“The World Just Stopped”
Chapter 1

A Broken Childhood


Aaron was born into a family deeply affected by drugs and mental illness. He was moved from one foster home to another as a child, sometimes without notice and in the middle of the night.

During his time in foster care, he also was sexually and physically abused. Since then, he has struggled with mental health challenges -- including depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

An Army Discharge

After aging out of foster care at 18, Aaron enlisted in the U.S. Army. He would serve in South Korea and on the United Nations Command, obtaining the rank of E5 Sergeant.

But, in October 2000, Aaron came out as gay to Army officials, as an act of solidarity with other soldiers. He was honorably discharged under the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.

Life Experiences Matter

HIV risk is often viewed in connection with an individual's behavior -- such as sex and drug use.

But life experiences also matter.

Living through abuse as a child and growing up in foster care greatly increases a person's risk for acquiring HIV. Veterans with PTSD are also at a high risk. And the financial and housing challenges Aaron encountered after the Army are likewise factors that can increase vulnerability to HIV.

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Sharing a Journey

After he learned that he was HIV positive, Aaron decided to start telling his story on YouTube.

LBLN Journey