In the interest of AIDS/HIV prevention we thought it was important to share this documentary which gives a face to youth HIV and offers some perspective on sexual health. If you watch the video, you’ll learn that one of the main faces is a young man who has been living with the virus his entire life. Here’s his story as told to Black Voices…
Via Huff Po:
It’s never easy to tell the story. Even though I’m so familiar with it and I’m so used to telling it, it’s always harder each time.
I’ve been positive for the past 26 years. I was infected at birth from my mother who contracted it from my father, who was using drugs at the time. She didn’t know until she gave birth [that she had HIV], and I didn’t find out I was positive until I was 13, which was a couple of months after my mom passed away in September of ‘99.
I have a younger sister and a couple of brothers on my father’s side … none of them are HIV positive, thankfully. This is just one of those things.
When I found out, I was still young so it was more so going to the doctor and your parents telling you you’re sick and you have to take medication in order to feel better — that’s pretty much what it was. It was like, “You have to take these pills everyday and it’ll make you get better and give you longer life.”
There was a point in time when I felt like I didn’t need to take the medication anymore; I didn’t want to. My mother had just passed and my regimen switched a lot of times. I was even hospitalized a couple of times. The size of the pills played a part in it, because there was one pill I used to take and it was huge. I couldn’t stand how big it was or the smell of it, and it wasn’t just me — a lot of kids that I knew who were also positive complained about the same thing. There’s always something that kind of blocks you and stops you from doing the right thing and those were the things that had me not want to take the medication.
But as I started to get more aware of what HIV is, I began to keep taking my regimen very seriously because I knew that each time I missed a dose, it was taking life away from me and I can’t afford that. Now it’s just four pills once a day. And thank God, my regimen has been pretty slim. I know a lot of kids who I mentor who are taking six to eighteen pills maybe once or twice a day — that’s a lot of pills. I also don’t really get any side effects with the medication I’m taking now, because once you get in the habit of taking it, the side effects kind of wear off. And I kind of got smart — I take my medication at night, that way I’ll sleep off any side effects.
At the time, I had no idea what HIV was, but I used to hear about it from my peers. As I started to get older, I started to hear more negative words and stories about it and what it does to you and how you should look if you had it. Knowing that I had it, I couldn’t tell anyone because I was embarrassed, one; two, I was afraid of being cast out; three, I just didn’t have any type of education about it. And I was already experimenting with sex at a very young age — I started having sex when I was like 12 — so it was scary. It was like, do I tell these girls that I’m having sex with that I’m HIV positive or do I not? I didn’t tell. It was like, “What is the point? I’m using protection, so why do I have to tell them?” That was my thought process back then.
I remember a point in time when I was angry at my mother and it hurt so bad because it was my mother and I never thought she could do wrong; she never hid anything from me. But to keep something so large like this from me? And for my father to do drugs at that time and didn’t know? I felt like it was careless behavior on both parts and it messed up a life. My father is still in prison, my mother is no longer here; this is something that’s passed down, something I didn’t ask for. I didn’t have a choice. I was really angry.
I feel like anger is definitely something that needs to happen though, because it motivates you. I took that anger and I turned it into something positive.
As I started to get older and started experimenting with more sex, I’m like, “Alright, you know what, I have to chill. I have to really educate myself about it.” It wasn’t just an easy step, it took years for me to get comfortable living with HIV, loving myself more and knowing what my purpose was here on this earth, and that was to share my story with as many people as possible. It was a rough time.
I went to Philadelphia FIGHT and my got certification in HIV and AIDS peer education. That program is called Project Teach … you have to be HIV positive to be a part of the program … they educate us like bookwork … whether it was HIV 101; going into how HIV works in your body; how it lays dormant; what changes happen; how rapidly it changes in your body; what are the ins and outs as far as having HIV; side effects; what the medication does to your body on the inside; how [HIV] really conspires in someone’s body and how people get it. It was literally like going to school and getting a degree.
That helped me out a lot; it educated me a lot. Here I am, HIV positive and not knowing anything about it.