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Tom’s Experience – Fighting HIV by helping the community

I came out in 1978 at the age of 27, after 5 years of marriage. We divorced and I moved to the gay community of Oak Lawn in Dallas. I was not very “street wise” though, and quickly gravitated toward some guys that were involved with drugs and sex work. After jumping in with the wrong crowd, I began partying and living in the fast lane. Not long afterwards, I began using meth and quickly moved from oral intake to intravenous drug use. Chaos followed and my life spiraled out of control.

My family saw that I was in trouble, and did an intervention. I stayed in treatment for about 3 days before I escaped back to Dallas. I was out of control, again. Eventually, I was arrested on a drug charge. After spending a week in the county jail, I received an adjudicated sentence.

After that, I got a job and did really well for about 4 years. Then I fell off the wagon and ended up homeless in Dallas. I then moved back to Fort Worth and was on and off drugs for several years. About 10 years ago, I realized I needed to do something drastic, or I would end up in the same shape as before. I started attending HIV accu-detox recovery groups, which focuses on a harm reduction approach. I attended these meetings once or twice a week for the past 10 years, and it has been the backbone of my recovery process.

After getting clean, many opportunities opened up to me. I started volunteering for many of the local AIDS Service Organizations and the local county HIV clinic. This year I received a “Behind the Scenes” award for Outstanding Service from the clinic. I also serve on the local planning council and several committees. Things just keep getting better and better!

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