In 1988, Marla gave friends a ride to AHP so they could get tested for HIV. On a whim, as she waited for her friends, Marla decided to get tested too. Two weeks later, she learned she tested positive. She was shocked.
Over the next few years, Marla grappled with coping and coming out with HIV. It was difficult for her to talk about her status to her family and prospective partners. She also struggled with depression and bipolar disorder.
In the early 1990s, Marla returned to AHP to utilize the mental health services and George Harrison, AHP’s Medical Director and a psychiatrist, offered Marla a combination of medications that since then has kept her bipolar disorder under control. AHP therapy and support groups helped Marla cope with the stigma around HIV and the everyday stress of her life. Today Marla says, “I see a huge connection between my physical and mental health.” AHP’s strength-based approach has enabled her to think positively, reduce stress, and feel happy and healthy.
Marla loves to travel, and this has been a great source of gratification and hope in her life. When, in 1997, “I weighed 88 pounds, I almost died,” she says that planning a trip to Europe helped her turn her situation around. Marla told herself, “I’m going to Europe, so I have to get better.” That year she went to Paris and London and has been traveling ever since.
After 20 years as a client, Marla now volunteers at AHP as an HIV test counselor: “I wanted to give back to an agency that helped me so much.” Marla’s positive energy and compassionate attitude makes her a great addition to our HIV counseling and testing team. HCAT Clinical Supervisor Francis Salmeri says about Marla: “I’m impressed by her ability to be present and compassionate with people who are experiencing really dark and difficult places, while maintaining really professional boundaries.”