I was diagnosed with HIV on my birthday—more than fifteen years ago. The next day, I saw an advertisement for PLUS, a weekend-long seminar about living with HIV, that was happening the very next weekend. So I went.
I learned about all aspects of HIV—from its pathogenesis to more practical things like medications and managing side effects. At PLUS, you learn all of the things you need to know—whether you realize it or not—about living with HIV.
After attending PLUS, I trained to be a facilitator for the group. I wanted to do whatever I could to help people who were going through the same things that I was, and still am, going through. I’ve been positive for a long time, so I have a lot of experience managing my diagnosis. I know how to talk to friends, family, and others about being positive, how to answer their questions, and address their concerns. I’m Latino, so I’m able to relate to other guys who bring up how their Latino family members talk to each other. I’ve had my fair share of sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll so I’m able to talk to guys who come in and have questions about risk.
Everyone has their own story—their own ways they understand and live with their diagnosis. But what can be universal, I think, is that sense of fear. People don’t know what they’re going to do and how they’re going to live. They can be scared. Especially back in the day when getting HIV was more of a death sentence.
PLUS, and Positive Force, are the answer to this. People just want to have their story heard, and their questions answered, by peers who are in the same situation. That’s my role as a facilitator—to share my story but also listen and talk to guys who are maybe finding out for the first time that you can live—and live well—with HIV.
Join the men of Positive Force at one of our upcoming events!