Today is National HIV Testing Day
It is important that you understand how important is to know your HIV status.
I didn’t have that chance before my HIV positive diagnosis in 1993. It is not easy to live with HIV. You don’t have to change much, just have to carefully make your choices when it comes to sex, after all is about your health, your sexual health includes testing regularly or periodically.
HIV Prevention and Education is THE key in the fight against HIV. I am trying to do my part now and each opportunity I got by talking openly about my HIV status and the story of how I contracted HIV. I see myself somehow as a role model for my community because I feel that by telling my story, other people can identify with me – and through this, is how I am able to reach people.
My work in this area started in 1993 when I was first diagnosed with HIV; with this news came a career change and a lifelong commitment to providing peers, colleagues, youth students, families and anyone in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and beyond with what I never had-the knowledge of how to protect myself from HIV.
Prior to my diagnosis, I had worked as an architect in Mexico, but upon learning that I had HIV, I decided to make a career change in order to devote my life to providing HIV/AIDS education and prevention services. It was at this same time that I realized that my HIV status was a direct result of my lack of access to accurate information and appropriate resources with which to protect myself. Wishing that there had been someone to reach out and help me when I was in college, I committed myself to providing these services to other people in similar situations.
I work with all communities, and for example, in my work in HIV outreach to Latino communities, I face many challenges. The most difficult of these comes from deep within Latino culture, which must always be taken into account: “Family values are the first thing that we need to consider when we talk to anyone who is Latino.” People’s fear of stigma, rejection by family and friends, and God’s punishment are still very influential forces and drive people’s reluctance to identify themselves as gay and seek out necessary information and protection.
Another challenge I face many times is the proliferation of misinformation in the Latino community. However, witnessing how quickly people can change their minds about HIV during a simple conversation help keeps me hopeful.
Addressing these ingrained beliefs and norms is difficult, but I will continue to push forward because I believe that education and prevention are the only things that will make a difference in the long run for us all.
“I love this field,” and I have passion in the work I do every day. As a gay man whose life was interrupted by HIV and who chose a whole new path because if it, I remain positive about my ability to make a difference and provide other people with the things I never had. HIV forever changed my life, but now I am using my experience to change others’ lives for the better.
Get tested, you have the opportunity.