ARIZONA NEWS

Phoenix nonprofit closing in 2020 has legacy of AIDS/HIV treatment

Nov 11, 2019, 8:30 PM
A mural at the Phoenix Shanti Group. When the center closes in 2020, more than its therapy and care...
A mural at the Phoenix Shanti Group. When the center closes in 2020, more than its therapy and caregiver training programs will be affected. Shanti Group also provides varying levels of housing and operates a thrift store that provides job training. (Photo courtesy of Phoenix Shanti Group).
(Photo courtesy of Phoenix Shanti Group)

PHOENIX – The Phoenix Shanti Group, a nonprofit that has been serving HIV-positive patients with a history of drug abuse or homelessness since 1987, will close next year.

Lack of funding played a major factor in the closure, even with new cases of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, on the rise in Maricopa County.

The center was created at the height of the AIDS epidemic, when the illness was relatively new and misconceptions were common. Cases of a mysterious illness that primarily affected gay men started getting attention in 1981, and by the end of the decade, nearly 90,000 people had died from the illness in the U.S. alone.

The center “was a hospice model at the time, supporting what was essentially a fatal disease,” said Keith Thompson, chief executive of the Shanti Group. “Another big part of the Shanti model at the time was caregiver training.”

That training included the medical aspects of caring for those with AIDS but focused on how to handle their deaths.

As life-saving medications became available over the years, the Shanti Group shifted to meet the needs of patients who still required help but were more likely to survive the disease.

“The only thing we ask of our patients is to be clean,” Thompson said, referring to drug use. “We’ll take care of everything else.”

When the center closes in 2020, more than its therapy and caregiver training programs will be affected.

Shanti Group also provides varying levels of housing, ranging from short-term transitional housing to permanent housing for families. Thompson has been working with families and other facilities to ensure that no one is left on the street after the center closes.

Shanti also has a thrift store provides job training for its residents and an income stream for the nonprofit.

It’s not uncommon for those who were patients to become employees once they graduate from Shanti’s programs.

“It’s just this big bubble of love,” said Sherrie Benecke, behavioral health paraprofessional at Shanti Group.

Beneke came to the center after finding out that she was HIV-positive after years of drug use.

“I was in denial at first,” Beneke said. “I knew for nine years, but I was just in denial.”

Beneke added that she feels an added layer of stigma because she is a heterosexual woman with the illness.

After leaving jail, she found herself at Shanti Group, desperate for help. Once she was clean, the center hired her.

Beneke hopes to stay in the field even after the center closes. The group is preparing her with the tools to transition to another behavioral health center.

Thompson hopes people will continue to support groups that help the AIDS community in Phoenix, including the Southwest Center for HIV/AIDS.

“The AIDS epidemic isn’t over. If you supported Shanti Group, continue to support other AIDS organizations,” Thompson said.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, bottom right, was briefed by Border Patrol agents at the Tucson sector hea...
Kevin Stone

Arizona Gov. Ducey says cartels using Uber-like system for human trafficking

Cartels in Mexico are using an Uber-like system as part of their human trafficking operations at the border, according to Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey.
11 hours ago
(Facebook Photo/Phoenix Police Department)...
KTAR.com

Dirt bike rider dies after collision with police vehicle on Phoenix street

A man riding a dirt bike that wasn't approved for street use died after a collision with a Phoenix police vehicle Wednesday evening, authorities said.
11 hours ago
(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)...
KTAR.com

Funeral services for former Arizona AG Grant Woods set for Nov. 12

Funeral services for former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods have been set for Nov. 12 in Phoenix, the family said Thursday.
11 hours ago
(KTAR News Photo)...
KTAR.com

Bullet hits Arizona DPS trooper vehicle in El Mirage

Authorities said someone shot at an Arizona Department of Public Safety trooper vehicle in metro Phoenix late Wednesday.
11 hours ago
(Chompie's Photo)...
Kevin Stone

Chompie’s deli set to open its largest restaurant near site of original Phoenix location

Chompie's is set to open its fifth, and largest, restaurant next week about a mile from where its original Phoenix location debuted in 1979.
11 hours ago
(Facebook photo/SOHO Scottsdale)...
KTAR.com

Asian-American fusion concept Buddha’s Ritual to debut in Scottsdale

The couple behind two Valley restaurants is set to debut a new Asian-American fusion concept in Scottsdale later this fall.
11 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
PNC Bank

3 cool tips to turn everyday moments into learning experiences for your child

Early brain development has a crucial impact on a child’s ability to learn and succeed in school and life. Research has shown that 90% of a child’s brain is developed by age five.
...
Sweet James

Best fall road trips to take on a motorcycle

Autumn in Arizona brings the beauty of color-changing leaves and a relief from summer heat. It’s one of the most pleasant times to explore the outdoors, especially on a motorcycle.
...
Albertsons

Grill like a pro this fall with tips from Albertsons

As the weather cools and football season kicks off, it’s a great time to fire up the grill and enjoy your favorite outdoor meals.
Phoenix nonprofit closing in 2020 has legacy of AIDS/HIV treatment