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October 28, 2015

Living with HIV/AIDS: 30 Thanksgivings Later, Anthony Has Much to Be Grateful For

This month, Anthony Seymore celebrates his 30th Thanksgiving since being diagnosed with HIV/AIDS and given six months to live. He credits Food & Friends’ home-delivered meals with helping him get to this day.

“I need to eat certain foods to stay alive,” he says. “I contacted other organizations, but there were waiting lists and red tape. At Food & Friends, I know what I’m getting and know that it’s good for me – and that gives me peace of mind.”

From his home in Arlington, Virginia, Anthony reflects on that moment three decades ago when a physician delivered the news to the then 25-year-old. “In those days, an HIV/AIDS diagnosis was considered a death sentence,” he says. His family doctor wasn’t helpful. “He told me to go home and pray,” Anthony recalls.

Six months and a day after he got the news, his mother called him. “You’re still alive,” she said.” You’re going to be alright.” With encouragement from his parents, he graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with a degree in business administration before moving from Richmond to the Washington area. In the District, he worked for 10 years at the U.S Department of the Interior before taking on a series of jobs with national retailers.

The past 30 years have included a number of health challenges, including diabetes, pneumocystis pneumonia (an infection common in people with weakened immune systems) and a ruptured heart valve.

Yet, throughout the years, Food & Friends has been there with home-delivered meals when he needed them. He marvels at how the meals have changed over the years, just as our understanding of nutrition has evolved. In the early days of the disease “the focus was on putting muscle and fat on you, so you wouldn’t waste away,” he says. Originally referred to Food & Friends in the late 1980s by the staff of Whitman-Walker, Anthony recalls deliveries of cheeseburgers, club sandwiches, and fruit juice.

Today, clients are referred to Food & Friends by their physicians for customized meals – designed by registered dietitians and professional chefs – that are both nutritionally balanced and tasty. In Anthony’s case, the meals are heart-healthy and created to address his diabetes. He is especially fond of the chicken with green beans and seafood platter.

Then there’s Thanksgiving dinner – Anthony’s favorite meal going back to his childhood. The Food & Friends delivery brings back fond memories of holidays spent at his grandmother’s – with its roast turkey, collard greens, sweet potatoes and apple pie. The only thing missing, he confesses, is the chitlins. (His doctor has given him permission to add them to the table. But only once a year!)

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