Compass Services: For People Living with HIV/AIDS
One Tuesday a month, a group of young people gather together in a small, private room at MetroHealth Medical Center. They greet each other with smiles, hugs, laughs and “it’s so good to see you."
They usually eat pizza and salad.
They always talk about what’s on their minds.
They are a cross-section of Clevelanders, they are in their teens and twenties and they are living with HIV. They are beautifully diverse: black, white, multi-racial and Latino. They are gay, straight, bisexual and questioning, from the city and from the suburbs. Some are in college, others are working the daily grind at a job that just pays the bills, still others are striving for their GED. The common thread that weaves them together is more than just HIV, it’s a thirst for connecting with each other, supporting and educating others, and sometimes just leaning on someone else for support. They are the “18-30 Group”, and they inspired us to launch our Compass Friend Facebook page.
After every support group, people are encouraged to exchange phone numbers. We tell them: “call someone whose comments you can relate too, connect with someone who you have something in common with.” The 18-30 Group members are shining examples of putting this suggestion into practice. Not only are they calling, but they’re texting, finding each other on Facebook, and going to the movies together.
We noticed that young people just organically connect with each other using social media…so why not join in? We’re planning to use social media to educate, let people know what groups and events are coming up at MetroHealth and elsewhere in the Cleveland HIV/AIDS community, and to promote health and wellness.
Each month you’ll see a pattern:
The first week of the month will be my blog. I’m calling it HIV FYI. My goal is to talk about anything HIV and/or wellness related that you might find interesting or informational.
The second week will be Dan’s blog: POZabilities: Some thoughts on living with HIV from someone living with HIV. Dan’s been living with HIV for over 20 years. When you read what he has to say, I think it’ll make you want to meet him. He’s all spiritually evolved and cool, and he’s even written a book: I am this one walking beside me: Meditations of an HIV Positive Gay Man.
The third week of the month you’ll hear from some of the wonderful HIV healthcare professionals we have here at MetroHealth and throughout the Greater Cleveland community — our HIV Pros blog.
The fourth week of the month we’ll post your stories. A few years back, one of the young people who helped start up the 18-30 Group, T, came to me with an idea to write a book called HIV Diaries. He felt compelled to gather stories from anyone willing and able to share their experience, strength and hope as a person living with HIV/AIDS. We haven’t collected enough stories to pitch a book, but we can definitely post them here, where those who can identify and relate will read them in the spirit of love, respect, wellness and fellowship that we’re hoping to foster.
If you’d like to submit your story for consideration, e-mail it to me at email@example.com. Be sure to let me know if you’d like to sign your name to it (remember, it may be published on the internet!), or if you’d rather use initials, make-up an artsy pen-name, or just remain anonymous.
Take care of yourself…and each other.
Jen McMillen Smith, LISW-S
Coordinator of Compass Services at MetroHealth