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HIV/AIDS Blog Central

This Pozitive Life

By Brandon Lacy Campos

November 11, 2011

This entry has been cross-posted from Brandon's Blogspot blog, My Feet Only Walk Forward, which is home to Brandon's general musings on life, the world and other matters.

Last night, I read my poem H-I-ME for the second time in public. The last time was a year ago, the day that I wrote it, and after completely breaking down and sobbing my way through that performance, I set it aside. Over the last year, I have either chosen to face or been force to face some of the realities of living with HIV. I have made good choices and bad choices, and I have had to sit with some very hard moments. Last night, when I read the poem, I didn't break down. Let's be real, by the end of the poem by entire body was shaking, I felt exposed and vulnerable, and I wanted to bolt from the room. Instead, I had to pull up a chair and face a half an hour of questions and comments from the audience during a facilitated panel.

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And the panel moderator, my friend Collette Carter, Co-Director of the Audre Lorde Project, ain't no joke.

I felt myself, sitting underneath the lights, sweating, trying to make my body as absolutely small as possible. There were folks in the room that knew me intimately and had lived with me through some of my hardest moments. There were folks in the room that I didn't know at all, and there was a person in the room that I have just begun to know--and let me say that with this particular person ... there are rarely any frivolous moments ... so I sat there ... feeling stripped down, trying my best to continue to answer the questions posed with honesty, while all the while wanting to run hard and fast.

The problem is that you can't run from yourself.

HIV is a part of my life. It is a part of my reality. I am in great health. I am a non-progressor. I have a T-cell count of a "normie," (1,000+) my viral load is never above 3,000 (you have to be at least at 100,000 replications before medication is recommended). I am likely to die an incontinent mean ass old man pinching the asses of orderlies that aren't even born yet. Yet, the stigma, shame, and all around shit show that this world puts on people living with HIV, combined with all the messages we (I) lay on ourselves makes living with this disease about as fun as putting your penis in a blender and hitting puree.

In general, I am OK with my status. When I am not feeling OK with it ... I write about it. But sometimes, life throws you a moment, that straight up knocks the wind right out of you.

Last night, after the show, I was hanging out with someone important to me. As we were talking as we are wont to do, after I made a comment about an unrelated subject, he stopped the conversation and said, "I think I am angry with you."

It was so out of the blue, that I kind of giggled and asked why. When his face changed, I knew something was coming that I probably wasn't going to enjoy. I knew it was would be honest. I knew it would be challenging. I knew it would be truthful. And I was fairly certain I was going to hate whatever he said next.

Call my ass Miss Cleo, because I was right. Call me now!

He said to me, "I think I am angry with you because you are HIV positive."

I could feel my pupils dilating as he was speaking. It was direct. It was real. And I had no idea what to do with it.

And then the coup de grace came. "And I am mad at you for hurting yourself like that."

Entre the tears.

Nothing he said was designed to hurt. There was more to the conversation but that isn't for this blog. And what he said did hurt. It was the truth. And it hurt like Hell. I did hurt myself. I have never blamed anyone else for my HIV status, but nor had I really looked at my myself and said ... hey kid ... you did this to yourself. I did. I have all kinds of reasons why I went searching for love and validation in the form of a dick. I was looking for something that was missing or taken from me growing up. Instead, what I found, like so many others find, is this fucking disease. And I realized that not only did I hurt myself, but once I tested positive there was a sense of satisfaction. It was confirmation of everything that I believe(d) about myself. I was unlovable. I was untouchable. I was unworthy of love. And having HIV was very simply the confirmation of all the things that I knew to be true about myself.

I LOVE to be right. And my positive diagnosis was the ultimate confirmation of just how right I was about myself. And until my friend told me last night that he was angry with me, I had never been forced to actually look at it in this way. Nor have I ever articulated it.

Damn. Just damn. damn. damn. damn. damn.

Last night when Collette asked us the question what is the truth about ourselves that hurts. When it got to me, I said out loud that my truth that hurts is that I have believed and still sometimes believe that I am unworthy of the amazing love and devotion and care that I have been blessed to have in my life. To fight that, I actively seek out that love and give it back when I can. I actively look for people to be in my life, like my friend last night, who will tell me the truths that may not feel great but are the things that I need to hear.

I am so grateful to have these people in my life ... to love me when it is hard ... to be my truth tellers ... and to let me have the pain without getting lost in it.

I am worthy of love. HIV doesn't determine who I am or how I move through the world, and I will continue to take these truths in, let them hurt until the hurt goes away, and then keep on living. Too many people have invested too much into my life and my well being for me to do any less.

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See Also
More Inspiring Stories of Gay Men With HIV

Reader Comments:

Comment by: Tano (Big Spring, Tx) Mon., Aug. 6, 2012 at 3:20 pm EDT
I am not hiv+ but I do want to say that im really touched by reading this as to how much I relate to the feelings you expressed growing up into an adult. I feel like I was reading my story. Thank you for posting this and yes we both deserve and are worthy of love andcare. Best of wishes! :)
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Comment by: Richard (San Jose, CA) Sat., Mar. 3, 2012 at 8:26 pm EST
This entry is very insightful and hits home with me. Having been newly diagnosed has forced me to begin dealing with things that i've been avoiding, like the fact that I spent the last decade of my life having given up on myself and not believing that I deserved love or respect. I made foolish, careless choices that got me infected, and that's not an easy thing to live with. I'm learning that I need to have more respect for myself and accept love instead of allowing jaded notions to influence me.
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Replies to this comment:
Comment by: Brandon (New York) Thu., Mar. 8, 2012 at 1:06 pm EST
Richard...that is a life long unlearning process...and there will be many bumps along the way...but its worth the fight.


