In February 1990, 19-year-old Anne Pilon walked into the AIDS Committee of Ottawa's office for the first time.
"It was a really scary time. But at the same time, amazing," said Pilon, a recovering addict who'd been told by doctors she only had about three years to live.
"Those guys welcomed me with open arms, you know. And in that group I found acceptance, a sense of belonging, and unconditional love."
Pilon's story is just one of many that appear in a new book called A-C-O-X-X-X: Our Words, Our Stories, Our Lives, published to commemorate the committee's 30th anniversary.
First woman to use centre
In the book, Pilon remembers how she was the first HIV-positive heterosexual woman to use the centre, which in the early 1990s was mostly run by gay men, for gay men.
"I feel so privileged and honoured to have met these wonderful men," she told Ottawa Morning host Robyn Bresnahan on Friday. "They affected my life in such a positive way."
Thirty-eight people were interviewed for the book, including doctors, ACO founders, and people infected with HIV, said Khaled Salam, the committee's current executive director.
"We did our best to reflect as much of the diversity of folks who were infected with HIV/AIDS," said Salam.
The book will officially be unveiled Saturday to mark the ACO's 30th anniversary.