At the age of 15, I wanted to join the Air Force. I passed the physical exam, but the medical exam was a different story. They told me I was rejected because my blood was contaminated with HIV. I felt immobilized. I found myself walking down the middle of Broad Street contemplating getting hit by a car, because that’s what I thought my diagnosis was at the time. I was depressed and fatigued, and most of my family refused to acknowledge that I was living with the disease. I never thought I would do anything with my life…until I found Philadelphia FIGHT.
I found my voice and confidence at FIGHT through Project TEACH. The information TEACH gives you will last an entire lifetime. Knowledge is power and without knowing what is going on with you there is fear. So the more you know about HIV, the less fear you have. On your darkest days, the information that you receive will revive you, revitalize you, and bring you right back to life.
FIGHT has become the kind of family that I never had at home. The people here are positive in the way they look at life, but we still share our struggles just like a family. I also get my healthcare here and the doctors and dentists that take care of me also care about me as a person. They know more about me than just my medical history. Forming relationships with the providers has helped me to be independent and to be an advocate for my own health.
I would not have the life I have today if not for FIGHT. I am a receptionist and creative specialist here. I’m the first face people see when they walk in the door. I try to be a beacon of light for patients seeking positivity. I think people see me as an example because they know that I’m living with the virus. I am not just sitting at my desk; I am decorating all the common spaces and adding a special spark to our events. Having this opportunity at FIGHT has been life-changing for me and has shown me that my life has value.
I use the tools FIGHT has provided me to deal with my dark days. In the future, I hope to help other patients find their passion to put a smile on their face and be more positive about life.