Woman patting another person on the shoulder with a sun burst coming out of her hand

Heroes Among Us

When I was 8, my cub scout troop went on a tour of the local police station. After the tour, the officer providing the tour asked us if we had any questions.

Being 8, I had one really important one: how much training it would take for me to be a crime-fighting superhero.

Along with the rest of my troop, the officer laughed and told me that there was no such thing as a superhero.

A phenomenal healthcare team

When I received my diagnosis in 2016, I like so many wanted to never think of those three letters. I thought I would let it become just one pill I took every day and think of it as little as possible. However, I encountered a group of extraordinary human beings who made me feel otherwise.

After that day in May, the first woman I met was the linkage-to-care coordinator who provided me with information and gentle guidance that I appreciate to this day. She did her best to show me the road ahead although neither of us could’ve anticipated the wild ride I would have before me.

The first nurse I met in my first clinical visit shared that same gentle strength that I would soon come to realize is a shared trait by many who work in the field of HIV. She provided such a calming, reassuring presence that I soon didn’t mind those lab draws.

My medical provider, an incredible force of a woman, wasn’t unlike the other women I’d encountered other than she has become more of a mother figure (which, sometimes, I often think I don’t need two of those.)

Then there was my first case manager, another incredible force of a woman. To this day, I don’t know anyone who knows more about HIV medications. During one of our first meetings, she encouraged me to think about public speaking and maybe appearing in advertising campaigns which, at the time, I told her that would never be the case.

Their impact on my life

During those first tough months, the incredible women that I worked with within those support roles changed not only my life but also my mind.

It would be a little more than a year after my diagnosis that I ended my decade-long career in hairdressing in a desire to do something of impact. The way that the incredible social workers, medical providers, and staff inside of those organizations worked selflessly to help me navigate a significant life event inspired me to want to find my own way to do the same for others.

Healthcare providers are heroes

Today, I have the incredible privilege of working in the same AIDS Service Organization where I did my initial intake. I work with an incredible team of people who are dedicated to seeing people who are living with and at-risk for HIV live their healthiest, most fulfilling lives.

So today - in what feels like a million years from that day in my scout uniform - I would have to disagree with that officer. There are real heroes and I am so honored to work alongside them every single day.

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