Years ago at an AIDS Support Group, the group facilitator asked how AIDS had been a blessing in everyone’s life. SAVE, Inc. client Bill says the room went silent. “You could hear a pin drop. But by the end of the session, about a hundred things had been mentioned.”
Bill was diagnosed with HIV 24 years ago. At that time, he never would have imagined that he would someday consider the virus a blessing. In 1994, Bill became very sick and was in the hospital more often than not for six years. To complicate matters, the medications made him extremely ill.
Much of Bill’s life has been filled with struggles, beginning with a traumatic childhood. Bill’s parents abandoned him and his four siblings when he was 7 years old. Bill and his brother were fortunate to be adopted by kind, loving parents. His mother tried to compensate for the pain that the boys had experienced. But, the scars of a troubled childhood and the abandonment by his biological parents stayed with him for many years.
As an adult, Bill turned to drugs and destructive relationships, and attempted suicide several times because he didn’t know who he was, he says. In fact, his last destructive relationship led him to Kansas City, as Bill decided that he had to find a new life. “The only way to get out of that relationship and lifestyle was to get out of California. This was my last chance at life — I had to do something dramatic.”
So, Bill moved to Kansas City and stayed with his nephew, but soon discovered that his nephew also was in an abusive relationship. In order to get away from the violence, Bill moved into a homeless shelter.
There, he was assigned a case manager who eventually referred him to Ellen Channels, housing intake specialist at SAVE, Inc. After being approved for one of the transitional housing programs at SAVE, Inc., Bill moved into an apartment on June 1, 2010. “Living here has allowed me to put myself together. I feel at home for the first time in my life,” Bill admits.
Bill attends support groups regularly and has made several good friends on property. He also is interested in helping others cope with the diagnosis of HIV/AIDS. “People are scared and overwhelmed when they are first diagnosed. This virus is a gift, but you have to look for it. AIDS has opened and shut a lot of doors for me. It’s put a fight in me that I didn’t realize I had before.”
Bill is determined to make his life matter. He says he never wants to be known for his struggles. “Life is what I make it; I don’t always handle it well, but I keep going. If I am able to save one person from doing what I’ve done, I have accomplished what I wanted to accomplish.”