Being raised Catholic and educated in all-boys religious schools, I was conflicted between who I am and who I was expected to be. Unfortunately, the choice was taken from me at age 16. My best friend came down with what we thought was a cold. It was PCP (Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia). He died two months later. This was the introduction of AIDS into my life.
Living as my true self at age 17, I ventured to proclaim my sexuality, ignoring the "cold" bug that took my friend and that was taking many others. It hit home when one of my true loves came down with KS (Kaposi sarcoma). It was an AIDS-related form of cancer, and my world forever changed. I became a voice. A voice for many, including those who I visited in AIDS wards and those who I lobbied for.
I fought my family, educators, and lovers—all unaware of the deadly affliction this virus created in my world. Marching, shouting, and lobbying for the lives of my community, I threw myself into high gear. Relentlessly, I volunteered and petitioned. It gave me strength to fight and demand representation... to this very day.
It all took a toll on me back in 1994, when I felt alone and against a wall. With no support and AIDS cases rising, I dove into a depression and became self-destructive. Being diagnosed with an HIV strain that was destroying my organs, I rose up and regained my spirit. With the support of a brilliant doctor in NYC, I found an effective combination medication through a clinical trial that saved my life. To this day, I use this combination.
Now HIV is me. And I am HIV. I do not hide from it. I do not whisper about it. I do not fear it. It is who I am. It found me years ago and never left. I thank HIV for giving me my life back. As a thank you, I mention its' name whenever and wherever...to raise awareness of its undeniable power... in combination with our own human spirit.
HIV and Me - a poem by Gabriel
Death was staring at empty infected hospital beds lined with sterile walls.
Sitting at my doctor’s office, waiting, sweating, numb.
That was 27 years ago.
Now... 2019, millions infected ....millions dead.
Meds help but we still die.
Today, I live a life unrehearsed. Channeled by strength, pride, and love.
I know my HIV and it knows me.
I know it will take me… and it knows I will fight.
Meds keep it at bay but sour my insides and crack my armor.
As my body slowly embraces its destiny, I realize… what a wonderful life
So, I have no fear. This is me, along with a bug that lives inside me,
This article and poem were written by myHIVteam member Gabriel as part of the Member Spotlight series. Gabriel believes in loving and educating yourself and losing the fear of death and welcoming LIFE.
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