Something about Gail Vaz-Oxlade’s blog post yesterday, Our Love Affair with Stuff, prompted me to share something that’s been on my mind for a while now.
I’ve been volunteering at a local AIDS Service Organization (ASO), interviewing clients (recipients of care) and writing their stories. All of the clients, who are PLHAs (people living with HIV/AIDS) have contracted the disease in different ways, shattering the myths that unfortunately still proliferate about how the virus is transmitted. One of the clients I met had been raped. One was infected by her abusive, cheating husband. Others had been chronically homeless and addicted to crack cocaine, which put them in precarious positions. Others suffered terrible tragedies and loss, and temporarily lost the will to protect themselves.
But the client who had the biggest impact on me goes by the name Alex*. Alex has suffered through a very traumatic upbringing, and he was diagnosed with HIV when he was just 17 years old. Although he is only 31 – just a few years older than I – he looks about 10 or 15 years his senior. He was homeless for years and addicted to drugs. But thanks to the ASO, his life has changed dramatically – primarily because he now has a roof over his head. The Executive Director helped him find subsidized housing, which is something that has impacted every area of his life. The ASO has also provided him with some clothing, food, and counseling, and helped him to learn how to make his doctor’s appointments. (Meeting appointments is not something that comes naturally to someone who has lived on the street for many years.) With the assistance of the ASO, Alex has been drug-free for over 1 year. When I asked Alex if he is happy, he looked at me as though the answer was obvious:
“Well I have a roof over my head and food in my belly, so hell yeah, I’m happy!”
What a difference the basic necessities in life can make.
*name has been changed.