Three months ago when I arrived at Until There’s A Cure as an intern, HIV still scared the bananas out of me. It seemed so foreign, like something you only read about in the news or hear about on T.V. At that point, I hadn’t yet seen what the virus can do. Perhaps this was a good sign but it seemed to me an unfortunate lack of experience and understanding. How was I supposed to give my all to an organization that raises funds and awareness for the fight against HIV and AIDS when I had never seen it with my own two eyes?
Thankfully, UNTIL recognized the importance of me creating a personal connection to the cause and offered me the opportunity to work hands on with people personally affected by the virus. They organized a volunteer opportunity where I would be able to learn directly from doctors, nurses, nutritionists, case works, psychologists and even patients themselves, the reality of having HIV and AIDS.
When I arrived at Clinica Esperanza in San Francisco I was nervous. Would the staff be willing to work with someone with little medical background? Would the patients be comfortable with my presence? Would I have anything to offer these people?
My nerves were quickly assuaged when I saw how receptive, open and vibrant everyone was, patients and staff alike. This was a safe place where everyone was welcome and where HIV status was only a factor in specializing care and not one that influenced personal interactions. Clinica Esperanza combines under a single roof, a holistic HIV clinic that encompassing the many factors that affect the health of an HIV positive person.
When most clients walk into the clinic they are all smiles and open hearts. They know that they are in a place free of judgment and surrounded by people who only want what is best for them, both emotional and physical. This is what makes Clinica Esperanza so special. When you are there, you are first and foremost a human being. These are the kinds of places that everyone should have access to no matter what your status may be. With more clinics of the sort, more people would get treatment and far more would stay in treatment.
My time at Clinica Esperanza helped me see how important support, care and services are when you are faced with a life changing virus like HIV. With the help of places like Clinic Esperanza, the world is a better place and we are one step closer to ending the spread of HIV. In my short but enriching time there, I discovered my personal connection to the cause. Thanks to the patients and the staff there I know, no matter how close or how far, I will always feel connected to the fight against HIV/AIDS.
This experience helped me understand what The UNTIL Team works so hard for. There efforts, time and commitment provide places like Clinic Esperanza necessary financial support so that they can do their jobs. With out places like Clinica Esperanza, there would be no hands on support but without UNTIL, similar organizations and the support of people like you, how would they support themselves?