LEWISTON — Months after complaining about the way the state helps people with HIV or AIDS, clients say there’s been little change and they’ve given up trying to get help.

However, the state says clients appear to have adapted to the changes it made, and more people are starting to seek help. 

In July, the state changed the way poor Mainers with HIV or AIDS get assistance, requiring clients to get food cards and other financial help from the Maine Center for Disease Control rather than through local case managers.

The problem: Some clients said it took them a month to get help from the CDC when it had taken less than a day with local case managers. They felt intimidated by CDC workers, who wanted to know why they couldn’t get help elsewhere instead. They said requests were ignored because they failed to date their form or check a box on the application.

Some clients spoke with the Sun Journal about their issues in September. At the time, CDC Director Sheila Pinette believed some of the complaints — including that staff members were ignoring incomplete applications — were unfounded. She also said the CDC hoped to provide help within a week or two of a request.  

Since then, the CDC has worked to process requests every week rather than every two weeks. Lewiston-area clients say they’ve seen a slight improvement. What took three to four weeks now takes two to three weeks.


But clients say nothing else has changed. Some are so frustrated they say they’ve stopped asking for help.

“They’re not going to ask again,” said Lori Jacques, case manager for the St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center’s HIV/AIDS case management program in Lewiston. “That doesn’t mean they’re not in need.”

With about half of the grant period left, the CDC still has two-thirds of its federal money to give out. Jacques recently received a CDC reminder that money is available for her clients.

But the CDC said numbers are actually climbing. In August, two months of the grant cycle, about 29 percent of eligible people asked for help and received it.

As of last week, that number was 51 percent.

“Over the last few months, it appears that the community has adapted to the changes in the HIV/AIDS program, and we have seen increasing spending and a greater number of people accessing the funds,” said CDC spokesman John Martins.


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