Woman helps others with AIDS

November 21, 2008 8:48:41 AM PST
Ida Byther-Smith is using her own experience with AIDS to help others struggling with the disease live a normal life. Byther-Smith is a dialysis technician at Michael Reese Hospital. She learned after taking a blood test that she was infected with HIV through her husband.

"At first it was just awful. I lived in shame and fear for 11 years. I didn't know what to do. I was afraid to say the word HIV. I just thought I was going to die at any moment," said Byther-Smith.

Byther-Smith almost died from the disease. After her recovery, she created Jo Ray House, a transitional facility for men infected with HIV. Ed Phelps has lived at Jo Ray House for a year.

"It means life. It means chance. It means hope. It means an opportunity to make a difference," said Phelps. "The saying there is 'no fate but what we make.' That's what I'm looking to do make my own fate."

Steve Hayes was homeless when he came to the Jo Ray House three months ago.

"When I came here I was down and out, broken hearted, very depressed being with the guys up lifted my spirits to have some one accept me," said Hayes.

Byther-Smith founded the organization in 2003. One year later she established a facility in the Roseland community.

"I ain't out on the street on a gutter somewhere, down on lower Wacker Drive. They feed us, help us get to our employees and I like being here," said Shelly Crum.

Byther-Smith has lived with AIDS for 20 years. She's written two books.

"HIV is not a curse from God you don't have to do anything wrong to get HIV. .I got married. I got AIDS. It came home, kissed me, good night, and got in the bed with me. That's what I live by. I want to put a face on AIDS," said Byther-Smith.

jorayhouse.com


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