When an AIDS patient contacted the Hospice of the Chesapeake for help in finding services last March, Erwin E. Abrams, hospice president, found he didn't have a readily available referral list.
"I asked for a directory," he said. "I was told we don't have one."
Mr. Abrams eventually found places that could help the person, but said he had to "dig and dig" to get information about housing, transportation and other forms of assistance.
Convinced the current system wasn't giving Anne Arundel County residents who are HIV positive or have AIDS the best service, Mr. Abrams started calling other agencies. He wanted their ideas on improving services.
In April, the Anne Arundel County Aids Network came into being. It is designed to help professionals from the health department and other organizations find better ways to serve people with acquired immune deficiency syndrome. To date, 25 volunteers from 18 organizations have signed on.
"We realized there wasn't an organization linking together all the various agencies providing services," said Earl Mullins, a network member and administrative specialist with the Health Department. "Providers have been on their own to piece together what they can."
A similar effort was attempted in 1990, when volunteers formed a county AIDS Coalition, said Mr. Abrams. The coalition disbanded about two years ago.
"The Health Department was overrun with cases. There were more providers, but no one to take over the coalition," said Joyce Wearstler, founder of HAVEN, a volunteer organization that helps HIV and AIDS clients.
"The need is absolutely there. We're not doing a good job of coordinating services."
Organizers hope the network eventually will have its own office and staff.
They plan to meet regularly to tackle issues such as providing better transportation services, increasing public awareness and education and helping HIV and AIDS clients find the services they need.
Paula Horwitz, a network member and registered nurse, handles case management at the health department for people with AIDS and those who are HIV positive. By her estimate, about 800 to 1,000 in the county have AIDS or the human immunodeficiency virus, but only 173 are being helped through the Health Department
"Not everyone wants case management," she said. "But many more people could benefit from the services available."
The network's volunteers have met twice, said Mr. Abrams. The next meeting is scheduled for 4 p.m., Sept. 22, at the hospice offices, 8424 Veterans Highway, Millersville.
One of the network's top priorities is writing and publishing service directory, which will be distributed to providers, patients and others who need the information.
The first printing of 5,000 copies should take place this fall and cost about $3,500, said Mr. Abrams. The network is seeking donations to cover production costs.
For information about the Anne Arundel County AIDS Network, call: HAVEN at 263-5642; the health department AIDS/HIV section at 222-7108; or the Hospice of the Chesapeake at 987-2003 and ask for Allison Alexander or Erwin Abrams.