Benjamin and Desirae are just 2 of thousands of people who have come to Hyacinth to learn how to live with HIV. Our experience has taught us that there are just 3 parts to this process. First, we provide information and supportive services that can help you regain control over your life. Secondly, we help you find hope through learning how to care for your health. And lastly, we are a starting place for you to build a supportive and caring community for yourself. At Hyacinth, we call this “creating wellness.”
We met Benjamin when he came to Hyacinth for a weekend 3MV retreat, a prevention program for young gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men. He shared with us that he had been living with HIV for the last 10 years and had been keeping his HIV status secret from family and friends. Ben said he knew he needed to tell people who are important to him about his HIV status to get the support he wants, but he was afraid that if he told them, he would lose them altogether. Talking about his feelings that weekend was a big step. Later he joined our weekly Wellness group, and found a community of support that taught him how to disclose his status to his friends and family. Last week, he finally told his mother. She hugged him, and they cried together. They talk every day now. Ben says it is like he can breathe again.
Desirae called us the day after she found out an ex-boyfriend had been diagnosed with HIV. She wanted to get tested. That was over a year-and-a-half ago. I remember sitting with Desirae while we waited for her test results. We talked about HIV—how it is prevented and how it is treated, and we talked about life in general. She was nervous, and I reassured her that she wasn’t alone, no matter what the results. Desirae did test HIV positive and, understandably, she was very upset. She said it might have been the ex-boyfriend she heard about, but there had been others. She didn’t know. She never thought it would happen to her. With Desirae’s permission, I brought in 2 other staff members for her to talk to. Bruce, a treatment counselor, talked to her about how he would help her get the care she needed and be there to help her learn about how people live with HIV; that it isn’t like the old days anymore. And the other person was Roseann, a woman living with HIV. Roseann sat and listened to Desirae as someone who had “been there.” Today, Desirae and Roseann are good friends and they participate in the same Hyacinth Wellness group and support each other.