HIV patient helps others living with incurable virus through McGregor Clinic

A woman from Southwest Florida is inspiring people to educate themselves about Human Immunodeficiency Virus.

Marissa Gonzalez knows what it feels like to be told the news that “you have HIV,” and she sat down with WINK News to share the life changing resources she wants people to know about.

Photo via WINK News

“The inspiration behind my Dandelion tattoo is it means growth and strength through hard times and HIV was probably the hardest thing that I’ve ever had to deal with,” Gonzalez said.

She decorates her office with symbols of her battle against HIV, a virus that interferes with her body’s ability to fight infections, and has no cure.

“The impact that HIV has had on me since my diagnosis in 2016… I attempted to take my own life and why I fell into a deep depression,” Gonzalez said.

She found hope inside McGregor Clinic, a non-profit healthcare center created in Southwest Florida for patients like Gonzalez.

“The stigma surrounding this is still huge and keeps people from care so they know they can come here, they’re well respected, we are their family,” said Sharon Murphy, McGregor Clinic CEO and Executive Director.

Now, in a building that offers resources like counseling, specialized medical treatment, even food or clothes to patients in need, Gonzalez helps others cope with their life-changing diagnosis.

“Even if you are given a diagnosis such as HIV you can live a long healthy prosperous life,” Gonzalez said.

She now leads others to the support they need as the newest member of McGregor clinic’s outreach team.

“The most rewarding part for me is just being able to work in the community and educate everyone on best practices and making informed decisions,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez encourages anyone to take an HIV test, she says it only takes a minute, and it’s free to test yourself for HIV at one of the local McGregor clinic locations. They are also willing to drive their mobile unit to your neighborhood to off the free life saving tests.

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