Comment by: MARGARET (OHIO) Thu., Dec. 15, 2011 at 6:43 pm EST
I KNOW HOW ANNE FEELS, I WAS TOLD 18 MO. AGO THAT I HAVE AIDS, I DIDN'T EVEN KNOW I WAS HIV+ NOW THAT I KNOW I STAY TO MYSELF, NO ONE KNOWS BUT MY DOCTORS, CASE MANAGER, AND MY HUSBAND OF FOUR YEARS, BECAUSE THE MAN THAT GAVE IT TO ME DIDN'T BOTHER TO TELL ME HE WAS HIV+. SO I THANK HIM EVERYDAY FOR THE GIFT THAT JUST KEEPS GIVING. IF I COULD GO BACK IN TIME I WOULD NEVER HAVE BEEN WITH HIM. IF I WOULD HAVE KNOWN WHAT HE GAVE ME I NEVER WOULD HAVE FELL IN LOVE WITH MY HUSBAND AND GAVE THIS TO HIM, I KNOW MY HUSBAND SAYS HE DOESN'T BLAME ME BUT SOMEHOW I FELL HE DOES. I HAVE NEVER TOLD ANYONE IN MY FAMILY BECAUSE I KHOW MUCH THEY WOULD HATE ME AND NEVER TALK TO ME AGAIN. I PRAY EVERYDAY FOR A CURE. AND NO GOD DON'T LOVE ME EITHER OR HE NEVER WOULD HAVE LET THIS HAPPEN TO ANYONE.
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Replies to this comment:
Comment by: Brandon (New York) Fri., Dec. 16, 2011 at 9:39 am EST
Margaret...you are loved. I love you. Let your husband, family and friends love you too.

Love,
Brandon


Comment by: Brandon (New York) Fri., Dec. 9, 2011 at 9:08 am EST
Thank you both for sharing part of your story, and Anne, you are loved and loveable. That's truth.


Love,
Brandon
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Comment by: Anne (Stuttgart, Germany) Thu., Dec. 8, 2011 at 3:57 pm EST
WOW! "I was unlovable. I was untouchable. I was unworthy of love." sums it all up for me and my life. But I still feel I am unlovable. I am untouchable. I am unworthy of love. And since I keep my HIV status as a secret for the past 15 years I don`t know if I want to be loved, touched and worth love. Cause I am afraid I do not know how to deal with this anymore. My walls and fences are strong, all up and bringing them down will cost even more time, energy, strength. I do not want to invest all of this for finger pointing, stigmata, being put outside from a so-called social enviroment. I know I can not keep the cake and eat it at the same time. But for right now...I am keeping the cake...
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Comment by: Rick (Golden, CO) Thu., Dec. 8, 2011 at 2:51 pm EST
Wow how I can identify with you in spite of some differences.

At the age of 11 I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. None in my (very large extended) family have any form of what has become a very common disease except me. Fast forward 20-some years. I'm married and my wife has an affair with my best friend. Fast forward another 20-some years and I'm diagnosed with AIDS in spite of not fitting any of the lifestyles that are associated with this disease.

I've used all of these items to form a world view that says I am unloved and unlovable. And those who claim to love me (including God) must be liars.

I can't help but believe no matter our circumstances we all want to be right (as you stated) so we look for those things in our lives to confirm it as so. How I wish I had a more open mind - and a willingness to be wrong just long enough to truly find a way to love myself in spite of what I see.

You see if I really stop and look I can find just as many ways to prove that I am loved and I am lovable. I married my childhood sweetheart (we fell in love at age 9 - married at age 19 - and remain married 37 years later - yeah the affair was there...but our marriage continued). I have a great group of friends who love me. I have two children who love me. And the list goes on...and on...and on.

So how can ignore all of the things that prove what I believe to be false only to hang to the very few things that prove I'm right? It seems I have to start by loving myself half as much as others love me!

Thanks for the wakeup call.
Rick
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Brandon Lacy Campos

Brandon Lacy Campos

Brandon Lacy Campos is a 32-year-old queer, poz, African-American, Afro-Puerto Rican, Ojibwe and Euro (smorgasbord) poet, playwright, blogger, journalist and novelist (that last one is slowly coming along). In 2009, MyLatinoVoice.com named him the #2 queer, Latino blogger to watch. In 2006, the Star Tribune named him a young policy wonk for his political shenanigans. His writing and poetry have appeared in numerous anthologies including, most recently, Mariposas, edited by Emanuel Xavier and published by Floricanto Press. This fall, his work will appear in the academic text Queer Twin Cities, published by the University of Minnesota Press. And, one of these days, Summerfolk Press will be publishing his first solo book of poetry: It Ain't Truth If It Doesn't Hurt. Brandon is hard at work on his first novel, Eden Lost, and he lives in New York City with his partner, artist David Berube, and his boss, Mimzy Lacy Berube de Campos (their dog).

It's with heavy hearts that we share that Brandon passed away unexpectedly on Friday, Nov. 9, 2012. He was 35 years old. Read memorials by Brandon's friends and colleagues.


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