A project of THE HEALTH TRUST
Please help me make a difference and help others like me who have been infected with HIV. Even a dollar helps! Thank you.
My name is Jon and I have been HIV positive since I was 24 (in 2006). I never thought that anything like this would happen to me. I still felt young, I still felt innocent. I was still finding out who I was in the world. Had this diagnosis been made in the 1980’s or even 1990’s, I might not be here today. Despite the information out there, at first I was very scared. I had no idea what it meant to be positive. I had heard stories from growing up of HIV positive people who had lost their loved one’s to the virus. As a teenager, I had read the names of people on the AIDS Quilt in commemoration of those who had passed. My first thought was “I might soon join them.”
When I told my family, not only were they understanding and supportive, they made sure to ask me how my health was on a regular basis. My friends rallied by my side, and even help me find books and resources to help me figure out what to do next. The community even had a seminar in which I received support from a loving community and lots of useful information. With the love and support of friends, family and the community, I felt a renewed sense of love and compassion for myself. I felt like I had been given an opportunity to turn this illness into a reason to fight for better health. The constant blood draws, the doctor visits, and the medications were scary at first, but again the support of those around me allowed me to continue to forge ahead. Now 30 years old, I am now healthier than I have ever been (according to my doctor). At first, I thought my HIV would take over my life – Instead, it has afforded me the opportunity to look at my life, really look at how precious it all is, and how grateful I am to be living in a community that cares about me, no matter what illness I have.
I can’t help but think of how things could have been if I had been infected ten, fifteen or twenty years prior. After all, things were not always so great for people like me.
When I moved to San Jose, I lost my health insurance. I had what they call a “Pre-existing condition.” Basically, no health provider would enroll me. I was now on a list. For the first time in my life, I had no one to go to for my care or medications. I was scared of what would happen to me. I felt like I was being punished for being sick. What a horrible feeling that was. Through a miracle, I spoke with a friend who referred me to The Health Trust, a non-profit in San Jose that helps people with HIV get connected to services. My social worker helped me with all the paperwork and referrals. He not only helped me find medical services and medicine, he also helped me understand the services available to me in the San Jose area. I left that appointment at The Health Trust in tears and feeling truly grateful. Never before had I gone from a place of utter despair to true serenity in so brief a time. I was going to be okay. I was going to get all I needed to get my health back in order. I was then seen at the PACE Clinic, by the best medical team I have ever encountered. The understanding and support they gave me not only got my viral levels down, and my white blood cell count up, but made me want to do more for the community that made it all possible.
Although now I have Health Insurance through my employer, I have never forgotten what it felt like to feel alone, scared, and in fear of dying. I don’t ever think I can fully repay for the services I have received. But what I can do is help. And so I have dedicated my life to making sure others have the same great services in this community as I have had. I see every day how much of a struggle it is to keep these programs running. Many folks have forgotten that HIV is still with us, and continuing to infect more youth every day. And so I feel it my duty to continue to fight, not only for my own health, but for the health of others – those who are aging, those who are newly diagnosed, and those who still are too afraid to get tested. I do it for them, and for those who have fought so bravely for the services we have today. I will fight until my last day, which thanks to the struggles of generations past, is hopefully not for a long time.
Thank you for reading.
-Jon Jeremy Breen