Finding purpose after diagnosis: Local man helping patients living with HIV/AIDS

Local

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — More than 100,000 people across New York State live with HIV. A campaign launched by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is aiming to stop cases from turning into AIDS across the state by 2020.

Perry Junjulas contracted AIDS in 1995. The possibility of eradicating AIDS is something he never thought he’d see.

“Thinking about the future is just not something that we did,” Junjulas said.

During the mid-90s, the United States was in the midst of an epidemic. The first 500,000 cases of AIDS were recorded, and just shy of his 30th birthday, Junjulas was told he had three months to live. 

Junjulas moved to the Damien Center in Albany that took care of those with HIV/AIDS. This is where he thought he would die.

A mixture of pills allowed him to live while he watched friends with the disease die. Now, what was a handful of pills is just one ensuring he doesn’t infect anyone.

“I want people to know I’m living with AIDS, and I’m undetectable. So I’m doing OK, I’m really doing OK, and you don’t have to fear about contracting HIV from me because I can’t pass it to you,” Junjulas said.

Junjulas now works as the executive director of the Damien Center. Four hundred people at the center have access to a pharmacy, a kitchen, and the simplest thing, kindness.

It was purpose that kept him going many years ago. It’s still there, but it’s the glimmer of hope he’s giving others and the days he never thought he’d see that won’t let him stop.

“Outside of here, people treat them as if they’re invisible. They will walk right pass them, they will walk over them, but here, they’re treated special,” he said.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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