World AIDS Day: An HIV+ Youth Tells His Story

Story written by JD – client of Larkin Street’s ACAC (Assisted Care/After Care) program, which provides housing, counseling, life-skills, and nutritional & healthcare services specific to HIV/AIDS+ youth .

I came to Larkin Street Youth Services because I was facing a huge challenge in my life and needed support with my housing, physical and mental health, and overall welfare. At the time, I was in my last quarter in design school, and I take my education very seriously.

For two years, I was living in a small room on Treasure Island where I cooked and cleaned in exchange for housing, but there was a constant underlying threat that I would be kicked out. I took a much-anticipated backpacking trip to Europe to celebrate almost completing my associate’s degree. My final destination was Paris for fashion week, which for a gay man is like a kid in a candy-store. When I returned to San Francisco, though, I discovered I am HIV-positive.

Mentally I started to isolate myself from my friends, family, and anyone near me. Simultaneously, I was diagnosed, lost my housing, had an a**hole boyfriend, and had an enormous school and internship workload. That said, I became more determined than ever that school was the only thing that would keep me together as a person.

Fortunately, my doctor told me about a Larkin Street program that helps with housing for HIV-positive homeless youth. Two weeks after my diagnosis, Larkin Street pointed me to ACAC (Assisted Care/After Care). I got an SRO in North Beach so that I could go to school and continue my internship. I moved out of my boyfriend’s place and felt more secure.

I’m now part of an HIV-positive support group, gained a therapist, started medications, and have had an undetectable viral load consistently since I was diagnosed. I also moved into a house called Hugo, a part of ACAC for independent youth. I’m now going back to school for my Bachelor in Fine Arts in textiles at California College of the Arts. What I’ve learned from this experience is how important health is for your daily mental and physical productivity. With Larkin Street’s assistance, I was able to find the financial tools to cover the cost of college, including the support of ACAC for housing and healthcare, helping me become the successful man I am today.