Just a few months after his 26th birthday, Brad was diagnosed with HIV.
“The minute you get that positive test result, your world changes.”
Knowing he needed to immediately take care of his health, Brad sought out help at several local agencies. However, instead of assistance, he was met with waiting lists. Patients like him were lining up get into care, but resources were scarce. In addition, Brad had to find new insurance before the Affordable Care Act’s March deadline.
Having been on his parents insurance until recently, Brad had little idea where to start, especially now that he was dealing with HIV. “You need to take meds every day at the same time. You can never stop. You can’t take a month off if you can’t afford the pills or your insurance. The beauty of Obamacare is that there are no pre-existing conditions [taken into consideration.]” For Brad, having a March deadline “was both scary and hopeful.”
Luckily, a friend introduced Brad to AIDS Services of Austin where our insurance specialist Ben was able to help him look for a plan that suited his special needs. “I printed out six plans to see side-by-side. ASA helped a lot at that point.”
Brad finally decided on a PPO plan where, once he paid his deductible and his $210 monthly premium, he was covered in full for the rest of the year. “Ben, the insurance guru, helped guide me and figure out how to help me pay.” Finally, several months after learning his diagnosis, Brad started taking medications and seeing a private physician. His plan allows him to see a specialist, and ASA helps to cover a portion of his deductible and premium. “Without ASA, I wouldn’t be doing so good right now.”
Unfortunately for many people, getting insured is a daunting task, and the waiting list is still their best hope of getting care. Around 57% of ASA’s clients live below the poverty level with few resources to rely on. Brad acknowledges that he had many tools at his disposal which helped him explore his options and make in depth comparisons of plans. “I do have a car, a computer, a phone, but a lot of people don’t. I have friends who were diagnosed before me, but didn’t get as far in the system as I did.”
Brad also knows that by sharing his story, he can give others hope. “When I found out, I just made a decision. I cried for weeks but then I just dusted off my shoulders. I took it upon myself to live life openly. I had worked so hard to come out of one closet door that I wasn’t going to go back into another one.”
Not only is he open to his friends and family, but he even publicizes his status at work. As a bartender at Austin nightclub V, Brad sees many men just like him and takes the opportunity to answer questions and dispel stigma. “I chose to turn this negative into a positive. I have the chance to say something a lot of people don’t want to say.” Last month, Brad held an AIDS Walk fundraiser at V, donating over a thousand dollars in tips along with his co-workers!
For others in the same situation, Brad wants them to know: “You can fight it. There are organizations that can help you. It’s a very big thing to take on. I’m very appreciative that it’s 2014, there are meds, and I could get insurance. Now I value life a lot more—my mom, my family, and my friends.”