My name is Jorge Luis, I am 34 years old.
Its not easy living with HIV for 11 years.
Its not easy having cancer, herpes, AND hepatitis B.
Its not easy to stick with my difficult medical regimen.
Its not easy to deal with side effects from the medicines that are supposed to keep me alive.
Its not easy to look at your body as it becomes deformed by lipodistrophy.
Its not easy to look in the mirror and see what these diseases have done to you.
Its not easy to live in a world where homosexuality is viewed so negatively.
Its not easy to be discriminated against because I have AIDS.
Its not easy to take the pain caused by radiation therapy for my cancer.
Its not easy to lose your house, your job, your money.
My treatment is not easy. I take Talidoma, 2 Thalidomides, and 2 Prednisone tablets for my cancer, 2 Reyetz pills, 1 Truvada, and 2 Zerit for my HIV/AIDS and 1 Fluconzaloe to fight off infections. I need to be patient and take it all in stride because I know this cocktail is what keeps me alive.
My HIV and illnesses are always there, waiting for the moment I slack off with my medicines. Even though taking these medicines causes me pain, I know that they prevent even worse pain and even death; a painful, slow death that many of my closest friends have suffered.
I became infected because I didn’t have the proper information and education. I was depressed because I was gay. I was depressed because my family was poor, as many of our families are. I was psychologically scarred because of my history of child abuse in my home. I hid behind my drug addition. I wanted to escape the pain I was suffering in my life. I really didn’t care to live any longer. Living was the last thing I thought about, because in this situation, you look for an escape and that’s exactly what I did. I thought that the problem was my sexuality, and then I realized it could be my solution. In ‘94, AIDS was the same as death, that’s why I let loose. It was easy for me to get together with men, a lot of men. I don’t know how many because I lost count. For a long time I wanted to get infected because I wanted to die. With all the partners that I had unprotected sex with, it was almost a sure thing. In ’95, I remember taking the test, I picked it up and it was positive. When I left the clinic, I saw the streets, I walked and I felt strange. My life would never be the same again.
In addition to the many challenges I have overcome and the many changes I have made in my life, being positive still gives me hope for a bright future. As a result, I have dedicated myself to searching for answers to all the personal problems I have encountered. This is what living with HIV has taught me:
HIV changes quickly, and as such, I quickly learned how to change. As I am now HIV positive, I work hard to create a safe environment by staying clean so that if my HIV evolves into AIDS, I will be able to fight it better.
To find a solution for all situations, I got involved in this struggle, and this has given me the capacity to continue to fight. I have first hand experience and I share my story to educate others. I do not remain quiet so that someone else will pass this information on to others. It is my responsibility to share it and by sharing, I learn from the responses I receive from the audience and I apply those responses to my life.
None of this would have been possible if I didn’t have such wonderful people around me. I will always be grateful to my family, friends, co-workers and to the clinic. They have supported me through this process and thanks to them, I have always been able to do a lot. Now, thanks to the internet I can stay in contact with the rest of the world and share my story. With so many people supporting me how can I throw the towel in and give up?
I struggle to share my story and spread the message of prevention because it is so important to me. A large part of my battle is having concepts and words that help me incorporate central themes that are unique to the Latino community. Confronting stigmas associated with AIDS and respecting those that fight for the rights of the LGBT community as well as those in addictive situations are some of the themes I try to incorporate.
Today I want to live. I have learned so much from people. I’ve learned that everyone’s life is different, but often we encounter similar obstacles. We learn to adapt. I don’t believe in NO as an answer, there is always a YES to everything. Based on my life, this is what I have learned:
Plant a tree, This is something I already did. It has grown quite large and I am determined to live a long life to continue to watch it grow and flourish.
I want to write a book and leave something behind that educates and teaches someone how to look for positive things in his/her life.
I want to have a child. My nieces and nephews along with my little sister are not my biological children, but I do what I can for them. I also try to help the younger generations that I have been able to reach as much as I can through my prevention and education efforts.
These three phrases keep me motivated and hopeful that I will live a long life so that I can accomplish them.
When you have proper information about HIV prevention and positive support for your sexuality and other life decisions, it is much easier to take and make decisions in your life where the risks you run can be lessened with prevention, intelligence and overall, without fear.