I graduated from SUNY Albany with aspirations of working in the fashion industry. As a gay man, I knew the importance of HIV testing and regularly visited the Alliance for Positive Health (Alliance) to check my HIV status. Until I moved to Florida for a summer internship, I remained HIV-free. That summer, however, I continued with regular testing and learned I was HIV positive.
Determined not to let the infection take control of my life, I returned to Albany for treatment and support. I immediately enrolled in the Alliance’s Link2Care program. Alliance helped me get proper medical care and assigned me a peer navigator, Wil. Wil has played such a big role in my journey. Having been impacted by HIV himself, he became my mentor for healthy living and my source of social and emotional support.
Wil always provides a safe, judgment-free space for his clients and is a great role model. He broke down cultural barriers when discussing HIV and made me feel comfortable and normal. He’s my Fairy Godfather.
I continued office and home visits with the Link2Care program for a year and a half until I decided to move home to New York City to be with my family. But after struggling to find a job and make ends meet, I returned to Albany and reconnected with Wil. My luck changed when I learned that the Alliance was looking to hire a peer navigator. With Wil’s encouragement, I applied for — and was offered — the position.
I have now made the transition from client to peer navigator. I enjoy building trust and a good rapport with my clients, who can relate to me because of my own HIV history. I help them adhere to their medication and medical care and like Wil did for me, I provide much-needed support to gay men whose lives have been impacted by HIV/AIDS. My journey has come full circle and I am so happy to be a part of this tight-knit community at Alliance, which now feels like family.