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AIDS Community Resources unveils new nutrition, fitness programs

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HIV-positive north country residents may receive extra help in eating more nutritiously, thanks to a five-year $286,000 grant awarded to AIDS Community Resources.

The Syracuse-based agency announced Friday it received federal funds filtered to the state Department of Health’s AIDS Institute to fund “Nutrition Health Education and Food and Meal Services for Persons Living with HIV/AIDS,” a 15-county effort — including Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence — to improve nutrition and overall health for people living with HIV/AIDS.

“Over the years we tried to build up support services; this was the last big piece,” said Michael E. Crinnin, executive director. “A lot of people we work with are poor, and we’re trying to provide a counter for deficits in their life.”

He said many people living with HIV/AIDS do not have enough access to nutritious foods, and while others may have that access, certain foods may also not mix well with HIV/AIDS medications.

Funds will allow the agency to develop a food pantry, with the capability of delivering bags of food to people in respective counties. The grant also funds food vouchers, at a maximum of $100 per month per person, and nutritional assessments and group educational sessions.

Packages will be specific to each person’s needs, Mr. Crinnin said.

Jeanette B. O’Connor-Shanley, ACR’s director of support services, said the goal is for people with HIV/AIDS to graduate with the program, having a better knowledge and understanding of how to live healthier with their disease.

“Good nutrition is important in building a healthy immune system,” she said. “The key to treatment is good food, and better nutrition.”

Two nutritionists have been hired to help with the program.

The agency provides about 100 residents from throughout Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties with case management, transportation and housing services. People living with HIV/AIDS do not have to become clients of other ACR-related programs, but they must show proof of their diagnosis.

AIDS Community Resources is receiving local support of the program from Jefferson County Public Health Service.

“Since 1981 when HIV/AIDS was first detected, there have certainly been great advances,” said Jean A. Bilow, public health director. “One of the accents is there needs to be good nutrition.”

Also announced Friday was the “Couch to 5k in 5 Weeks” fund raiser for ACR. Beginning Tuesday, the program will offer professionally-led group training sessions, personalized fitness scripts, nutrition information, and other instruction, with a goal to participate in ACR’s First Frost AIDS Walk/Run Oct. 14.

Jefferson County Public Health Service, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County, Page Fitness Athletic Club, and the Mustard Seed are collaborating for the effort. ACR Development Associate Jacki Coe said in a news release the program will have experts to guide, train with, and inspire participants. People may now sign up for the program, which costs $75 per person. That includes the $25 registration fee for the Oct. 14 event.

For more information about either program, call AIDS Community Resources at 475-2430.

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