Marilyn was 23 when she came to Joseph’s House. She was infected with HIV in her late teens. She was sick, weak and scared. At first, she stayed curled up in her room. One of our young volunteers -- at 21, a peer -- started assisting her. Soon, their days were filled with laughter and friendship.
Slowly, and with a lot of gentle and persistent love, Marilyn got into a stable rhythm with her medications -- the giant pills that had made her nauseous and weak she was now taking like a champ. She started coming downstairs for every meal. She would proudly tell us when she ate something besides Captain Crunch cereal. Her body started to fill out and her skin regained its shine. She was on the road to recovery. There was hope.
After several months, Marilyn was well enough to return home where she really wanted to be with her two daughters aged 2 and 3. She was aware that she would face difficulties, but felt well enough and up to the challenge. She kept in touch with the young volunteer through Facebook. One day, we realized that we hadn’t heard from her in a month or two. We called, and discovered she was in the hospital for the second time that month. Marilyn came back to Joseph’s House -- the home she had here -- within the week, and died within the month at age 24.
HIV/AIDS is a chronic, manageable disease, up to a point, for people with the tools to manage it, such as money, stability, and communities of support. If Marilyn had been born with privileges, she would not have died this young. Joseph’s House provided a space for a beautiful young woman, dying because of AIDS and injustice, to die with dignity and love.