StoryCorps Atlanta Makes a Positive Impact!
In 2010, HIV/AIDS is not as scary a diagnosis as it was in the early- and mid-eighties. Now, almost thirty years since the disease first became part of the public lexicon, HIV/AIDS is no longer a death sentence. In late-August, StoryCorps Atlanta partnered with Positive Impact to record stories of individuals living with and/or affected by HIV/AIDS.
Trevalle Ambrose arrived early for his conversation with Positive Impact group facilitator Rico Curtis-Davidson. He found out he was HIV positive on his 21st birthday. When he told his family that he was positive they, in his words, “just cut me off.” One year later, he moved to Atlanta, Georgia with his best friend, Devin Murphy. Three days after they arrived, Devin died. Trevalle was alone in a new city, grieving the loss of his friend and estranged from his family. With the help of Devin’s brother, Trevalle found the medical resources he needed. His spiritual journey, though, had just begun. Trevalle would face numerous illnesses – many life-threatening – battle drug addiction, and fight to regain his family’s love and respect. Looking back, Trevalle says, “I was a mess. I was a lost soul.”
Now, twenty-one years later, at the age of forty-two, Trevalle is drug free and healthy. He recently graduated from the Interdenominational Theological Center (ITC) in Atlanta, is a minister for the Church of God in Christ (C.O.G.I.C.), and also does HIV/AIDS prevention outreach for his church. In addition, he sits on the Ryan White Planning Committee, and is the new chair for the Ryan White Consumer Caucus.
Trevalle speaks openly and honestly about the challenges he faced, and the obstacles he’s overcome, all in an effort to help others understand that their strength lies within and that nothing is impossible if one has faith.
A few weeks after our recording day, Positive Impact Founder Christopher Allers and Founding Executive Director Paul Plate visited the StoryCorps Atlanta StoryBooth to discuss how and why they started Positive Impact.
Paul remembered attending meetings in Chris’s living room about the needs for mental health services within the HIV community. After the meeting, Paul told a friend “I want to be director of that organization.” By 1993, Positive Impact was just a sheet of paper, Paul, and a donated office space. Today, in addition to serving the mental health needs of the HIV community, it also serves people who are dealing with substance abuse and homelessness and includes a strong emphasis on education and prevention. Chris describes Positive Impact as “an organization that deeply cares about people living with HIV, but also about ending (the HIV/AIDS) epidemic.”
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