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Vince Chalwe Rudy Keisuke Michael Derrick

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.

Are you ready to meet other HIV positive guys?

Join the men of Positive Force at one of our upcoming events!

Vince Chalwe Rudy Keisuke Michael Derrick