Since 1992, House of Ruth has served families impacted by HIV/AIDS. We strive to support people in our community who are HIV/AIDS-positive, and their families, through a spectrum of services. From stable housing to back-to-school assistance, House of Ruth helps clients and their families work toward health and stability for life.
Long-time House of Ruth client LaTisa was six months pregnant when she learned that she was HIV-positive.
The Struggle of Addiction
Addiction was part of LaTisa’s life long before she tried drugs herself. Her mother smoked marijuana daily for as long as she could remember, before becoming addicted to prescription drugs. “I knew what the pills were,” LaTisa says, “because I matched them up to a magazine ad.”
When LaTisa was in her teens, her mother began using cocaine, and by the time LaTisa was in her mid-twenties, her mother had developed an addiction to crack. It was her mother who first gave LaTisa crack cocaine. “I remember her saying, ‘here, try this.’ I spent my whole paycheck on drugs the first day I tried crack.”
An HIV+ Diagnosis
Six years later, LaTisa had enough of her addiction. She went into rehabilitation at The Healing Place, and it was during her recovery that she became pregnant with her daughter. “It was my second or third doctor’s appointment after I found out I was pregnant,” LaTisa recalls, “and my doctor wanted to talk to me about my lab results without my daughter’s father. Then he told me I had HIV.”
LaTisa was overwhelmed with emotions at the diagnosis. “I was angry and scared,” she says. “I cried the whole day because I thought I was going to die.” LaTisa, like many, didn’t understand that it was possible to have a life with HIV. While she couldn’t pinpoint when or where she’d contracted the virus, LaTisa wanted to do everything she could to avoid passing the disease to her baby.
As soon as she was diagnosed, she went to The 550 Clinic (previously The WINGS Clinic), which is the local public health clinic for HIV patients. There she was given information and education on HIV and a referral to House of Ruth. Thankfully, taking HIV medication as prescribed throughout pregnancy reduces the rate of transmission from mother to baby to under 1%. “My HIV has always been undetectable, so I only had to take medication during my pregnancy,” LaTisa says. She remembers her daughter being tested several times, at birth, at six months, and again at 18 months. Each test came back negative.
Several years after LaTisa first entered The Healing Place, she was able to convince her mother to commit to sobriety as well.
How House of Ruth Helped
LaTisa has been a client of House of Ruth since she was diagnosed in 2003 and considers it an important part of her life and her children’s lives. She is appreciative of the sense of community that House of Ruth offers. “We went to many House of Ruth events as a family. It was always nice to spend time with other clients and get to know them.”
Camp Heart to Heart
For her children, House of Ruth referred LaTisa to Camp Heart to Heart, a yearly week-long summer camp for children ages 5-12 who have been impacted by HIV/AIDS. LaTisa’s daughter and son have attended Camp Heart to Heart every year. When she aged out of the camp, her daughter even returned as a camp counselor.
Another helpful service for LaTisa’s family was the House of Ruth Back-to-School program. Many of our client families expressed their frustrations that the expense of back-to-school shopping was a barrier to their children feeling prepared for the school year. The Back-to-School program began as a way to help families through the times of the year when finances are especially tight. From kindergarten – 12th grade, students receive a backpack filled with school supplies, as well as a gift card to purchase school clothes and shoes.
Housing and Support Services
When LaTisa briefly relapsed in 2016, she was grateful that she could be honest with the House of Ruth support system she’d known for so long. She placed her children with a friend she could trust while she worked hard to regain sobriety. House of Ruth helped the struggling family to pay outstanding bills, as well as provided Kroger cards and TARC tickets. When LaTisa was clean for good, House of Ruth helped her family to get onto the housing list. After a year of working on their credit, LaTisa and her husband were finally able to purchase a home of their own.
Life and a Family When HIV+
Years ago, when LaTisa worked as a drug counselor, she remembers the day a client of hers was diagnosed with HIV. “She was so sad that she cried all day, just like I had.” LaTisa couldn’t disclose that she was also HIV-positive but wanted so badly to comfort her client and tell her that she had the potential to live a full life, just like her. LaTisa was delighted when, later on, she saw that client at House of Ruth and they were able to reconnect and become friends.
LaTisa has raised a healthy family while HIV-positive and wishes more people were educated about the disease. None of her children nor her partner have HIV. “There’s life after an HIV diagnosis,” LaTisa says, “and soon, I hope, there will be a cure.”
18 years later, LaTisa’s daughter — the daughter whose conception brought about LaTisa’s HIV diagnosis — has been accepted to a university and is headed to college in the fall. She’s not quite sure what she wants to major in yet, but LaTisa bets she’ll decide on Business. “She wants to own her own business someday,” LaTisa says. “I’m just so proud of her.”
You can help families like LaTisa’s
In its first year, House of Ruth served eight families. Now, each year we serve hundreds of HIV/AIDS-positive people and their families within the Louisville community. If you’d like to help, please consider making a donation today.