Alysha Marie was born as a boy in Puerto Rico. As she became an adult, she didn’t feel at home in her body. Though she looked like a man, she felt she was a woman. Troubled, isolated and unable to face the realities of her life, she experimented with drugs and became addicted. Unfortunately, she contracted HIV and Hepatitis C.
Realizing she needed to change her life, she moved to Chicago, home to a large, diverse Hispanic community and LGBT services. She wanted to regain her health, receive hormone replacement therapy and embrace her identity as a woman. But she experienced major barriers: she had no health insurance and didn’t speak English.
After spending several years searching for a resource that would address all of her many health concerns, a community organization finally referred her to Erie’s Lending Hands for Life program for HIV/AIDS patients at Erie Humboldt Park, where staff members communicated with her in Spanish. She was able to apply for and receive Medicaid benefits through the CountyCare program, giving her better access to treatment provided by Erie and its partners.
Working with Erie case manager David Velez, Alysha Marie began HIV treatment, attended monthly HIV support group meetings and embarked on hormone replacement therapy at Erie. She was referred to a substance abuse treatment program conducted in Spanish. Due to the complexity of her care, she was relieved that Velez helped her succeed in keeping on top of her busy appointment schedule.
“At Erie, I felt comfortable right away,” she recalls. “I was grateful that they spoke Spanish and understood me. They were on my side and worked together as a team to make sure I got the help I needed.”
With her HIV now well controlled, Alysha Marie has been referred through an Erie partnership to begin treatment for Hepatitis C at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. She is healthier and less isolated. She feels more stable and authentic.
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