Meet Elisha

Elisha photoI am scared to imagine what my life would be like without the Ryan White Program.

I was raised in a small town in Alabama by a family that is heavily involved in the Christian ministry. As a result, my upbringing had a tremendous emphasis on community involvement, academic excellence and social service. These values led me to the Marine Corps after high school, where I was lucky enough to play the piano for the Marine Corps band. I loved traveling from city to city and playing music with the Marine Corps band. It allowed me an avenue to provide joy and inspiration to those who were serving my country. It was an opportunity I was very blessed to have.

During the end of my time in the Marine Corps, I was sexually assaulted during a service trip to New Orleans. Shortly afterwards I was diagnosed as HIV-positive.

Because I had exited the Marine Corps before my diagnosis, the Marine Corps couldn’t help me to pay for the cost of my medication. I had no job, no insurance and no idea as to how I was going to improve my situation. That is when I found out about Ryan White funding from another HIV patient.

Ryan White has been able to help me pay for a comprehensive insurance plan that covers the cost of all of my medication and hospital visits. Because of the incredibly high cost of HIV treatment, there is no way I would have been able to afford this insurance plan on my own. The help I get from Ryan White has allowed me to rebuild my life. I am now working full-time, spend time volunteering with homeless people in my community and enjoy each and every day with my fiancée. I’m in the best health I’ve been in since I’ve been out of the Marine Corps. It is a quality of life I could have never imagined at the time of my diagnosis. My family and I consider the Ryan White Program as a blessing.

In 2010, an estimated 4,690 people were living with HIV/AIDS in Oklahoma. The State of Oklahoma has not yet expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. As a result, the lowest-income HIV+ residents of Oklahoma have been left out of coverage available in other states. They must rely on Ryan White funding for crucial medical care and other supportive services.


Read other stories of people impacted by the Ryan White Care Act.

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Co-sponsors: AIDS United, Southern AIDS Strategy Initiative, Southern AIDS Coalition, Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation at Harvard Law School,, HIV Prevention Justice Alliance, and the AIDS Foundation of Chicago.

This campaign has been made possible by the generous support of the Elton John AIDS Foundation.