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VICARE Moves Into New Offices, Announces Community Outreach Programs

March 9, 2007 — AIDS is a big problem in the Virgin Islands, but Friday evening about 100 residents saw how one organization works to fight the epidemic in a positive way.
Virgin Islands Community AIDS Resource and Education (VICARE) held an open house with its second Founders' Day to celebrate the opening of a new building at 43 Queen Street, Christiansted.
VICARE has spent part of its 13 years at a small space in Vitraco Mall in Golden Rock, where 12 people had to work in four offices. At the new building, where a ribbon-cutting ceremony took place Friday afternoon, the paint was fresh on the walls and the computers were up to date. The two-story building, purchased in June 2006 with community block-grant money, looked roomy for 12 employees.
Bruce E. Smail, executive director, did not shy away from the dark facts about the disease. The territory has the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence in the United States, and there are 850 known cases of HIV/AIDS on St. Croix, including children and adults, he said. The numbers could rise even higher if everyone got tested, Smail said.
However, he took pains to emphasize that programs were moving forward and growing, including SISTA, a program geared toward black and Latino women. SISTA stands for "sisters informing sisters about topics about AIDS."
A new youth-incentive program at Complex High School called Street Smart teaches students about the dangers of unprotected sex and sharing needles. Held through the vocational department and led by the school nurse, Street Smart has 25 to 30 students taking part in two-hour sessions for three days.
"This program reaches a high-risk group very effectively," Smail said.
At the Agricultural and Food Fair, VICARE sponsored a booth with the theme "Crucians be Safe," where staff members offered free testing. Smail said 150 people who had concerns got tested.
VICARE plans more non-traditional testing with staff members going out in the community, including on the beach at Easter.
The organization also offers test at its office Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with plans for evening testing in the works. People can also get tested at the Health Department and three other sites in Christiansted and in Frederiksted.
In the past year, more than 400 people have gotten tested.
In January, Smail met with Gov. John deJongh Jr. and the finance-management team to address an ongoing problem with AIDS patients in the territory having problems receiving funds for drug treatments. Smail said he believes deJongh knows where the financial problems are and will respond to them.
A New York native, Smail moved to St. Croix when he was only two weeks old. He went to Indiana for college then came back and taught at Central High in 1983 and 1984. He left the island for 21years and came back a year and a half ago.
"As Virgin Island residents, we all need to take HIV/AIDS seriously," Smail said. "It impacts all of us, our friends and family."
Currently VICARE provides HIV-prevention programs to youth, substance users, women and incarcerated populations; conducts free HIV testing and counseling for the St. Croix community; and provides support groups, housing and emergency assistance to people living with HIV/AIDS.
For more information, call VICARE at 692-9111 or visit its website.
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March 9, 2007 -- AIDS is a big problem in the Virgin Islands, but Friday evening about 100 residents saw how one organization works to fight the epidemic in a positive way.
Virgin Islands Community AIDS Resource and Education (VICARE) held an open house with its second Founders' Day to celebrate the opening of a new building at 43 Queen Street, Christiansted.
VICARE has spent part of its 13 years at a small space in Vitraco Mall in Golden Rock, where 12 people had to work in four offices. At the new building, where a ribbon-cutting ceremony took place Friday afternoon, the paint was fresh on the walls and the computers were up to date. The two-story building, purchased in June 2006 with community block-grant money, looked roomy for 12 employees.
Bruce E. Smail, executive director, did not shy away from the dark facts about the disease. The territory has the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence in the United States, and there are 850 known cases of HIV/AIDS on St. Croix, including children and adults, he said. The numbers could rise even higher if everyone got tested, Smail said.
However, he took pains to emphasize that programs were moving forward and growing, including SISTA, a program geared toward black and Latino women. SISTA stands for "sisters informing sisters about topics about AIDS."
A new youth-incentive program at Complex High School called Street Smart teaches students about the dangers of unprotected sex and sharing needles. Held through the vocational department and led by the school nurse, Street Smart has 25 to 30 students taking part in two-hour sessions for three days.
"This program reaches a high-risk group very effectively," Smail said.
At the Agricultural and Food Fair, VICARE sponsored a booth with the theme "Crucians be Safe," where staff members offered free testing. Smail said 150 people who had concerns got tested.
VICARE plans more non-traditional testing with staff members going out in the community, including on the beach at Easter.
The organization also offers test at its office Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with plans for evening testing in the works. People can also get tested at the Health Department and three other sites in Christiansted and in Frederiksted.
In the past year, more than 400 people have gotten tested.
In January, Smail met with Gov. John deJongh Jr. and the finance-management team to address an ongoing problem with AIDS patients in the territory having problems receiving funds for drug treatments. Smail said he believes deJongh knows where the financial problems are and will respond to them.
A New York native, Smail moved to St. Croix when he was only two weeks old. He went to Indiana for college then came back and taught at Central High in 1983 and 1984. He left the island for 21years and came back a year and a half ago.
"As Virgin Island residents, we all need to take HIV/AIDS seriously," Smail said. "It impacts all of us, our friends and family."
Currently VICARE provides HIV-prevention programs to youth, substance users, women and incarcerated populations; conducts free HIV testing and counseling for the St. Croix community; and provides support groups, housing and emergency assistance to people living with HIV/AIDS.
For more information, call VICARE at 692-9111 or visit its website.
Back Talk Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.