Today, December 1, marks World AIDS Day. The Mid-South Coalition on HIV/AIDS (MCHA) is providing free infomation at the Benjamin Hooks Library on Poplar Avenue in Memphis today (see the earlier story here).
In recognition of World AIDS Day, we want to share a story with you about a local man who has been living with the disease for over 20 years now. (As with all nonprofit client stories we have changed his name for privacy reasons).
Charles, a lifelong Memphian, was only nineteen years old when he learned that he was infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. He is now forty.
“I was devastated,” he said. “I was so young and I thought it was a death sentence.”
Charles went into denial about his condition and for ten years he avoided medical treatment, sinking into a deep depression. Finally, his pastor helped him realize that he could take steps to help himself and that there were local agencies that could help him fight against the disease get back to living his life again.
Charles sought medical treatments and utilized the services offered by Friends for Life, a local United Way partner agency. He began to receive case management, nutritious food from the organization’s food pantry and risk reduction counseling. He became better educated about living with HIV/AIDS.
Before seeking help, Charles had trouble maintaining stable employment and repeatedly found himself homeless. He soon received help through the agency’s supportive housing program. Things were turning around for Charles.
“Having stable housing helped me get through school,” he said. “Knowing I could afford the rent helped my health improve, too.”
Today, Charles is working on a Master’s Degree. Just two years ago, he earned his Bachelors degree in Liberal Arts Studies.
“We congratulate Charles on his magnificent achievements!” said one agency counselor. “We thank everyone who supports United Way of the Mid-South for help in funding our permanent supportive housing programs.”
Charles, like many others, are finding that a diagnoisis of HIV does not keep a person from finding success in life when the proper steps are taken. Nonprofit organizations like Friends For Life help people understand that there are still options, and there are still reasons to hope.