I was 16 and living in Haiti when I found out I had HIV. My family escaped the poverty and despair of our native country when they emigrated to the United States but I couldn’t go with them because of a travel ban in the United States on people who were HIV positive. I stayed behind for years without access to the medical care I needed.
I was finally able to join my family after the travel ban was lifted. I moved to Brooklyn and was so happy to be reunited with my mother, sister, brother, aunt and grandmother.
My sister researched and found The Alliance for Positive Change because she knew I had to take control of my health. I walked through their doors in 2012 and my life has not been the same since. They escorted me to a hospital to receive the healthcare services I needed. They helped me get health insurance. And they arranged for me to see a therapist for my emotional issues. All of this meant so much. I had never seen a doctor before — but now I could finally understand what was going on with my body.
Alliance went beyond helping me reclaim my health. They helped me find and furnish an apartment and became my home away from home as I worked to overcome my feelings of isolation and fear.
But my journey really began when I discovered Alliance’s Peer Training Institute. Peer Training is an 8-week program for people living with HIV/AIDS, chronic health conditions or substance abuse issues. I enrolled in the program and learned how to educate and create positive change for other New Yorkers facing similar challenges. Peer Training fulfilled me, giving me confidence and purpose in life.
I graduated in the Alliance’s 40th class and currently have a paid position as a Senior Peer Liaison. I help others who are following in my footsteps. I share my story of turning hopelessness into hope. People look at me and see how far I’ve come. I’m not the same person who walked into Alliance in 2012. I can speak for myself. I can advocate for myself – and it’s great. I plan on going back to school for my General Education Diploma (GED).
It’s not easy living in New York. People don’t always smile at you or welcome you. But Alliance does. Alliance is a different type of place. They really value people. They care.