On Oct. 4, LifeWalk — the annual 5K fundraising walk benefitting AIDS Arms and other local AIDS service agencies — will celebrate its 25th year. In the 25 weeks leading up to this milestone event, the folks over at AIDS Arms are, each Friday, posting a new LifeWalk story from someone who has participated, in some way, through the years.

In this week’s entry, AIDS Arms volunteer and client Joey Avila talks about how AIDS Arms has changed his life and why he participates in LifeWalk. Read his story here on Instant Tea, and then go to the LifeWalk blog to read other stories, see the photos and watch the videos.

joey avila

Joey Avila

Hello, my name is Joey.

It is a terrible thing to outlive your life partner. When mine died of AIDS, I felt as if my life was over too. For many agonizing years, I had to care for Steve — fed and bathed him, drove him to the hospital over and over, and cried for him as he died a long, painful death. After, I was nearly paralyzed with grief.

Then I came to volunteer at AIDS Arms. At first, I was too sad to do much, but in this supportive, healing environment, I began to work through my pain and see that I could help others and myself too. Now, years later, I am still proud to be a part of this welcoming place where people struggling with HIV/AIDS, such as me, find compassionate professionals and lifeline services we all desperately need to live.

This is very hard work. Thank goodness for AIDS Arms case managers to help us all navigate through the healthcare system’s complications, and for Peabody Health Center and Trinity Health & Wellness Center where quality caring healthcare is still a priority.

Still, when someone tells me they have been diagnosed with HIV, my heart aches again with the pain I felt when Steve told me he was HIV positive. Yes, today there are new life-prolonging medications, but the effects of the treatment are horrible with many long-term consequences and the expense of treatment drives most of us into poverty. AIDS Arms helps me live my life more fully, even in the bad times, and offers me courage to keep fighting.

Without AIDS Arms and its committed staff driven to help people deal with endless doctor appointments, lab tests, overwhelming expenses, and medication side effects, I don’t know what would happen to me. They find resources to help people who have no idea how they can keep a roof over their heads and food on the table, let alone provide top quality medical care.

Won’t you join me in supporting LifeWalk and AIDS Arms this year? As a volunteer and client, I can tell you that your donation makes such a difference to me and many others. As a long-term survivor of this disease, I thank you for showing how much you care about people living with HIV and AIDS.

Sincerely, Joey