Living healthy shouldn't be this hard

10.27.21

Darrin Chambers is preparing to celebrate eight years with his fiancé Audre* this November. "We got it all here," he laughs. "I got boys, she got girls. We've made ourselves a 'Brady Bunch' situation."

Darrin has brought himself a long way from the years he spent on the street, navigating piecemeal treatment for HIV and schizophrenia, to his sunny apartment in South Baltimore. "I learned to be a survivor out there," he says, "living in those abandoned houses, that's where I stored all my important documents and HIV medication."

"I turned to using [drugs] as a way to self-medicate," says Darrin, reflecting on the state of his care at that time. 

What began as a means of mental health maintenance quickly developed into dependency. "My motivation being out there was just to make it through the day intact," he says, "but I lost myself in addiction."

Darrin's journey changed when he met Audre, just months into her own recovery. "I made those first steps on my own," he says, "because I loved her so much. It created something in me and I wasn't going to let that go." Over the next several years Darrin worked at his recovery with support from Helping Up Mission, who recommended Health Care for the Homeless to him. 

Darrin quickly bonded with his new primary care provider, Dr. Iris Leviner, who outlined a tailored course of HIV treatment. "She really sat me down and explained the function of white blood cells and 'viral load,' and what it means for my body," he remembers. Based on Darrin's requests, Dr. Leviner identified a therapist and psychiatrist at the agency to help him manage his schizophrenia and substance use disorders. 

"Once I was prescribed the appropriate medications to manage my mental health and HIV, the quality of my life improved dramatically." Today, Darrin's HIV viral load is undetectable and he cannot transmit transmit the virus to others. With proper medication and a stregthened immune system, Darrin began to feel an easing in schizophrenic episodes. He was also able to build up a greater committment to his sobriety. 

From the comfort of home, Darrin has space now to care for himself and the people in his life. 

"I've equipped myself mentally, physically and spiritually to deal with life," he says proudly. "Now I'm a provider for my family and I love that."

*this is a pseudonym 


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