Season of Giving 2020

The resilience and courage of the clients whom we serve inspire all of us at GMHC. Their stories demonstrate the extraordinary struggles that many of them face in living with HIV/AIDS. They also are a testament to GMHC’s vital importance to the communities whom we serve.

During this Season of Giving, please consider making a generous gift to help ensure Audrey, Charlene, Patricia, and all our clients can live healthy, productive lives.

Audrey O.

Name of client has been changed to protect her identity

GMHC Client, Legal Services

I found out that I had HIV after I moved to New York City from Guyana in 2001. I felt terrible and sad. I felt like my life was over. The social worker at the clinic said I would need help. That’s when I learned about GMHC.

I was scared when I went to GMHC. But the staff persons were very friendly and genuinely caring. They showed me every conceivable way to move through the obstacles I faced. They helped me get housing. In GMHC’s Legal Services, a staff person who works on immigration cases helped me to get my green card, which took many months.

I don’t think I would be alive if I still lived in Guyana. I would be put out of my home and isolated from my family. Or I would be killed. Dead and forgotten.

My three sons and two daughters do not know about my HIV status. I don’t yet have the courage to tell them.

Right now, I am working on becoming a U.S. citizen since I have had a green card for more than five years. But the process is delayed due to COVID-19 and the current federal government’s stance on immigration. There is a lot of fear and unrest in my community. I am fearful when I go out. 

This year has been challenging. I am healthy. I don’t have COVID-19. I have been very careful. I work as a housekeeper.

What has kept me going are the GMHC staff persons who have guided me in the right direction. They do an excellent job.

I look forward to becoming a U.S. citizen in 2021.

Charlene Espino
GMHC Client, Workforce Development

I learned about GMHC many years after my diagnosis with HIV. I was unemployed and learned from a social worker about the resources available to people living with HIV.

Everyone was so nice when I came to GMHC. I found out there were different kind of services such as the Workforce Development Department and a staff person in that department asked if I wanted to do an internship as a receptionist. She could see potential in me. Months later I was offered the job as a receptionist on the 4th floor where many of the client services are located. The job was offered to me so quickly! GMHC really changed my life. The clients loved me.

While I worked at GMHC, I also accessed the Keith Haring food pantry program, and took classes online in the computer lab, to accomplish and achieve some of my goals.

I am grateful for GMHC because it gave me a great opportunity to work and get back into the workforce. It changed my life. I was able to provide more for my kids.

GMHC has motivated me to keep going. I want donors to keep donating to the programs that help so many people.

Patricia Shelton
GMHC Client, Women’s Services

I first learned about GMHC in the 1990s when I saw an ad for a conference sponsored by GMHC. My boyfriend at the time and I were both recovering addicts and had hepatitis C and HIV. We needed to see what was out there for us. People were hugging and talking. They were black, white, gay, and straight. After this conference, we became volunteers at GMHC.

I later learned about the women’s services at GMHC and became a client. I did not know there were services for heterosexual, lesbian and transgender women. I went to support groups, got help from Legal Services, had lunches and dinners in the Meals Program—and more. I still go to the women’s support groups–which have been a lifesaver.

I also became a peer educator and started doing community outreach to connect with other women who may be at risk of HIV or need services for living with HIV.

Now that I am an older woman living with HIV, we need more services for us—especially support groups where we can talk openly. Plus, we are so isolated at times. Many older women and men were not raised to talk about our sex lives, or if we are using drugs or alcohol.

After all these years, what I can tell you about GMHC is that they still welcome people with open arms. Every time I go to the offices, I feel like I am the most important person in the room.

GMHC helps the community. They help people like me—mentally and emotionally—through individual support or in groups.

When anyone asks me about seeking help, I say “Go to GMHC.”