Hello my fellow San Diegans. My name is Michael and I am super excited to be able to share part of my life with you. I am a 30-year-old Latino male, living with HIV (undetectable) and living my best life.
I wanted to write and help others living with HIV realize that they can also achieve living a healthy life, being in love, and being successful. The journey I have gone through to be where I am today was not an easy road and I had many times where I wanted to give up but something inside of me pushed me to live my best life. If I am able to help at least one person through my experiences than that would be the best gift from all of this. Let’s discuss subjects ranging from acceptance of having HIV, rejection for having HIV, dating, different medications, and the wonderful programs available.
In 2011, when I was 21 years old, my “numbers” were bad enough to where I was diagnosed (by my doctors at the time) with AIDS; I later learned that most patients have severe numbers like I did if they’ve recently been infected and/or have not had the proper care, thus receiving the diagnosis of AIDS as opposed to HIV-positive due to my T-cells being very low. After just two months of being on antiviral medications, I was able to become HIV-positive undetectable and have remained so since.
Science, medicine and AIDS/HIV services have come a long way even since my diagnosis, and I feel great knowing that there are so many tools that we have to help those recently diagnosed and those living with the virus for a long period.
Being Latino and Gay is still very taboo in our culture today and not very well accepted. Over the years, it seems that it has gotten better but it’s still something that is kept very hush-hush. As much as it makes me happy that acceptance for being Gay is being normalized within our community, I can’t help but notice the STIGMA that still exists with HIV. We have to do our part to educate our fellow Latinos and share the wonderful advances we have been able to accomplish with prevention and also long-term care and living a healthy life being HIV-positive. Know that you are not alone in this situation and no matter how hard it might be to have an open dialogue about the subject, it will always be OK and this is YOUR truth.
Love is real and we cannot help who we fall in love with, sometimes we fall in love with someone who is HIV-positive and other times, we fall in love with someone who is not. We should not go through life feeling like we do not deserve to be loved or that we will never find someone who accepts us as a whole. For many years, I felt that I was not worthy of being loved and I was scared to get someone else sick and afraid of being rejected. I cannot begin to explain how many times I was blocked, laughed at, judged, talked down to, told I was not dateable, and even outed to others about my status. I looked for love and acceptance in all the wrong places starting with dating apps, dating websites and even dating events. As the years went by, I felt more alone and I was already ready to be rejected just like the other 100 times when on a date. Feeling depressed and alone can be the “norm” but I learned that it all started with me and my self-esteem and also truly accepting that I was HIV-positive and worthy of being in love and loved. It takes time but when you get to the right place, it’s funny how the universe always knows how to provide exactly what we need and can handle at that point in our lives. YOU DESERVE TO BE LOVED.
Many people wonder if they will be able to work a normal job and be OK. Some people doubt that they will be able to find a good job that will not judge them for their status. Working in the HR field, I have had many potential employees disclose their status. I am here to tell you that it is not REQUIRED for you to disclose to your employer, potential employer, bosses or co-workers about it. This should not be important or a deciding factor for you to be an employee of any company. It is very important that we know the laws that protect us and also, that we do not provide any information that can later be used against us. The workplace should be a neutral place, and where you can be comfortable to see your duties through. You should not be living in fear of retaliation over a medical condition.
It’s also very important to find a support group, circle of friends or family that will listen, encourage, support and push you to be the best version of you possible. When they say, “It takes a village,” it truly does take a village to back you up and support you as you go through the motions of getting your test results, to your appointments and also regularly ask you, “How are you doing?” “How are you doing with your meds?” It is very important to have those you can talk to and can trust to guide you in the right direction. Know that there are other people out there that care, love you, and are willing to support you in every way possible. You are not alone in the world. Remember you are strong, beautiful, smart and you can get through anything.
I look forward to starting this new journey and going into subjects thoroughly. There is so much we can learn from each other and I am excited and optimistic that we will be able to let someone know that they are not alone and that we all share similar struggles and stories. Always remember that you are loved and you are worthy of being loved.
Until we meet again,