HIV AIDS Stigma and education

Jeff Allen

It was 1985; Jeff Allen had just taken the test for the HIV virus. Jeff was not in a place to understand the implications of the test. He was in a drug treatment facility, and it was difficult to even imagine that he needed to deal with something besides recovering from his drug addiction.

He took the test, and a few days later they called him back in and said the test was not conclusive and required another one. After the second test he discovered he was HIV positive. He told no one. Before long he was leaving the treatment facility and heading out to finish out his life in private isolation.

Jeff moved to his parent’s home for a while, and went to Key West. Jeff was gay and figured where better to be than where homosexuality and HIV were widely accepted. He went there with little money and lived off of mustard sandwiches. Finally, Jeff got a job at a restaurant.  When he started making good money, he ended up back on cocaine and heroin.

Jeff was fired from the restaurant because of performance issues and absenteeism. With no money coming in, and his drug addiction escalating, he ended up  living in his car. After a short while the car was towed, and he ended up with no place to stay what so ever.

After about 3 months, Jeff became very sick and ended up in the hospital with PCP pneumonia. He was in the hospital for about 4 weeks, and very near death. That’s when he met someone that had ventured down the same path. His new friend offered him a place to stay and guidance in the right direction. They gave him support and guidance, and helped him find a job.

Jeff’s life was finally starting to take a positive turn. He had a spiritual connection, was sober, and had a basic support system in place. His support system offered him an affordable place of his OWN to stay in. All his new friend asked in return was for Jeff to pay it forward.

For the past 27 years, this has been his mission. Jeff has seen too many people not make it out of the situation that he was in, and it is his mission to help as many people as possible come out of the depths of addiction and homelessness and take full control of their lives.

Jeff has been involved with the local Ryan White consortium for 7 years. The group has implemented a Consumer Peer program, which directly deals with quality management, adherence and compliance within our area. It helps clients to stay in care and adhere to medications.

Jeff began the Positive Champions Speakers Bureau, for individuals to speak out into the community on the fear and stigma associated with HIV/AIDs, and the importance of staying in care after testing positive for HIV/AIDS.

Since he began working with Positive Champions, his focus has been on quality improvement for individuals living with the disease. Jeff believes that peers have a definite effect on quality teams, by giving valuable insight to what works and what doesn’t. Retention of patients has been a problem in the Daytona area for quite some time. Jeff cherishes the opportunity to help in whatever way he can, and to share and learn new ways of improving HIV/AIDS outreach efforts.  Jeff Allen was included in the FACES OF HIV campaign which is a statewide prevention campaign put forth by the Florida Department of Health.This year Jeff Allen was recognized in POZ magazine  (which is an internationally recognized magazine) as 100 of America’s Unsung Heros. Jeff has lived with his domestic partner Jim Geary for the past 17 years.