In Japan, where I am from, I was part of an extremely conservative community, so I didn’t come out as gay when I lived there. And talking about sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, is taboo there—so I didn’t have a lot of awareness and knowledge about how to protect myself. Three months after moving to San Francisco, in July of 2012, I was diagnosed as HIV-positive at City Clinic.
As a non-native speaker of English, I had a really tough time understanding my diagnosis. I needed a translator at UCSF just to help me understand everything about my HIV treatment. I couldn’t express my crisis, despair and anxiety because of my language barrier. Moreover, I didn’t have friends or family that I could tell about my HIV diagnosis. I was a poor international student—ill physically and mentally—and I was isolated socially.
A clinical social worker at the University of California San Francisco Positive Care Center referred me to Positive Force, and I received peer support from staff I met. It was really helpful to get support from someone who understood my situation.
I also attended PLUS, and was so appreciative that nobody judged me even though I spoke in slow and stumbled English. I was comfortable and able to express my emotions during the seminar. I learned about STIs—not just the data—but how to practice prevention, too. I learned how to protect myself and others, how to disclose my status to society, and how to communicate with other people living with HIV.
At the end of PLUS, I cried because I was so appreciative. Before the peer counseling and PLUS, I hated being HIV-positive. I couldn’t accept my reality, but once the other members shared their own experiences, I felt like I wasn’t alone. Eventually, I embraced myself.
I was encouraged to live as a positive man. After PLUS, I started to disclose my status to friends who I could trust. Fortunately, I haven’t experienced any denials or hostility yet. Positive Force is a special community that allows me to be Keisuke. It has changed my life.
Join the men of Positive Force at one of our upcoming events!