For many young adults, life is just beginning at the age of 21. Those who are fortunate might be graduating from college and entering the workforce, perhaps even taking their first steps toward success. To be young and fortunate means having your health and being hopeful about life—with the absence of true struggle.
Imagine now you’re 21 years old and seeking treatment for an aggressive common cold, only to find out you’re actually infected with the HIV virus. Imagine what that would feel like, how it would be, sitting on the cold sterile table of an exam room as you realize the weight of this burden. You might say to yourself, “Why is this happening to me?” It might dawn on you that from here on out, your new reality is a life of perpetual judgment and discrimination, or at least the threat of it. Then, your doctor stares straight into your eyes and you hear the words: “I have no idea how you contracted this virus.” For our 21-year-old client James*, this was his reality.
James is a Caucasian male living in East Hollywood. Upon learning of his diagnosis, he was completely caught off guard, especially since he doesn’t do drugs and has always practiced safe sex with his girlfriends. By the time he connected with Project Angel Food in December 2017, he had lost 25 pounds over a 10-month period. He was only 87% of his Ideal Body Weight and his T-cell count was at 600.
30% of our clients have an HIV/AIDS diagnosis and are struggling to live. Close to 75% of them live alone. And like James, many of our clients who are under 25 don’t realize they have HIV/AIDS until they’re very sick. Would you join us in providing comfort and love to them?
Further adding to the mystery of how James contracted HIV is the fact that he entered the foster care system when he was five years old. He had no mother or father to provide him with a timeline of his early life, let alone any emotional or financial support.
As manager of Project Angel Food’s Client Services department, it is my duty to connect with clients and assist them with their health needs. While talking with James during his client intake session, he and I discovered something remarkable: a former client with HIV/AIDS born in April 1955 was listed in our computer system and shared the same name as James. This person was his father. His last known address was an HIV housing complex in North Hollywood, and our service with him ended in 2000.
Given James’ responsible lifestyle and his father’s history as a client, James and I were able to connect the dots. James has been carrying the HIV virus his entire life. He was born this way.
It’s no doubt that Project Angel Food’s services—preparing and delivering free, healthy meals to feed people impacted by serious illness—are lifesaving. What’s not always expected though is how a client’s journey with us will unfold or what our relationship with a client will look like.
I’m amazed we’ve been able to serve two generations of clients; I’m proud we’ve been able to help this young man solve his life’s greatest mystery. Just as we did for James’ father, we are providing James with nutritious meals and love to help him during a difficult period.
Would you support us in carrying out our service to vulnerable populations and ensuring a steady stream of care to this generation and the next?
Throughout my 20 years with Project Angel Food, I’ve come across all kinds of clients. Some enjoy opening up—sharing anecdotes about their delivery drivers and what their favorite meals are—while others prefer a quieter relationship with the organization. No matter a client’s disposition or state of affairs, we respect their right to privacy.
For James, he is certainly of the discreet mindset. With that in mind, I’m especially thankful to him for letting me share his story with you.
Today I’m asking you to consider James and those like him who are less fortunate in life. Those who are struggling to survive and relying on Project Angel Food for daily nourishment and support. Please consider these individuals, and remember that a donation could mean so much more than a healthy meal. It could also mean a miracle.
Manager of Client Services
*This client’s name has been changed to protect their privacy