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May 19, 2006

"Doing outreach and talking to people about safer sex isn't hard when you've walked in my shoes. When I'm conducting outreach in a single-room occupancy (SRO) hotel, I walk up to people and ask how their day is going. If they're willing to speak, I let them know I'm an ASC Peer Educator and that I'm going to tell them about safer sex. I bring facts, literature, and condoms and let them see and read for themselves. I let them know HIV is real.

"My main message is about safety and awareness. To be safe, you either have to use condoms or be abstinent. It's as simple as that. I tell people, ‘You may not think sex is as enjoyable wearing a condom, but there's a lifetime of pain if you don't.' Only someone who's infected knows what that's like—how hard it is and how many barriers you face.

"If I can get just one person to use that condom, that's one less person we have to worry about, and that goes a long way. Keeping one person safe can keep thousands of others safe as well.

"People are afraid to go to the doctor and get tested. That's dangerous, because people can be infected for years and carry the virus without knowing it. The only way to get around people's fear is to beat the streets, and keep the message going. When I talk to people, they see it's coming from someone who cares. ASC Peer Educators walk in those shoes every day, and we know.

"Being an ASC Peer is like being a newborn baby again. ASC shelters us and gives us lots of love and support. ASC's Training Coordinator, Lurenda Cray took me by the hand and guided me, built up my self-esteem—that happened during my peer training at ASC and continues to this day. ASC let me know that just because you have HIV doesn't mean you can't do everything you wanted to in life. ASC gives that type of support to people, and then we're able to go out and give that same message to others."

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