A specially equipped van used to transport extremely ill AIDS patients from their homes to medical appointments was stolen last week, a San Diego AIDS Foundation spokesman said Monday.
The 10-seat, 1989 Ford Econovan, modified to accommodate two wheelchair patients at one time, was valued at $40,000, said J.M. Evosevich, a director of the San Diego AIDS Foundation.
The van provided as many as 500 rides a month. It was discovered missing Thursday morning from a parking space outside the foundation's office, 3777 4th Ave. in Hillcrest.
"Most of our clients are lower-income, or they're so sick they're unable to get on a bus for a couple of hours or transfer buses," Evosevich said.
"It's devastating," he said of the van's loss. "This is more than an inconvenience for (our clients), it's cutting off their lifeline."
Countywide, the agency provides non-medical services to about 900 clients with AIDS and HIV and their families, including legal assistance, transitional housing, a food bank, and education and support programs.
The van was the agency's only source of transportation for clients' trips to medical appointments and the food bank, Evosevich said.
The foundation is now relying on a compact car that is too small "to be used for wheelchair patients," said Amy Somers, foundation executive director. "And, in terms of sheer volume, it's not going to serve that many people."
Loss of the van should be covered by insurance, Evosevich said. Until it can be replaced, anyone interested in loaning or donating a van is asked to contact the foundation.