David Munroe & Michael Hickerson
Founders, In This Together, New Orleans
The first floor of David Munroe and Michael Hickerson's two-story New Orleans house is waterlogged and covered with mold. Much of the client population of the AIDS service organization they founded has vanished. The agency's tech support man has moved to Atlanta; its accountant, to Houston.
Yet this determined couple refuse to allow Hurricane Katrina's devastation to deter their fight against HIV. While nine of the 15 other New Orleans'area agencies receiving Ryan White Act funding had not returned to business by early December, these two men (both of whom are HIV-positive themselves) used sheer elbow grease to restart their nonprofit, In This Together, with the hopes of helping people more desperate than themselves.
Housing is a pressing issue, Hickerson says. One client now living in Baton Rouge, for example, can't use her Section 8 voucher because of overcrowding. Med refills can take two weeks to process and require a long drive and hours of waiting, as Munroe found out firsthand. The local Veterans Affairs hospital and HIV outpatient clinic are out of commission.
So Munroe, 49, and Hickerson, 50, are seeking out any available service or program in the region and linking clients'whether they live in New Orleans or elsewhere'to everything from primary health care services to legal assistance and child care.
'It really is difficult,' Hickerson says over the telephone before he and Munroe break down in tears. 'But you do what you have to do because it's the right thing to do.'
HIVers who lived in the hurricane-stricken region and need help can send an e-mail to In This Together at email@example.com.