You are 18 Years Old and HIV Positive. How do you explain that to someone who asks you on a date?
For many of the members of AIDS Care Ocean State’s Solace Youth and Young Adult Support Group, this is not an academic question. Acceptance and understanding can be a constant struggle for young people, but the burden is compounded by being HIV positive. In Solace, they can ask important questions and get honest answers when discussing issues that affect them: HIV stigma, staying healthy, how to disclose your status, and above all, how to live a fulfilling life - all within a safe, open and caring peer setting.
Solace has been part of the ACOS approach to care for over 20 years. In fact, several of the group members have been with ACOS since birth, when AIDS Care Ocean State ran FACTS, one of the first pediatric nurseries for HIV positive children in the country. As in-vitro HIV treatment evolved and mother-to-child transmission dramatically decreased, the nursery was no longer needed, but addressing the issues of growing up with HIV remains a top priority for the agency.
Thanks to Tony Costagliola, the group’s therapist and Scott Mitchel, the Peer Support Specialist, our youth and young adult clients receive professional guidance from a well-trained staff, helping them with the medical, emotional and social issues that are specific to the HIV community.
“It’s really a family. Everyone is welcoming and eager to catch up with each other.”
- Tony Costagliola
We’ll arrange transportation for those who need it and anything else to make sure that members can get the most out of the group.” This even includes a sign language interpreter for a deaf 16-year-old member.
“My role is to nurture, support and educate the group,” said Scott, “I encourage them to be aware of what’s happening in the world. Our goal is to empower them, giving them the strength to be their own advocate. "