The Aliveness Project looks to expand

Clyde Cross.jpgClyde Cross relies on food and friends at The Aliveness Project in south Minneapolis

Twenty-six years.

That’s how long the Aliveness Project has been serving Twin Cities residents who live with HIV and AIDS. The nonprofit got its start in the early days of the outbreak in Minnesota, when contracting HIV carried an intense stigma.

It’s a different world for HIV patients now. Drug treatments make it possible for people to live much longer than in the past. But Joe Larson, executive director of The Aliveness Project, said the disease is still isolating.

“We have many people who say, ‘Don’t mail anything to me. I don’t want anyone in my household to know I have HIV,”’ he said. “I’ve even had people say, ‘I don’t even want my mail carrier to know.'”

The are afraid, he said, because they have been rejected in the past.

The Aliveness Project provides case managers, free hot meals, a food shelf — and a place to gather. Nearly three decades later, Larson said that gathering place is still important.

“This is a place you can come meet someone else who’s been living with HIV, maybe for many years, and realize this is not a death sentence,” he said. “That makes a huge difference.”

But with rising numbers, their space is tight. The Aliveness Project is raising money for a renovation. The group wants to double seating for its daily meal and expand the food shelf so it can offer fresh produce.

Clyde Cross is one of the many who came for food and found more. Cross, 50, has been living with HIV since 1996. He relies on the food shelf because at the end of the month, funds run low.

“When I started eating healthier, I seen my whole health situation turn around,” he said. “I was able to stomach the medication.”

But that’s not the only reason he comes.

“We’re all compatible here, in terms of what we’re dealing with in life, medical wise. We can sit, talk to each other. And boy I tell you, I’ve been uplifted talking to people here.”

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