My name is Marissa Gonzalez, originally from New Jersey, now living in sunny Southwest Florida. I am the youngest of four and the only girl. I recently turned 30 and have embarked on a journey of self discovery and self love.

As a young Latina I was teased for many years, and in 2016, when I was diagnosed with HIV, I thought this would be something else to be teased about. Once so uneducated, I attempted to take my own life because this wasn't the "life I chose". After I stopped feeling bad for myself I started advocating for HIV education for our youth since I chair as the President of the Fort Myers Youth Services Coalition. It was my way to fight without exposing myself.

Just two years into my journey with HIV, I chose to go public, sharing my story with anyone who would listen. Since then I have appeared on radio and tv interviews, conference panels, and was a keynote speaker for a local fundraising event for our local HIV/AIDS Clinic. I know my journey is just beginning and am excited for what the future holds.

Why Marissa wants to be part of A Girl Like Me: The reason I want to join this platform is to see that I am not alone. Living in SWFL, it's not a major city where many are speaking out about their experiences. This platform will help me connect with other women like myself - not just living with HIV, but living. Often times I find myself lost in my diagnosis and other days I seem to forget that I am living with HIV. A Girl Like Me can be the peer support that I do not have here at home.

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