Established in September 2014, CARE4ME was created to provide HIV preventive services and holistic wellness services within the Jackson Metropolitan Statistical Area. Its programs are robust, engaging, and designed to engage the community with its “community wellness concept”, as stated by Program Director Juanita Davis. Mrs. Davis has worked in the public health field in many roles since 1986. Specifically, her contributions at the University of Mississippi Medical Center‘s National Prevention Training Center (funded by the CDC) are what ultimately led her into her current role with CARE4ME. “As a national trainer, I facilitated a series of CDC’s Effective Interventions across the United States. During that time, I understood that HIV rates were on the rise. With high rates of HIV and other social determinants of health affecting young Black gay, bisexual and transgender men, I was inspired to provide holistic services to address the unmet needs. I wanted to show them a holistic approach to living and maintaining a healthier lifestyle”, she said.
Holistic health and wellness is an approach to life! Instead of focusing solely on the physical, it encourages a focus on the whole person: mind, body, and soul. This approach to life is encouraged through CARE4ME’s community wellness concept that was previously mentioned. “This concept allows us to reach more people with HIV because it is not an abrasive approach. We are open to helping anyone in the community who feels they can benefit from our services”, said Ms. Davis. Encouraging and opening its doors to the community-at-large allows those living with HIV to feel apart of the entire wellness community.
CARE4ME’s services are divided into a number of programs:
- 5Voices@6: five session program that offers leadership and empowerment through communication and mobilization with an emphasis on arts and culture. It enables participants to serve as a bridge and voice in their community.
- TTK (Test to Know): targeted, rapid HIV testing and other health screening via the mobile medical unit. This program also actively provides personal and community level outreach activities. Services are reflective of CDC’s High-Impact HIV Prevention (HIP) approach.
- The SPOT (Safe Place Over Time): a safe place for members to openly discuss issues and challenges to help improve their quality of life and to promote the concept of self-worth. PrEP is promoted and referrals are made as needs are identified. The SPOT has two locations—Jackson and Belzoni.
- Speak Your Truth: a team of pro-active wellness advocates educate on the importance of community wellness and reducing stigma. The goal of each session is to promote and improve the overall perspective of HIV testing, reduce the fear of judgement, correct misinformation about transmission, and decrease the fear of retribution. Team member ‘speak their truth’ about their personal experiences.
- HOPWA (Housing Opportunity for Persons Living with HIV): provides housing assistance and support services for eligible persons and their families in the Metro Jackson area. HOPWA services ended in May 2019.
- C-STEP (Community Syphilis Testing, Education and Prevention): a syphilis reduction project designed to increase awareness about syphilis and to increase testing among young men of color, specifically gay, bisexual, and trans women/men.
- NewERA: Youth Navigation Program: provides expertise, input, and ideas to help impact the lives of youth at risk for and living with HIV. Two staff persons serve on the National Youth Advisory Committee thanks to support from the National Library of Medicine of the National Institutes of Health.
- Community Organizing Collaborative: a training program for young men to enhance leadership development and community organization skills to address key problems in their communities.
A more detailed description of each program can be found here.
At this time, CARE4ME is providing most services virtually due to the current COVID-19 pandemic. “We want to stress the fact that it is our behaviors that put us at-risk for COVID and HIV. Therefore, we stress the relationship between the two. When we say wear a mask, it means the same as wear a condom. When we say socially distance, it means the same as limit your sexual partners”, says Ms. Davis. CARE4ME is conducting HIV testing, Syphilis testing, and condom distribution via the TTK mobile unit.