“Royale, what’s a good day for you?” …..silence followed by a gasping sigh…. “A good day for me is when I don’t have to counsel or comfort a teenager or anyone for that matter who has just been diagnosed with HIV.” This is the reality for Matrix employee Royale Theus, committed to empowering those living with the virus or disease by providing education, resources and support.
Theus, a native Detroiter, serves as Health and Human Services Program Manager for Matrix MAC Health, a program under the Matrix Community Health Services Division. On a daily basis, he’s hitting the streets of Detroit managing testing sites and during late night hours, usually between 11:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m., he and his team set up shop at LGBT clubs conducting testing on site.
“We are well received in the clubs now but that wasn’t always the case. What we’re doing is groundbreaking and we are proud of our efforts. We have developed good relationships with club owners, the managers, staff and now patrons expect us to be there,” stated Theus. “I recall years ago when we were providing Rapid test with a mouth swab. We were happy if the club owner gave us a closet to work out of. Today, because we are conducting blood tests, we require a sterile environment. Owners are happy to oblige,” he continued. You can imagine that this is not a 9-5 position.
Between administrative duties, field work, and necessary paperwork, Theus’ job is never done. On any given day or night, the MAC Health team conducts as few as three tests or as many as 12. Testing is confidential, participants can either give their name or remain anonymous (give an alias or receive a testing number). In addition to testing, the team provides outreach, which includes: counseling, distributes condoms, providing referrals and so much more.
Beginning his journey to help those living with HIV/AIDS while attending Samuel S. Mumford High School, he recognizes that medically and from a community standpoint, huge strides have been made. Yet, he admits that we still have a long way to go. “I think the greatest achievement over the years has been the progression of treatment. HIV is no longer a “death sentence” and so many people are living productive lives. Additionally, HIV/AIDS now has a face with celebrities, and others who are everyday working class people coming out about having the virus or disease,” Theus continues.
Headlines confirm that many continue to look upon those living with HIV/AIDS in a negative light. If Theus could capture the minds of the community, his message would be for people to educate themselves. “Just because someone is living with HIV/AIDS doesn’t mean they are a drug addict or contracted it by being sexually promiscuous. Many were infected through blood transfusions or were born with HIV/AIDS. I want the masses to educate themselves and then do something to help,” concluded Theus.
Royale Theus holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Human Services from the University of Phoenix and in August, 2016 will be pursuing his MBA. MAC Health is committed to serving the community and has several testing sites throughout the city of Detroit (a complete list of testing sites can be found on the Matrix website).
In addition to HIV testing, MAC Health offers testing for chlamydia, gonorrhea, Hep C, and syphilis. Appointments and walk in hours are available.
To learn more about services offered, obtain a list of testing sites or to discover more about Matrix Human Services, visit www.matrixhumanservices.org.
About Matrix Community Health Services
The Matrix Community Health Services Division consists of Matrix Ryan White/HIV/AIDS Program, MAC Health and MPowerment-Detroit all dedicated to providing comprehensive services to assist individuals living with HIV/AIDS. Offering service coverage that extends across Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, St. Clair, Monroe and Lapeer counties, the Matrix Community Health Services safety net ensures patients are linked and maintained in medical care through medical and community service referrals, mental health therapy, in-home care, case management, and so much more.
About Matrix Human Services
Matrix Human Services is a Detroit-based tax exempt 501(c)3 social service organization with 600 employees and over $40 million in annual revenue. Matrix offers a range of programs devoted to maintaining and supporting the family unit and improving the quality of life for individuals of all ages. Serving the community for 110 years, our mission is to fight generational poverty. Matrix runs the largest federally funded Head Start program in the City of Detroit at 40 locations serving approximately 1,900 families.
To discover more about Matrix Human Services and how you can get involved visit www.matrixhumanservices.org or contact us at (313) 831-1000.