THE BLOG
06/22/2012 05:14 pm ET | Updated Aug 22, 2012

Running On Empty: HIV Survivor Gives Back

Nothing is ever easy for people dealing with HIV, especially those without medical insurance. But one Delaware survivor is doing what he can to make the most out of what has become a desperate situation for many while discovering a trend along the way.

Infected with the disease about 12 years ago from a previous partner, James Schneider uses a cocktail of expensive medications to make it through. But with insurance to help cover the cost of his drugs and strong support from his current 11-year partner, the 48-year-old suspense novelist is one of the lucky ones.

After relocating to Delaware last year from Maryland, trips to the waiting room of the local medical clinic have exposed Schneider to what has become an ongoing struggle for HIV patients at the center -- an everyday matter of life and death for most he has come to know.

"They don't have medical benefits, so they must choose between paying $1,400 to $1,600 each month for costly medication, or buying food," said Schneider, who decided to help out.

In September, Schneider launched the nonprofit Food4Friends inside a health and wellness center on the Stockley Center medical campus in Georgetown. The fledgling organization currently serves about 400 -- about 42 percent of which are heterosexual females infected by their male partners, not drugs, according Schneider.

Admittedly shocked by the statistic, Schneider says the "dirty" stigma often associated with LGBT AIDS/HIV patients is now applied to infected heterosexual females.

"In the social environment, they are treated like pariahs," says Schneider. "Much the same way the LGBT community was treated years ago."

Serving the expanding list of heterosexual and LGBT patients, Food4Friends opens its doors once per week offering non-perishable meals, household goods, toiletries and gently-used clothing for those in need in Sussex County.

"We are there to provide these items, to boost their dignity and allow them to walk with their heads high," said Schneider.

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Rich Jacques is a former U.S. Marine and an award-winning journalist from Huntington, New York.

Seeking to raise funds for two years worth of food, Food4Friends is raffling off a 2012 SLK Mercedes convertible Saturday at their 2012 Beach Ball event in Rehoboth Beach. Tickets are $100 each, with only 1,000 being sold. Actress Kelly McGillis of "Top Gun" fame has joined in the cause, purchasing two tickets recently. Online ticket sales end Saturday at noon.

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