By Priscilla Rodriguez | m/Oppenheim Media Writer
Located in the heart of San Francisco the nonprofit Maitri has played an important role in the diverse community of the city, providing residential care for people living with AIDS or facing disabling HIV.
Since its founding in 1987, Maitri — a Sanskrit word that translates into “compassionate friendship” — has provided a safe and comforting living space for patients in need of hospice, through the work of its full-time staff, its doctors and nurses, volunteers and residents.
During a difficult and often lonely time in their lives, patients who are living with HIV/AIDS find comfort in the support of Maitri’s dedicated team that understands the importance of compassion.
“We believe that no one should have to suffer or die alone,” says Anne Gimbel, Executive Director of Maitri, explaining that compassion and friendship can go a long way in helping residents of the program live out their lives with a greater level of comfort and hope.
Gimbel, who joined the team at Maitri in late October after serving as the Regional Director of the Alzheimer’s Association of the Coachella Valley, says that the organization’s main goal is to provide the best possible experience for its residents through various programs and services that demonstrate an appreciation for life and respect for its residence.
Throughout the year, the organization offers residence to 15 patients at any given moment, giving each their own bedroom, access to social spaces and activities, and also the freedom to come and go as they please. Compared to other care facilities across California and the United States, Maitri is distinct in prioritizing the voice of its patients and understanding the changing needs of patients living with AIDS.
“Our principle is that each resident has the right to determine their degree of choice and we make them aware of different experiences and problems, such as drugs, that could cause more problems with their health,” explains Gimbel,
Among other services, patients are offered nutrition classes to help them gain a better understanding of their bodies and ways to improve and manage their health throughout their time with Maitri. They are also offered emotional and spiritual support and have access to social activities every week, including game nights, art therapy and meditation — all with the goal of giving patients the ability to live a life of choice and with the goal of teaching resilience, even in the most difficult moments.
Maitri is the only AIDS-specific residential care facility in California that prioritizes the undeserved community of those suffering from debilitation caused by AIDS. Since its facility opened over thirty years ago, Maitri has served as the final home for over 1200 patients living with AIDS.
As the organization continues to provide critical services to the community of San Francisco, Gimbel says the next goal for Maitri is to enhance its focus in mental health programs for its patients and to expand its day programs to continue its important work.
“None of us know when the end of life is, but I think giving people comfort, a little bit of hope, a smile, compassion, is so important which is what this organization is built upon,” says Gimbel.
A supportive network of doctors, nurses, care providers and volunteers makes Maitri a special place for patients to live out their lives. There are several opportunities throughout the year for San Franciscans to get involved in the cause, including its upcoming winter event on December 16, the “Maitri Holiday Open House” which will include festive performances by local artists, appetizers and holiday drinks, and a chance to meet residents alongside volunteers and staff. RSVP by December 11, 2017.