Yesterday, I was asked a simple question by a new supporter of I’m Positive, Inc., “What made you decide to start your nonprofit?” Here was my response:
I was diagnosed with HIV at the age of 18. I tested positive the first time I tested for HIV. I was not sick; I just wanted to get tested like everyone else. After testing positive, I notified my sexual partners and got them tested. All of them tested negative except for the first one. (I had 5 in 6 months.) The first time I had sex was on my 18th birthday. I decided that I had waited long enough throughout high school without having sex (I graduated at 17) and it “was time.” I decided to have a one-night stand that night and did not use a condom. I did not use a condom with the next four either. It amazes me that those four people tested negative.
I came from a poor family. Therefore, when I was on my own, I worked many hours to have my own place. This led to me being sick more often and I went into the social service system to get help. According to them, I either “made too much” or “didn’t qualify” for help from just about every agency that I went to. I was forced to overwork just to survive, but I got more ill.
Finally, I landed a job with benefits. I got sick and ended up being fired for too many missed days. I threatened to sue under the Federal law that protects the disabled… so they countered with a severance agreement. They offered me money to sign a piece of paper that stated I resigned and would never sue them. Today, that company is one of the greatest (if not the greatest) employers in the world! No joke. I took that as a sign… if the greatest employer in the history of commerce can let a positive person down… then there is no hope.
The social service system is a broken machine and without doing something different, it will never be fixed or effective. Providing blanket solutions to a community with individual needs is ineffective and an archaic method. An analogy would be a doctor walking into a room with 40 people who all do not feel well. Opposed to diagnosing each person’s illness and prescribing a specific medical course of action, he or she writes them all the same prescription – in medicine, this is malpractice! In social services, this is just wrong!
I aim to model our innovative and new nonprofit strategies for other communities to replicate and customize for the people they serve. Each program developed has our clients as our top priority. Moreover, our members simply vote for change as opposed to fighting stuffed suits for progress. Where others hit walls, we tear them down and find ways to ensure anyone that is affected by HIV or AIDS is cared for.
This response sums up why I started this nonprofit. There are too many people in the community that will benefit from our organization to name ALL of the reasons, however, this summary is from my heart and hopefully sheds light on one of the most frequent questions I get.
I sincerely thank everyone that supports our organization and look forward to the magic ahead of us!
President & Executive Director
Office: 888-799-9355 ext. 6001
Direct: 702-534-5HIV (5448)