Hi, my name is Jorge Gonzalez (he/him), and I’m a Health Educator at Center on Halsted. I’ve worked here for over 13 years and, during that time, I’ve had the opportunity to grow and serve my community in ways I’d never imagined.
I’m going to tell you a story about my status and why I do this work — and why we need supporters like you to continue it.
I was diagnosed positive for HIV in 2002, with very little understanding of the virus. Learning about my status was a traumatic experience — not just because people were spreading the narrative that HIV was a death sentence, but because there was a lack of genuine care from the providers who shared my status with me.
In fact, I was given a sealed envelope and told I was “free to go.” After walking out of the office, I opened the envelope and read on printed paper that I am HIV+. I received no verbal notice, no offer of support, and no connection to care. A friend coerced me to go back to the office and ask for confirmation and support. I received confirmation, but it was clear to me that I would not receive support in that space.
I remember feeling frustrated and unattended to in this situation, and I had to go outside of the space to seek the information I needed from that same friend — who fortunately, was in the medical field.
I made a commitment as a Health Educator and Tester at Center on Halsted that our clients would not have to suffer in the same way that I did nearly 18 years ago. My role at the Center was my chance to be the support that my community needs. As a Latino, I’m also able to ensure that language is not a barrier between myself and my clients — because Black and Brown folx are the most prevalent demographics in HIV/AIDS cases. We deserve better, so we create better.
Center on Halsted has been great for me because I’ve learned so much, and I am now able to bring my knowledge and care to support my communities. When you donate to the Center, you are breathing life into the Spirit of the Center where…
- people can come for free, rapid HIV + Hep C testing.
- questions are answered in person and through the State of Illinois HIV/AIDS & STD Hotline.
- linkage-to-care services are provided when a reactive test reveals itself.
- And where people like me, who see themselves in the community members who walk into the Center in need of help, are there to answer questions and assure folx that HIV does not have to be a death sentence. With support, they too, can thrive.