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Antwan Harris / Eyewitness News
Email: aharris@wwltv.com | Twitter: @antwanharris

NEW ORLEANS, La. -- Tasha Duplantis has lived with HIV for more than a decade and coping with the virus has been her greatest triumph and fear.

It was May 2012 when she realized she hit rock bottom.

'I was completely desolate, hopeless. Full of hopelessness and despair. I was high on cocaine.'

Instead of giving up, she came to the NO/AIDS Task Force and worked with counselors hoping to find help at a time when she thought all hope was gone.

'When I was alone and homeless for the first time in my life. I didn't know where my next meal was coming from. It shifted. Something shifted.'

The group not only helped her with medication and counseling, but also with a place to stay.

She found shelter with Project Lazarus. She's been clean for 18 months.

The NO/AIDS Task Force can now help more people like Tasha after receiving part of a grant close to $800,000 from the federal government.

'So we can take those best practices we have had over the years for people with infectious disease and provide that for the greater community,' said Noel Twilbeck, CEO of the NO/AIDS Task Force.

According to the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, New Orleans has the second highest rate of HIV cases in the nation and the fourth highest AIDS rate.

Twilbeck said this grant money can help change those numbers in the long term.

'We do know if we can get them in medical care and keep them there, they may achieve a normal life expectancy,' Twilbeck said.

Duplantis said she always had a will to live despite her health issues.

'Anyone comes to a place like this and leaves the same person as they walked in, shame on them, shame on them.'

NO/AIDS Task Force will use the grant money to open a new facility. They have four months to have the operation up and running.

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