“Our Message is a Healthy Message”

Right or wrong, some of us may still have a misconception about what segment of our society is affected by HIV/AIDS. Consider Leanne Jennison. She is a vivacious, adorable petite blonde; a college graduate, mother, public speaker and activist. She is a devout catholic. And she has been living with HIV for years. She traces it back to an unprotected experience at a young age with a boyfriend who had hemophilia.

“This can happen to anyone. Men, women and children are now getting this disease. It has reached our young population. This affects everyone,” she says.

She and Eric Martinez, also a devout catholic living with HIV, have co-founded Positive Mind & Body Support Group Network, a relatively new network of support groups and educational resources on the Treasure Coast directed to and for those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS.

“Our message is a healthy message,” she says. “Keep your health. Protect it. Keep your person intact.” Leanne became an AIDS Activist in 2004, and went to Washington to advocate for funding. “It was really empowering and fun to meet other people from all over the country who had come through the worst of the epidemic and survived and were now on medication like myself,” says Leanne. As she speaks her eyes sparkle.

Leanne began visiting schools and speaking to young people about her experience. “I really enjoy telling them about my experience and I tell them yes it’s a sad story but it’s a happy story because I am telling you to protect yourself. I am telling you not to go there. Don’t put yourself in harm’s way. Keep your eyes on your future.”

During this time, Eric Martinez himself was busy networking and organizing to create and facilitate support groups for people with HIV/AIDS in our area. “I am living with this disease for over 26 years now and it has become a mission for me,” he says. Eric had been having a strong inkling, however, that he would soon be taking it the next level. “I met Leanne in the most ironic place,” he says. “It shows you how higher power works in mysterious ways.”

In February 2010, Leanne was speaking at symposium in Martin County. “We had just finished one up here (in Indian River County) so we went to support them from our IRC Health Department,” says Eric. “When we pulled in, I realized it was being held at the place I had spent five weeks where my wife had passed away. It was a Hospice. I kind of freaked out because I had not been there in some time.”

It was difficult but he decided to stay. “And once Leanne began speaking,” he says, “I realized I needed to do something. I needed to act on my idea and get things going.” After the Symposium, he spoke with her, and together they got to work. The result is Positive Mind & Body Support Group Network.

“This year marks 30 years of the epidemic that changes the world and cause so much damage to many families and communities,” says Eric. ” As we tell our clients and the public, ‘A Positive Life is a Sound Mind & Body. Take Control. Take Action. Take the Test.”

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