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NYC man diagnosed with HIV strives to live full life with a new perspective

A man living with HIV says a health care nonprofit and a Montefiore Hospital saved his life and inspired him to help save others.

Born into a Dominican family in Connecticut, Jeffrey Feliz moved to New York City about 20 years ago to pursue fashion after his parents kicked him out for being gay.

Almost a year after his diagnosis, the nonprofit Amina Care, an insurance company that worked with people living with HIV, reached out to Feliz.

“They got me back into painting, into gardening. Amina Care focused on the living part, not the diagnosis,” Feliz said.

The group also provided him with coverage to afford the treatment that saved his life.

Years later, Feliz’s HIV is undetectable, meaning he can’t transmit the virus sexually and can live a healthy, long life.

Feliz is now a peer educator at Montefiore AIDS Center where they help other New Yorkers navigate their diagnosis from medication to mental health support.

Feliz believes there’s been great progress since the 1980s and 1990s, a time when many historians say the virus killed hundreds of thousands of Americans due to stigma and slow government response. He says we still we need to keep raising awareness because it can affect anyone regardless of race or sexuality.

Feliz added he would like to see HIV tests available over the counter, just like pregnancy tests, one day.

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