Maritza Gonzalez is the Executive Director of Ministerio Esperanza de Vida, Inc. (MEDV, Inc). She founded MEDV in 1995 to help the underserved Latino population. She has a heart for those suffering with HIV/AIDS and has served them tirelessly for five years before founding the agency. It all started with the adoption of a 5-week-old child infected with HIV. Though doctors did not believe she would live past her first year, Gonzalez did not give up on faith. Today Shanitza, her daughter, is 13 years old and healthy. Shanitza’s testimony was the reason for Gonzalez started MEDV, Inc. — the Spanish name to a ministry that means “Hope of Life Ministry.”
Since Gonzalez started this ministry she has sheltered more than 60 infected individuals in her own home. Although she does not receive funding from the government or anyone for housing, short-term sehlter, detoxification and rehabilitation, she continues to financially, spiritually, morally and emotionally support anyone that has been infected or affected by this crippling disease. She believes these individuals need compassion, love, respect and dignity just as everyone else, but they especially need support in their time of emotional crisis. Gonzalez also educates the Hispanic/Latino community in her area. Her mission is education, outreach, counseling, and to test the targeted population.
She is concerned about the infected people because of the lifestyle she used to have. She used to be a drug addict, alcoholic and a prostitute. Today, she is a Pastor and the Executive Direcotr of a Hispanic outreach agency. She has been clean, sober and happily married for the past 16 years. Her past experiences and lifestyle gives her a valuable tool to reach the high-risk community and allows her to break the linguistic and cultural barriers within the Hispanic population.
Gonzalez belongs to the Community Planning Partnership sponsored by the Florida Dept. of Health. Also, she is a member of the Community Planning Council of Orlando, Florida. Gonzalez has been the guest speaker in churches, organizations, associations and youth groups to present discussions and counseling to Latinos that are possibly involved in high-risk behaviors. She also participates in health fairs, festivals, conferences and networks with other agencies to provide more efficient services. She has participated in Strictly Positive, Feria de Salud, HIV Testing Day, and the Youth Summit. She has also spoken at YMCA conferences where they emphasize abstinence to the youth in order to achieve their goals and dreams. She has shared her testimony with them to teach the importance of preventing the spread of this deadly virus.
Gonzalez works hands-on with those affected with HIV/AIDS. She also speaks with as many people as she can to educate the community on prevention and care. She promotes abstinence among the youth and encourages them to get involved in their community so they can decrease the risk involved in promiscuous behavior.