There is a painting on the wall in the Harlem United office that uses an Ethiopian proverb as a caption: He who conceals his disease cannot be cured. And, although there is no cure for AIDS or HIV, treatment and prevention are readily available and can be free. This is the message Tata Traore, director of Harlem Uniteds Bondala program, wants Africans in New York to know.
Bondala, or the 'hang out place', is a program specifically designed with immigrant Africans in mind. The program provides many services, including separate health education groups for men and women, ESL and literacy classes, healthcare, contraception, and HIV/STD counseling, testing, and treatment.
The HIV/AIDS division of Bondala is divided into two departments: La Source', which provides information to people with undetermined or negative HIV status; and Yaa Kar - a Wolof term meaning 'hope'- for those who have tested positive for the disease. Yaa Kar provides members with ADAP - a federally-funded program providing free medical insurance for individuals living with HIV/AIDS - as well as counseling, housing, transportation, and support groups. Both La Source and Yaa Kar are confidential.
The best thing about these programs is that they are open to any and everybody. Legal residency is not required. "The majority of our members are undocumented immigrants," says Traore. "We also desperately need volunteers to assist in all of our programs, especially our ESL and literacy classes,"says Traore.
To join the Bondala program as either a client or a volunteer, drop by 306 Lenox Ave between 125th &126th streets in Harlem, or call 212-803-2895 to arrange a confidential appointment.