Ryan White. Real Lives. Meet Elizabeth Shepard

| April 16, 2015 | 2 Comments
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South Carolina ranks 13th in the nation in deaths among adults with an HIV diagnosis.  The State of South Carolina has not yet expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.  As a result, an estimated 2,500 of the lowest-income HIV+ residents of South Carolina have been left out of coverage available in other states.  They must rely on Ryan White funding for crucial medical care and other supportive services.  In 2011, 9,436 South Carolinians received services through the Ryan White program.

Elizabeth Shepherd PictureElizabeth Shepard
Myrtle Beach, SC

The Ryan White Program saved my life. In 1996, I was gang raped in Charleston. I learned I was HIV positive one year after. The Lowcountry AIDS Services clinic, which was funded by Ryan White, helped me with doctor’s appointments and helped me get on ADAP to get all the medication that I needed. In addition to helping me with HIV medication and doctor’s appointments, they also referred me to free mental health services to help me come to terms with what had happened to me. Lowcountry was wonderful to me.

Ryan White gave me an opportunity to create a life for myself, and I have taken advantage of that opportunity. After the rape, I was incredibly beat down physically. The social workers at Lowcountry were right there for me throughout everything—every time I got down, they picked me up. I was able to get clean in 2001, and I returned to school for a master’s degree in health education. I graduated with a 3.74 GPA, even though I experienced four cerebral aneurysms during my time in school. I now work with special needs children, which I love, and I am a Certified Tobacco Treatment Prevention Specialist. I also am involved in HIV advocacy, and I am on the board of the ADAP Advocacy Association. I am happily married to a wonderful retired Naval Officer. I now am insured through his plan, but I was very worried about how the transition from ADAP and Ryan White funded programs to his insurance would go, because it is so important to stay on HIV medication consistently. South Carolina ADAP called Tricare, my husband’s insurance plan, and helped coordinate the transition, which worked seamlessly.

Ryan White gave me the chance to change from an emotionally and physically wounded person into the person I am today. It gave me the opportunity to take my life back after my rape. I am so proud of how far I have come, and I am so grateful for Ryan White for helping me get there. I know so many others who have been helped by Ryan White as well. People like me need Ryan White. I would tell everyone in Washington that keeping the Ryan White program is key to giving people a chance in life, and I’m sure they would sleep well at night knowing they are allowing people like me to create fulfilling, happy lives for themselves and be able to “pay it forward” by helping others.

Read other stories of people impacted by the Ryan White Care Act.


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Co-sponsors: AIDS United, Southern AIDS Strategy Initiative, Southern AIDS Coalition, Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation at Harvard Law School, HIVHealthReform.org, HIV Prevention Justice Alliance, and the AIDS Foundation of Chicago.

This campaign has been made possible by the generous support of the Elton John AIDS Foundation.

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Category: Ryan White. Real Lives.

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  • Kevin Johnson

    I admire your strength and passion to be a voice for the hundreds in my community who are still speechless

  • Michael Bivens

    I’m very glad to see that you got your story told. I hope that reading about how the Ryan White programs helped you will help others to see how much these programs are needed.