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November 20, 2008

I'm 20 years old. I first got tested for HIV in 2006. I was young, I had questions, and I was scared. I waited over a year until I revealed my HIV status to my sister, because the secret was eating me up inside.

My sister went on the computer to find a place to get me some information and put me in touch with a good doctor. She helped me find ASC, and that's when everything fell into place.

At ASC, I got a case manager named Jamie Taylor. Jamie is more than a case manager to me—she's like my sister. I can speak freely with her. Right away, ASC connected me with free health insurance and a good doctor at Bellevue Hospital. The doctor explained my medical situation, answered my questions, and gave me information about how to take care of myself.

ASC also gave me other kinds of support, like help with food stamps and housing. Now I have my own studio apartment at Bailey House—I can see the Hudson River from my window. I have a closet, a TV, a fridge, and a bathroom. I've decorated the place the way I want to.

I was young and naive when I got infected with HIV. I thought, if a guy likes you, it's cool. I had unprotected sex. I want young people to know that having unprotected sex only one time can lead to a lifetime of HIV/AIDS.

At first, I was angry about having HIV. I came to ASC with shades on, like it was a secret. Now I'm able to face it. I go to ASC weekly, where I can talk to someone, read up on HIV/AIDS, and eat lunch. If I have questions, Jamie helps me, encourages me, and listens to me.

The people and services make ASC the place it is. They always greet me with a smile, take time to see me, and ask what else they can do to help me. I want a career in social services where I can help others the way ASC helped me. I'm going to get involved at ASC as a peer or volunteer. ASC is a great means of achieving your goals for health care, housing, and support. I'm going to keep going there for the rest of my life because it's a wonderful place.

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