At the end of the day, no matter what you’re going through, there’s always someone out there to help you. No matter how ugly the world is, there will always be some type of light. Just reach out and speak your truth. Everybody needs a little help and compassion.

Ismael Ruiz, patient advocate for HIV working with Alliance for Positive Change.

BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – A man named Ismael Ruiz shared his health and wellness journey with the public in a VeryWell Health article published earlier this year.

Ruiz said, “I was diagnosed HIV-positive and AIDS symptomatic in the 1990s. I was in my early 20s, and I thought my life was over… I felt that I wasn’t worthy of being around people because of my diagnosis.”

He went on to say that after months of living in seclusion, he realized something had to change.

Ruiz said, “I knew I couldn’t live like this; it didn’t really feel like I was living at all. I sought help from a mental health professional.”

Ruiz eventually found a community that provided both empathy and practical assistance.

He says this helped him to thrive.

He now encourages other HIV positive patients to seek support and guidance, encouraging them with the following words, “At the end of the day, no matter what you’re going through, there’s always someone out there to help you.”

On a local level, such help can be found in the capital area’s ‘Baton Rouge Ending the HIV Epidemic Commission.’

In fact, this Friday, December 2, the Commission is sponsoring an event called “HIV 365,” which is a celebration of People Living With HIV as whole and unique individuals.

The festive event will take place from 7 p.m.-10 p.m. (CST) at Baton Rouge’s Cary Saurage Community Arts Center (231 Saint Ferdinand Street).

Guests will enjoy tasty food and beverages, performances from various entertainers, a health fair, and brief educational segments designed to improve quality of life for those living with HIV.

HIV 365 will also feature a ‘Whole Person Fair,’ which will allow participants to  explore housing resources, political resources, legal resources, wholistic practitioners, and social opportunities.

Volunteers of America reports that as of March 31, 2022, a total of 22,497 people were living with HIV (PLWH) in Louisiana.

Events that provide practical assistance to those living with HIV can help many of these individuals feel an optimism similar to Ruiz’s.

Eventually, after building his self-esteem, Ruiz was able to say, “I started to believe that I can control this disease. I don’t live with it, it lives with me.”

Click here for more information on the upcoming HIV 365 event.