I grew up in the Hagerstown, Maryland, area. Coming from a small town, I always had a desire to live in a more urban setting, so I moved to Washington, DC, in 2004 to fulfill this dream and pursue my career in non-profit management and fundraising.
As a child, I often heard my mother talk about her cousin who died of AIDS in the 1980s. One of my most vivid childhood memories is visiting Washington to see the AIDS quilt with his name on it. Being a gay man, I learned much about how HIV/AIDS has affected my community and others as I matured. I have regularly volunteered for and donated to organizations that support those affected by the disease, and I currently serve on the board of Miriam's House, a residential community for formerly homeless women with HIV/AIDS.
In 2006 and 2007, I watched as several of my close friends became infected with HIV. I knew I had to do even more. Through an event, I learned about the HIV vaccine trials at the NIAID Vaccine Research Center (VRC); my husband and I immediately signed up, and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. It allowed me to make a contribution to science, to help bring an end to the disease, and to cope with the feelings of hopelessness. It empowered me.
The best part of participating in the trial was seeing the staff during each visit: they were so upbeat, kind, and thankful. I felt as though I was part of a team that would change the world—and I know it will. I am so glad I had the opportunity to volunteer at the VRC, and I look forward to helping again whenever possible.