June 19, 2012
Chapel Hill-based personal trainer Rob Hill is one of eight HIV-positive patients participating in an ongoing study at the University of North Carolina testing the use of a lymphoma drug to lure the virus out of hiding. The study's first phase was a success; the second phase starts in August.
Hill is known by clients for his athleticism and discipline. Until recently, what most did not know was his personal struggle with heroin addiction and his HIV diagnosis. The path that Hill took to get off drugs and out of an unhealthy lifestyle also isolated him. He worried about what others would think if they knew.
Hill is sharing his story now as a way to help others in a similar situation, and to dispel the fears some may have about people with HIV. He hopes that by opening up, he can live like a "regular human being."
Laurel Gropper, a Chapel Hill optometrist, and her husband, Carl Stice, are clients of Hill's. They were among the first he told about his HIV infection. "I thought, 'Oh my gosh, how strong a person to be able to live with this, to live with this kind of secret and endure the fear of what could be going on for him and his body [and decide] he was going to make a change,'" said Gropper. "I don't know too many people that would have that much courage on all levels."