuals and organizations – to contribute to the HIV Hurricane Relief Effort here.
AIDS United established the HIV Hurricane Relief Effort as part of the rapid response arm of the new Southern HIV Impact Fund, a collaborative effort coordinated by Funders Concerned About AIDS with generous support from Gilead Sciences, Ford Foundation, Elton John AIDS Foundation, and ViiV Healthcare. Johnson & Johnson has just made a major contribution as well. Gilead Sciences has also made an additional $1 million available to the Fund to support immediate assistance to areas affected by the storms. NMAC is partnering with AIDS United by appointing an HIV Hurricane Relief Advisory Panel made up of constituents from the affected regions to identify priority emergency needs for the HIV communities in each area.
Our people and HIV service organizations are in desperate need. Since the announcement of the hurricane relief effort at the U.S. Conference on AIDS, applications have been received from HIV organizations in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico describing the need for millions and millions of dollars to address their emergencies. Applications are being reviewed weekly and funds are being dispersed quickly. Grants have covered everything from housing to food as well as medications and medical care.
The demand for help will soon outstrip current available funds. We don’t need to tell you that this assistance will be the difference between life and death for thousands of people living with HIV in the affected areas. There is no time to lose. Organizations, businesses, and individuals can make donations to the HIV Hurricane Relief Effort here.
Questions about the fund should be sent to Melanie Powers, Program Manager at AIDS United, at The communities affected by this year’s hurricanes are part of the epicenter of the U.S. epidemic of HIV. In 2014, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 100,000 people with HIV lived in Florida, more than 77,000 in Texas, nearly 19,000 in Louisiana, and more than 17,000 in Puerto Rico.

We must do all we can to help. Now!

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