Organization inspires hope in students

IUS Horizon

AIDS Interfaith Ministries of Kentuckiana visited IU Southeast on March 13 in an effort to educate students about AIDS and alert students to the services AIM provides AIDS patients.

The mission of AIM is to help people affected by AIDS or HIV by providing various aspects of support.

Some of the services AIM provides includes counseling, food pantry, free dinners, mentoring, workshops and retreats.

Bobby, who preferred his last name be withheld, was diagnosed with HIV, and, before he got in touch with AIM, he said every day for 11 years he wanted to die.

He said he told his family first, and he was not allowed to use regular plates and silverware at his family’s parties and had to resort to paper and plastic.

“That hurt me to my core,” he said. “That damaged me. I felt like I was not wanted around them.”

He said he did not blame them because there was not a lot of information readily available about the disease in 1999. He said now that he and his family are educated, he no longer has to use the paper and plastic.

Bobby also said his sister did something that truly touched him.

“I was afraid to share my food and drinks,” Bobby said. “Then, my sister took my water bottle that was sitting on the night stand. I asked her what she was doing and what she was thinking. Then, she told me that she wasn’t scared of me. I knew then that she loved me. That touched my spirit.”

Bobby said he is on the AIM board, and his time with AIM has meant the world to him.

“They gave me a hug and let me know they cared,” Bobby said. “Life does not stop, life continues to go on. AIM provides healing aid and a lot of care.”

Bobby said he is openly gay and believes he contracted the disease from unprotected sex. He said he has been in recovery for 10 years.
Doug, who preferred his last name be withheld, came in wearing a Michael Myers mask to show people with the disease could be anybody. He read a poem about different people living with HIV.

“It is our secrets that keep us sick,” he said.

He said he became very sexually active at an early age and found out he had HIV when he was 21.

“I was afraid,” Doug said. “I went to donate blood and was refused. They didn’t say why and subconsciously I already knew. I knew who infected me, and I knew how it happened. I was drinking and drugging, and I wasn’t at all surprised when I found out. I didn’t cry, I didn’t get angry, I knew.”

After finding out, Doug said he was plagued with bad thoughts and dreams and fell into a depression.

“I had dreams that I was dead,” Doug said. “I could see my family all around me, and they were crying. I was more worried about them than about myself.”

He said he told his sister first, who ran and told the rest of his family. His mother was not supportive at all. He said she told him whatever he needed he would not get it from her, and he had better ask God.

Doug moved to Louisville in 2008 and became connected with AIM in 2010.

“Having HIV has been a journey,” Doug said. “It has made me man up and take responsibility. It has made me help others and find hope. AIM gave me a reason to get up in the morning.”

He said AIM has helped him come to grips with the disease.

“I lived in a spiritual center,” Doug said. “I got tired of running and hiding. Once people found out, there was no longer a reason to hide.”

Doug said his word of advice is to not be afraid and to get tested.

“When you sleep with somebody, you sleep with everybody they slept with before,” he said. “This disease does not discriminate.”

Paige Gottlieb, director of AIM and leader of the meeting, said the volunteerism is the most important need from the ministry.

“The more people we have, the more we can do,” Gottlieb said.

Volunteers can work in the food pantry, deliver supplies and serve at the dinners. They can also become a counselor at the AIM retreat location in Oldham County, which provides an escape for people with the disease.

Financial contributions are also welcome. Those wanting to get involved can obtain a Kroger card for AIM in which 4 percent of the profits go to the organization. Volunteers can also look up information on their Facebook page, called AIDS Interfaith Ministries.