Surviving with HIV

WAIDSD

I remember April Fool’s Day 2008 like it was yesterday. That day, I could not get out of bed. I felt as if I were drowning and any movement I made took a tremendous toll on me.

With an oxygen mask strapped to my face, I was rushed to the hospital. There, I had several doctors and nurses tend to me. After my x-rays and blood work came in, I was finally notified of what was wrong; I had Pneumocystis Pneumonia (PCP), a disease that normally only affects people with absolutely no immune system. Without saying it directly, I knew what it all meant: I had AIDS.

Not everyone who is HIV positive has AIDS. Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) only occurs when a person’s immune system has completely vanished. Luckily, many of us don’t reach this advanced stage until much later. With all the advances in HIV treatment over the years, most people who have HIV live, relatively, healthy and full lives. My problems was that I only got tested a few times and lead myself into believing that I was okay. It was this attitude that several years later ended with me in the hospital that April Fool’s Day. I was lucky. I survived.

That’s not to say that living with HIV has not been difficult. I do have to live with the fact that for the rest of my life, I will have take medications. And they aren’t cheap; HIV medications are expensive. Luckily for me, and the rest of us who are HIV positive, the state of Texas helps me afford them. This is incredibly helpful because, with my present condition, I can’t hold down a regular job and living off a disability check doesn’t cover all my expenses.

It isn’t all about money, however. Relationships can be more complicated because of HIV. Coming from a Hispanic family, used to believe they would be very reluctant to accept me for who I am. Luckily, I was wrong. Family members on both sides have been supportive. Because of this, I can honestly say I have been blessed with a wonderful family. Without them, I probably would not have made it this far. However, not everyone has found this support. Sadly, there still exists a lot of stigma with being Hispanic, gay, and HIV positive. have met people living with HIV who have been abandoned by their family. Their only hope is to develop friendships that become something similar to a family. A lot of my old friends, I have found, are very understanding. Even new friends, have been supportive. I continue to try make new friend and meet new people, and I am upfront with them regarding my status. As for dating, however, that’s another story. I just can’t see myself doing it. Right now, I wouldn’t know how to approach someone or even how to let them know of my status. I’d be afraid of rejection. With everything that has happened, I still need to build up my self-esteem.

Since my stay in the hospital in 2008, I am happy to say that today I am doing so much better. I still have a long way to go before I am no longer considered to fall under the AIDS category. However, I am determined to get there sometime next year. The experience has taught me a lot about myself. I realize now just how vulnerable I am. It has helped me understand others who suffer from the same things I do. Before then, I had always been understanding, but now that I’m in their shoes it makes me realize that I need to go out and help educate gay Latinos, especially the younger crowd. Now I feel it’s my job, my life calling, to let others know what has happen to me, so that hopefully they can learn from it. I want to use my experience to teach others about the importance of safer sex, using protection, and getting tested at least every 3 months.

It’s your life. Get checked! Get tested! Stay safe!

HIV is 100% preventable, but only if we all act responsibly.

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About the author

John Castillo

"John “Adam” Castillo, Jr. was a son, an uncle, and respected friend. Although unable to work because of HIV related health issues, he refused sit idly by. Whether babysitting his beautiful great-niece or tirelessly working as a volunteer at the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center, he was always willing to help out. With a natural eye for photography, John had begun experimenting with anaglyph photographic styles and had since developed a portfolio of red-cyan 3D photographs he had hoped to one day exhibit. He genuinely cared for all his friends, and never showed me anything less than compassion and love. On October 21st, a suicide attempt left John in a coma; six days later he passed away. Since meeting John, my life has changed and now that he is gone, I know it will never be the same. This issue, our launch issue, is dedicated to John “Adam” Castillo and so many others who leave us much too early. Ni un@ más; not one more!" -Danny Olvera

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  • Jonathan

    Wow, this is very moving. Thanks for sharing.

    • Mario

      Shocking, warm, heartfelt and inspirational all at the same time. I am happy that he fulfilled his creative outlet through photography. Perhaps his photos can be shared online.

      • http://twitter.com/KarariKue Danny Olvera

        I would like that, too.

  • Danny Casanova

    I knew John, he was a very special person. He was my brother from another mother. MY wife and I miss him dearly, I am happy to see his story may help others to know to be safe, hiv is preventable, Thank you for sharing his story.

    • http://twitter.com/KarariKue Danny Olvera

      Adam is greatly missed. Not a day goes by that I do not think of him.

  • Jon Macias

    I carry him forever in my heart and the void that remains can never be filled. He was very dear to me, I think of him daily and I miss him immensely regardless of how things ended between us.He was a true artist and a kind soul that now soars among the stars.

    • http://twitter.com/KarariKue Danny Olvera

      Thank you for your sentiments. John will not be forgotten. And his work will continue through all of us.

      • jon macias

        If there is anything I can do please do not hesitate to let me know.

        • http://kararikue.com Danny Olvera

          Thanks Jon! I appreciate your support.

  • Jose Gomez-Tur

    My highest respects and admiration to John. What a beautiful soul! I have found myself many times right at the brink of death where I’ve thought, well take out your passport because you’re going to check out for good this time! But luckily, I’ve made it back. I too have a wonderful family that I’m thankful for understanding me and being there in the really tough times for me. Though I never knew John, I feel as if I’ve found a new friend. Thank you, John.

    • http://kararikue.com Danny Olvera

      Thank you Jose for your kind worlds. John was definitely an amazing person and there isn’t a day when I don’t think of him and all that he has taught me.

  • Berto Lara

    A true inspiration. I miss you friend.