Twelve years of surviving HIV today, February 10, 2015. I remember my doctor’s comment that I had a reactive test and us wondering what HIV test — since it was supposed to be given 3 months later.
I share one of my favorite pictures below for a reason. My decision to wear the red ribbon 24/7 as a tattooed on my left arm—symbolizing the fight against HIV —a battle we all must fight; my baby boxer, Mandela, along with Maxwell, Biko and Miko who have all played significant places in my heart and survival of HIV; and the joys of Rio de Janeiro and Salvador Brasil in which I have shared many fun memories with my best friend and close friends since 2004 — my second home and favorite travel spot — are all factors in my survival of HIV.
From the onset on 2/10/2003, one day before the 10th Anniversary of my Dad’s death, I faced HIV with bravery, no guilt, and confidence. My advocacy for people of color and LGBT communities entered a new chapter. I knew I could not be silent about HIV and had a responsibility to provide voice. God prepares us for the most difficult tasks and when you have to lead, you must stand up. I was the Director of the GLBT Resource Center at the University of Colorado at the time and I remember coming out about my HIV status to the Division of Student Affairs as well as the campus in a keynote address.
I choose to share my story, we all have one, because I know that someone will be impacted, find similarities, and maybe make a difference in someone’s life. If my sharing gives someone a new perspective on HIV or helps someone remove their head from the sand and deal with the realities of HIV, I have done my job.
Serving as CEO of VICARE in St. Croix and Executive Director of the MOCHA Center in Rochester and Buffalo, I have had unique opportunities to lead the fight on HIV/AIDS especially for communities of color.
December 2013 — 14 months ago — I started antiretroviral treatment with the once a day tablet, Stribilt, to fight HIV. Through great advice of my PCP – Dr. Roberto Corales as well as consultation with several key HIV researchers, I made the significant step to begin treatment. The trigger for me was that untreated HIV causes constant inflammation in your body and it impacts other organs. That was the key deciding factor for me.
As I look back over the last 12 years, I feel empowered. Yes, there are moments of sadness and weakness but I have learned to surround myself with positive energies, rid the negative energies, focus on authenticity, share how much I love someone in the present, enjoy my family and friends, travel to Brasil often to rejuvenate my energy, and keep my body healthy!
Ironically, today is my quarterly visit to my doctor. I did my lab work last week and I will know my current numbers later this evening. At the last quarter visit my viral load was undetectable and CD4 was just over 800. This is very good for someone living with HIV.
I look forward to — yes again — vacation in Salvador Brasil in April/May. After these cold days, April 22 — I can’t wait!!!
Much love to my family, friends, colleagues, doctors, and researchers, who have supported, encouraged, and made this journey easier. I love you all.
The Struggle to End AIDS Continues!!!!!