HIV support group helps man find home
By CATHY DYSON
THE FREE LANCE-STAR
There have been a lot of low points for George Lough during the last five years.
He was diagnosed with human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, which causes AIDS. He was homeless several times and in and out of shelters, respite-care centers and temporary housing. He suffered a stroke and several seizures.
He also had brushes with the law and issues with alcohol.
But things are finally looking up for the King George County man. He’s being treated for his various conditions, and he’s renting a house with the help of FAHASS, the Fredericksburg Area HIV/AIDS Support Services.
“This is so much better, it gives me a sense of security and stability,” Lough said about his two-bedroom ranch-style home in the Comorn area of King George. “It’s made me grateful to those who have helped me.”
FAHASS helps Lough pay rent each month to Shawn Palivoda, a real estate agent in the county.
Palivoda bought the small home as a foreclosure and “turns out, it was just the right kind of house [Lough] needed,” Palivoda said.
“I put new siding on it and George got inside and painted it,” the agent said. “Man, he’s really got that house fixed up nice.”
During the holidays, Lough illustrated how happy he was to have a roof over his head by putting up about 20,000 lights, inside and out. He decorated each nook and cranny of the two-bedroom home with clusters of poinsettias and layers of garland, with homemade wreaths and plates full of home-baked goodies.
“This was the first holiday in five years that I had a roof over my head that was actually mine,” Lough said.
Dave Coman with King George Social Services and Zachary Hatcher with FAHASS helped him get his life in order, said Lough, who worked as a cook and caterer until he got disability payments from Social Security.
FAHASS typically helps patients with everything from education about their diagnosis and the many medications they’ll be taking to getting them to doctors’ appointments.
Treatment of HIV is vital, Hatcher said, but medicine can cost as much as $4,000 a month. When people get financial help to cover the cost—and stay on a treatment plan—their health stabilizes and the risk of transmitting the disease to others is greatly reduced, Hatcher said.
In 2012, the Fredericksburg group offered free HIV testing to more than 500 people. Another 187 patients got comprehensive medical and support services, Hatcher said.
He said Lough “is a great example” of the success that can be achieved when a patient has a stable living environment.
Lough continues to have trouble getting proper paperwork from medical officials, but Hatcher said lots of HIV patients struggle with that.
Lough said he has learned that any patient has to be his own advocate and make sure his medical papers are in order, whether he’s suffering from HIV, cancer or heart disease.
“You have to take responsibility,” he said.
Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425