Bering United Methodist Church

Bering Support Network – You are not alone

BSN (Bering Support Network) serves the HIV and GLBT communities and their friends and families, by providing spiritual support, pastoral counseling, and peer support groups in a confidential and nurturing space.

Bering started the HIV/AIDS services in 1986; HIV was expected to inevitably lead to AIDS and AIDS was considered a death sentence. Bering would experience several deaths a week. We pulled together to support one another. Our church members visited the sick and dying.  Some of us cared for others even when we were sick. Our church retains the memory of those days and that compassion.

In spite of improved treatments, people still die from AIDS in our city. Homeless people die of AIDS because of lack of early medical intervention. Women die because HIV is the last thing they expected and treatment comes too late. People die because of resistance to medication. People die because of co-infections. Sometimes taking HIV medication is a low priority to those that have addictions. Sometimes people die because they are simply sick of taking pills every day. These people need our assistance.

There are also people living with the long-term effects of HIV/AIDS. Some are living with the results of very harsh side effects from early HIV medications. Some are also living with weakened immune systems due to the effects of AIDs many years ago. Some are dealing with the trauma of so many losses. These people need our support.

For some of the newly diagnosed, having HIV is no big deal. For others it is a very big deal. Issues such as stigma, dating, reproduction, medication management, and employment discrimination can be significant. These people also need support and education—making 29 year-old BSN very relevant today.

Twenty percent of BSN clients come from the Montrose area. The rest come from all over Houston. There are regular clients that travel from as far away as Beaumont. Forty-nine percent of the clients are white. The rest are minorities. Of those that have HIV, 50% have had HIV for longer than 10 years.

When the AIDS epidemic began to wreak its devastation in the 1980s, Bering Memorial UMC responded with the establishment of the Bering Spiritual Support Group for people infected or affected by AIDS. It began in 1986 when Jay Nelson, a young member of the church with AIDS, approached the pastor of Bering with a proposal to start a group. Although very ill, he worked tirelessly to fulfill his vision. He was emphatic that the group be called a “spiritual support group” because he wanted the group to provide the spiritual basis of compassion and care. He also wanted to avoid the stigma of having HIV or AIDS in the name of the group. Out of the support group came BSN (Bering Support Network) which coordinates the Wednesday night group and several other services for people with HIV/AIDS and their loved ones.

Providing support for people with HIV/AIDS and their loved ones remains BSN’s top priority. BSN provides support groups, education, hospice and hospital chaplaincy, pastoral counseling, and limited psychological counseling for those with HIV/AIDS.

In addition to HIV/AIDS services, BSN provides a grief recovery support group, a   caregivers support group, and educational seminars. These services are open to the    public regardless of HIV status and regardless of sexual orientation.

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