People living with HIV/AIDS share their journey of survival, resilience in Center City

Kimberly Adams
November 10, 2018 - 9:51 pm

Kimberly Adams/KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) -- People living with AIDS celebrated their survival and resilience with family and friends Saturday in Center City.

"I just felt like this diseased pariah," said HIV survivor Gregg Cassin.

He was telling  a crowd of people how he felt receiving his diagnosis more than 30 years ago.

Cassin joined more than 50 others Saturday at the third annual Reunion Project Philadelphia, an event designed as a safe space for HIV and AIDS survivors. 

This year’s theme “Everyone has a story,” which was fitting for people like Grace Rutha, who was attacked in Kenya.

"They cut me up,” Rutha said.

Reporter: “And that's how you found out that you had HIV.

“Yes, I got it from the blood that was not screened," she said.

Dennis Yochem says he had no home, no hope and nowhere to turn, so he turned to drugs.

"I said ‘there's my way out, I know how to die now,’ so I went up and shot up,” Yochem said.

Organizations like the Community Health Training Alliance gave these people help, and this event gives them a voice.

Community Health Training Alliance's Tashina Okorie says, “You can still have a healthy life living with the disease.”

Rutha says she's living proof of that. Now through counseling and a supportive community, Rutha says her life has just begun.

“It was kind of like a blessing in disguise,” she said. “It made me just appreciate life so much. I feel so excited. Every minute is precious to me.”

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