On July 9, 1966 in Ponce, Puerto Rico, a black, homosexual and Puerto Rican child was born. My mom gave birth to a baby girl, but she passed after a few days of life. They wanted another baby girl to take her place, but instead they got me. Little did they know that I would change everything about their lives; their catholic beliefs and their moral principles more so than any other girl they expected. I was the only child and as a result, there would be no continuation of our last name as there were no grandchildren, nor girlfriends. My first homosexual sentiments gave me anxiety as I calmly tried to debate the insecurity within me.
I had my first sexual experience during my adolescence and I did not know about sexually transmitted diseases. And as such, I caught a couple. At that time, talking about sexuality was a taboo.
When I first learned about HIV, I was very afraid of the disease and people with the disease. The manner in which their bodies would dry up, and the hardships these victims experienced until their death left such an impression on me. I was also surprised to see the rejection these victims faced by their own families and the solitude that came with the infection. Ignoring what I knew and what I saw, I continued to jump from bed to bed. I ignored the possibility that it would happen to me. I felt invincible and my partners looked perfectly healthy, which reinforced a false security in me.
After many sexual contacts, I met someone who I thought was the love of my life. In less than one month, I moved into his house. He would ask me if I was capable of accepting not only him but the “complete package”. I didn’t know what he meant by “complete package”, but I accepted because I never imagined that presents would come with thorns.
My boyfriend and I were the perfect couple. We didn’t use protection because our love was mutual. We couldn’t maintain the intensity of our relationship for more than 4 months. We never discussed what the “complete package” was. Little did I know the “complete package” was inside of me. So where was the man who gave me this gift? He was gone and out of my life just as quickly as he appeared.
I knew there was something inside my body. There was something strange inside of me. I felt very uncomfortable in my own body. Besides the depression that followed the break up, I began to experience having night sweats and from time to time, dizzy spells. I started getting tired from the normal routine, but I didn’t give it more attention because it wasn’t long until I fell in love with someone I met at a club.
After three months of knowing each other, the relationship became more serious. I contracted Herpes. I went to see a doctor with a terrible pain in my waist and an ear infection. He gave me medication for both and some information on the infection.
My partner was worried. He took me home and as time passed I began to feel better. The better I began to feel, the less I thought about my infection being something more than just an ear infection.
I found a good doctor. He urged me to take the test because it’s easier to control your health once you know your status. It was the right thing to do. I had been with multiple partners and I experienced risky behavior. I took the test and received a positive result a week later.
The nurse showed admiration for my reaction and I answered that I was willing to take responsibility. She gave me my first appointment and as I left, I began my new life. It had only been a couple of minutes since I entered, yet to me, it felt much longer. I communicated with the virus in me and I told it that it was not invited. I warned it of my strength and that I was not going to let my guard down. I talked to it like a father talks to his new born son after seeing a 666 written on the bottom of his foot and that he would have to get used to going to church on Sundays.
I called my partner to give him the news. His reaction was sincere. He hugged me and told me that nothing was going to change because of this news. Fortunately, I always used protection with him, something unusual that I had never done before. I asked him to take the test. His negative result made me happy and I began to concentrate on my struggle.
If you are lucky enough to be negative, fight to stay that way. One unprotected encounter is enough to infect you. If you are positive you need strength to confront and accept the challenges that you will face.
I have lived 6 years with the virus and I think that apart from the responsibility that came with the virus, I try to provide the necessary tools to help others that are in the same situation. I am an activist in my country and I fight for the rights of HIV/AIDS patients. I am part of the AIDS Taks Force EMA of San Juan, Puerto Rico, and I work as a counselor. I am also a member of the AIDS Alliance and I work as a community director. I am also a part of the Grupo de Planificación Comunitaria para la Prevención del VIH en Puerto Rico, which represents men who have sex with men.
I am thankful that my situation has given me the resources to continue and it has taught me a lot about the little things that matter. I have learned not to take things for granted and to appreciate every moment because it makes life more pleasant such as watching the sunrise, the sunset, watching my nieces and nephews grow up, improving the situation with my parents and taking life one minute at a time.
I encourage all of you to do the same. I guarantee a positive result. This is life and we have to fight for it.
Adalid Castro Carreras