Johnathan found the ACE program just in time. At only 24 years old, he was blindsided by an HIV diagnosis that, untreated, left him close to death. It also left him far removed from his family. In spite of years of proof that HIV does not spread by casual contact, and despite advances that have made HIV completely manageable, a pervasive stigma remains. Johnathan’s own family made him use disposable plates and bleached everything he touched. They finally abandoned him altogether.
That’s when Johnathan came to LSS for help. At first, he was too scared to even come into the building for his appointment. He remembers sitting outside crying, feeling hopeless. That’s when Heather Vaughan, ACE program director at the time, found him and put her arms around him. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d been hugged. His first steps into the building at LSS were symbolic of his first steps on the road to recovery. He was assigned a peer navigator, James. As an HIV+ individual and former ACE client himself, James knew a lot about what Johnathan was feeling, and was with him every step of the way. Two years later, with the proper care and medical case management, Johnathan is healthy and living a normal life, unhindered by HIV.
He says, “The team at LSS treated me like a human being when my own family wouldn’t.”
All of us at LSS are so grateful that Johnathan came into our lives. Not just because we’ve been able to help him, but because he is now a part of our team providing other scared clients with the same compassion and resources that he received when he needed them most. Inspired by the impact James had on his life, Johnathan is now a peer navigator. He is one of the first faces a new ACE client sees, and we can think of no one better than him to welcome them on their own journey to health and healing.
In addition to peer navigation and medical case management, clients in our ACE program also benefit from:
- Quality medical care, offered onsite at a state-of-the-art HIV clinic operated by CAN Community Health
- Lifesaving medications
- Therapeutic interventions
- Psychiatric services and support groups
- Financial management and housing assistance
- Benefits assistance
- Onsite lab work, dental services and pharmacy
- PrEP services
LSS has been serving individuals living with HIV/AIDS since 1992 and provided wraparound services to 1,600 clients last year. The success of our integrated approach to serving the whole client is evident; for the past two years, ACE has been recognized by the City of Jacksonville for obtaining the highest viral suppression rate of any HIV services agency in the area. That means our clients are so healthy that they are no longer capable of transmitting the virus!
To support our work in HIV services or any other program, please donate today at: //lssjax.org/donate-today/.