My name is Jon. I was born with H.I.V. My experiences growing up taught me that this was something to hide and be ashamed of.
I couldn’t sleep over at a friend’s house because I was afraid they’d find my medicine. I was always scared to tell people too much about myself so friendships never went very far.
Jon and friends at Next Step. Summer, 2012.
As I got older, when I thought about the future I couldn’t envision a “normal” life. I didn’t think I would ever have children or find someone to grow old with. By the time I turned 18, I was used to being lonely.
All of this started to change when I found Next Step.
My first Next Step workshop focused on leadership and advocacy. I was so nervous about going but the people there turned out to be so welcoming, kind and accepting of me-H.I.V. and all. I had never met anyone else with H.I.V. before, and that day I met twenty. Just learning there were other teens like me out there blew me away.
What impressed me most was that these teens were passionate advocates for the rights of people living with H.I.V. At that program, we wrote a letter* to the senators of Massachusetts requesting that they restore funding for H.I.V./AIDS programs, services and medications.
Before, I never knew I had a voice. At Next Step, I not only realized I had a voice, but that it was powerful and could lead to change. I also found a family at Next Step – other teens that support, challenge and teach me. I recently told my best friend about my H.I.V. status. I would NEVER have done that without everything I learned at Next Step.
Jon, age 21, Next Step participant since 2011