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Special Features

A Woman in the Wilderness:

MAAS Founder and Executive Director Judy Warren

The Story of MAAS which
sparked massive change in
West Texas AIDS awareness

Letters From Students:

Responding to MAAS' High School HIV/AIDS Prevention Education Program

Living With AIDS -
MAAS Clients Speak Out

Since 1991, MAAS has helped many people living with AIDS to overcome a "victim" mentality and take control of their lives again. HIV/AIDS is no longer an automatic death sentence -- MAAS helps to heal damaging emotional responses and guides its clients in adopting best practices for living with AIDS.

Over the years there has been an outpouring of praise and gratitude from MAAS clients*, who openly share what it is like to "Live" with AIDS, in spite of it, rather than throw their hands up and die from it. These are just a few of those many responses.

(*For privacy purposes, all client testimonies posted here will remain anonymous.)
Access more heartwarming client testimonies here

Living With AIDS -
From an anonymous MAAS Client

It was 3pm on Christmas Eve 2002 when my puppy, Ricky, died. I was sad and upset. That same evening my phone rang.  It was my Doctor to tell me my HIV test was positive. Why me? I bet I asked that question a million times. I immediately went into denial and pretended nothing was wrong.  When I buried Ricky in the back yard later that evening, I decided to also bury the news I had just received.  Lucy (my other puppy) and I would be just fine.

Six months later I was not able to walk from my bedroom to the kitchen without having to sit down and try to get air into my lungs.  It turned out I was not only HIV positive but I had full-blown AIDS. A bronchoscope days later revealed that Kaposi Sarcoma (KS), an AIDS-related cancer that usually attacks the skin and the mucous membranes, had completely invaded my respiratory system, including my lungs.  I quickly looked up KS and was reminded that these purple lesions were what Tom Hanks had on his body in the movie Philadelphia. I remembered the scene in which he took his shirt off to show the jury.  That was now me.  The KS was inside of me and was not allowing me to breathe.  Breathing became a fight for life.  All calories were burned attempting to get air.  In just a matter of weeks I dropped to 135 pounds from 190.  With a 6’1 frame the picture was not attractive. I was the perfect picture of AIDS.  I had seen it many times before.  This time it stared right back at me.

I was told that my prognosis was death within 4-6 months so I decided not to start taking the HIV treatment that had helped millions of people.  I saw no point in delaying the inevitable.  I had to leave my profession as a 401(k) consultant and live off of my savings.  I was ashamed and telling my family and asking them for help was not an option.  I made the decision to die alone.  I wrote a letter asking a neighbor to call someone with a good heart to come and take Lucy.

That same week I was referred to David Watkins at the Allison Cancer Center.  I was reluctant to go because I was ashamed to be seen in public. I would go out only at night to check the mailbox.  I could not let anyone see me because the KS lesions had started to appear on my face. An inner voice and strength I cannot describe with justice made me go to Dr. Watkins.  He was reluctant to start chemotherapy to treat the KS.  My “non-existent immune system will not tolerate such toxins,” he told me. So, I went home to wait for death.

During my wait, I had trouble sleeping.  I was afraid of death coming when it was dark.  I wanted to be awake when I died.  Was that even possible?  To help me stay awake, when I went to bed I would turn on every light and lamp I could find.  I waited for several weeks with all the lights on. Nothing.  The wait became impossible to endure.  One night I woke up coughing ¼ cup of blood out every other minute.  My body felt like it was on fire and in the background I heard Lucy barking at me uncontrollably.  It was as if she was saying “fight, fight, fight.” 

I called Dr. Watkins the following morning.  I told him I wanted the treatment.  He said, “You may not tolerate it and die within days.”  My response was “ I am already there and have nothing to lose.”  I started chemotherapy in March of 2004 and received 12 bi-monthly infusions of Taxol for a period of 12 months. 

After just the second infusion in April, I was outside gardening.  My appetite was voracious and I had already gained 15 pounds.  It was then that I started taking HAART (Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapy). Spring brought life not only to my garden but also to my existence.

During my treatment I tried looking for help in Midland but it proved to be a challenge.  AIDS remains a taboo topic in Midland.  You just don’t openly talk about it. Soon my savings was almost gone.  My health insurance expired in the middle of treatment and rent was due.  What now? The streets?

I continued looking for help and eventually found Midland/Odessa Area AIDS Support.  I read Judy’s story and started writing to her.  Judy and I met in the MAAS office in early 2004.  It was an instant connection.  In her eyes I found the first signs of true compassion throughout my entire ordeal. She did not judge me.  As I thanked her for helping me with rent more than once and with other urgent needs, I asked Judy to please let me help her in the MAAS office. She agreed and for four years I worked at the MAAS office every single day.  In that office, I learned how to write grants for nonprofits and I met many people, dozens, living with AIDS. 

Their stories were not unlike mine. At MAAS I found a family and also a purpose to get up each day and go to work.  MAAS saved my life in many ways that may not be observable or measurable.  When I was in the office I was not a person with AIDS. I was helping people with AIDS. I was helping Judy do for so many others what she had done for me. I still help Judy with grants and we have formed a life-long friendship.

I live in out of state now.  I moved to be close to my family.  I have so many things to tell them.  I have so much love to give them and to accept all the love they give me. 

Today, I am in the best health ever! I am living a productive and peaceful life.  I decided not to go back to my profession in finance on a full-time basis.  I have a new calling and it is to help people. I decided to stay in the nonprofit sector and work for an organization helping people with significant disabilities live an independent life with dignity and with access to all emergency needs.  I am the agency’s grant writer.

I am sharing my story with you to give you an idea of what challenges a person with AIDS may endure. We lose more than our health, our family, our money, etc.  We can loose ourselves. Most importantly, I am sharing my story so that you can fully grasp the impact MAAS has on the Midland and Odessa communities and on the lives of hundreds of people.

When I go to bed now, I am no longer afraid.  There is no need for me to turn all the lights on. Lucy agrees.

Access more heartwarming client testimonies here