Overcoming the Odds

Ebony's Story


December 14, 2020



Ebony's Story

If you come across Ebony Dupree at the Damien Center, you will see a vibrant, strong woman with a welcoming smile and a down-to-earth manner. She characterizes her experience with HIV and AIDS as “wonderful, really.” Her attitude is “take my meds and keep on living.”

Ebony wants Damien Center donors to know:

“I would be lost without the Damien Center. I would have no guidance and be just as unhappy as I was with other services.”

“Keep the Damien Center running. It is really great, even for younger and older men and women, trans, bi, it does not matter what you are. The Damien Center treats you fairly across the board.”

“I just want to see it last, and I hope I can become a donor one day and give back just as much as they've given to me.”

Living with HIV

But like many people living with HIV, initially, Ebony was shocked by her diagnosis. “When I first learned about my status, it just was kind of like everything was numb. Your hearing goes out. It's like you pick a spot in the room and you just stare.”

Ebony learned her status at a large hospital but felt lost among the crowd there. “The nurses were just slow. They have so many people. They can't focus…. There was no one to pay attention to you… I was so unhappy and so worried about my health.” She asked to be recommended somewhere else and was referred to the Damien Center. And for the past four and a half years, she has not gone anywhere else.

At the Damien Center, Ebony says, it’s important that everything is in one building. “You don't have to go to a million places in order to get what you need for HIV and AIDS.” You don’t have to tell your story over and over again. People help, and they don’t judge. “It's really easy to use them…. They get you into services…. You won't go hungry. You make new friends.”

Ebony has accessed a wide range of services at Damien Center’s one-stop-shop, from medical care to mental health to vouchers and help during the holidays. “I’ve done it all…. Even when I walked in and said, ‘Hey, I kind of want to kill myself. I haven't tried it.’ They looked at me and was like, ‘Come on now. You're too strong for this.’ They made me realize that through all these years, I had been okay, so what was I quite worried about? The Damien Center has given me gas cards, bus passes, [clothes], you name it…. We'll find you a voucher out there somewhere. They've given me amazing Christmas gifts, and to my child as well, when I couldn't even provide Christmas gifts for her. I've never had to show the fake side, the smiling, the I'm okay and behind it all, you just feel like crap. I've never had to do that with them. I could walk in and say, ‘I feel like crap,’ and I walk out of the Damien Center feeling just as bright and sunshiney, and just... I'm okay.”

And in 2020, Damien Center stepped up. “During the COVID-19 crisis, the Damien Center … called me and said, ‘Hey, we're going to do DEFA [Direct Emergency Financial Assistance]. We're paying your rent for three months. We know you don't have a job anymore. We have extra food for you and your family. We have gift cards and bus passes if you need them.’ They were very proactive with me. ‘Come in, get your meds. If you can't come in, we'll mail them to you. You don't have to have any contact with the outside world, and if you need us, call us right away. No matter what.’ They did a great job with just caring before we could even think, ‘What am I going to do? How am I going to survive?’ They came to my rescue before I even knew I actually needed it, so it made me feel important.”

Ebony is not letting her status stop her from achieving major life goals, and the Damien Center is helping her on her journey. “For me, I feel empowered through the Damien Center because I was already powerful on my own, good enough, already confident. I didn't let this status shake me.”

Supporting the Center

This holiday season, make a gift that will help people like Ebony achieve their dreams and goals. Help sustain the Damien Center as one home for HIV wellness. Support clients who are still impacted by the HIV epidemic during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ebony, Stan, and Jonathan share their stories | Damien Center - One Home for HIV Wellness

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