Twenty-six (26) years ago, Escott Solomon was diagnosed with HIV at New York City's Harlem Hospital. His story is both compelling and inspiring and a tribute to the welcoming environment at the hospital.
"The clinic is really committed to involving people living with HIV-they brought peers in very early," says Escott. "Over the years they have been very progressive about incorporating peers at various levels."
Escott started out as a volunteer at the clinic. He was soon promoted to serve as a peer for other people living with HIV. Currently, he works full-time as an HIV counselor, providing HIV prevention, testing, and counseling services. He also serves on the clinics quality of care committee.
As if a full-time job is not enough, Escott serves as Director of Outreach for the Coalition on Positive Health Empowerment (COPE), which provides both HIV and hepatitis C (HCV) counseling and testing services.
"People do not have a clue about hepatitis," says Escott. "They don't know about vaccines for Hep A and B. They don't know there is a cure for HCV."
He has used his experience with HIV to help develop the services at COPE.
"There is so much overlap between HIV and HCV," he says. "We don't have to re-invent the wheel."
In addition to his work at the community level, Escott is a member of NQC's Consumer Advisory Board (CAB).
"I've been very fortunate working with NQC and Harlem Hospital. With some CABs they give you a metro pass and a pizza dinner but they don't listen to what you have to say. With both organizations I can see from the work they do that they have taken our suggestions seriously," says Escott.
As Escott goes about his work, he believes he brings a perspective that sometimes is not heard-a heterosexual man living with HIV.
"I'm proud to be a champion for the heterosexual population," he says. "As a peer and a counselor, I am able to reach out to people and tell them I know what they are going through. It can be very isolating. Don't forget about us. We are out there."