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The Challenges of Medicaid and HIV in Rural Mississippi

An Interview With Cedric Sturdevant -- Part of the Series This Positive Life

July 31, 2012

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Even my uncles, and there are a few of my uncles that are close to my age. Whenever they met him, whenever we came home, they treated him just like one of the boys. So, it was great.

That eliminated the fear. I was only concerned that mom wouldn't love me after she found out. But when mom said, "I love you," and when my sisters were like, "I love you," and the rest of the family [said the same], it didn't matter to me what anyone else thought.

It kind of played the same way when I became HIV positive, and went through that. I had that support.

Switching gears a little bit, how has your health been since you were very sick? Are you taking meds? Is there anything you do to keep healthy besides that?

Yeah, I'm taking meds. From the beginning, I was taking about seven meds. Now, I take three. I have an undetectable viral load. My last doctor's appointment, my CD4 count was in the 500s. I eat differently -- not always, but now I do -- because I'm trying to lose weight. Actually, I was a little bit bigger than this a couple of months ago. So I went to baked breasts and vegetables for a while.

From time to time, I walk. When I have time I walk, at least three miles. Actually, the organization just got a fitness center. I think we'll be able to use it starting next month because of all the policies and the paperwork needed to get done. That will be helpful.

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The reason I got back fit so quick is because my sister had a gym herself. She didn't have money to pay anyone, so I volunteered to be there, to allow her clients to come in to work out. In that instance, I was able to start working out myself. I think that's why I rapidly gained the strength that I needed back, which I think is very important.

Then I try to eat right for my diabetes. So that contributed, too. And less stress. I don't stress. That may be a reason why I ain't got a man, either. Because I don't want anybody to stress me.

Do you have any tips for others who are trying to reduce stress? Or how to look at situations in a way that reduces the stress response?

This may not be good, but I'll see someone else that may be a little bit worse off than me, and I realize, "Hey, I'm blessed." Some of the things that I do: I love to travel. So when I do have the finance, I'll just leave a weekend, and go somewhere. I don't have to go with a crowd or anyone; I go by myself. Relax.

When I get off work, most of the time, when there's not a need for working on a grant, or anything like that, I leave work at work. I don't go out all the time, other than doing outreach. And when you do outreach, it's local clubs. Personally, just going out to the club to hang out, I don’t do that a lot, but there are times I want to relax, and go out, and have fun. And I'll do that.

I think the key thing is just living your life. Most people stress out because they be trying to live life for other people, or the way other people want them to live life. If you just live your life, and just not give a damn about what other people feel, or how other people perceive you, if you're living your life in a way that's making you happy -- you just got to be you.

"You'll be less stressful if you just be you, and not try to live life for other people, the way they want you to live."
You'll be less stressful if you just be you, and not try to live life for other people, the way they want you to live. Because it stresses you out. And I've seen that a lot, especially with these young guys who are afraid to come out, as far as being gay. It stresses them out. It leads to things that you don't want to do. That's something that leads to risky behaviors.

How do you think having HIV has changed you?

I think it's changed me tremendously. First of all, I look at life totally differently. What I mean when I say that is that I enjoy life more now. I appreciate life more now than before I knew my diagnosis. It has given me a sense of help. I'm able to help others by using my life.

I tell people now, a lot of times, "This is not my life. God is using me to do his work. And I'm enjoying it along the way."

Like now, sitting here -- yeah, I always sit in front of my camera, talking about my homosexuality or HIV. So it has actually made me a little bit braver, in the sense of looking at Martin Luther King and other civil rights leaders, when they stood up for something that they believed in. Giving me that sense, OK, I can stand up for stuff I believe in too now, not because it has affected other people, but because it affected me.

I just won't be defeated by HIV or AIDS. Even if I were to die, it still didn't win. It helps me to keep going, and going, and going. And it gives me a purpose, especially when I talk to the younger guys. I see that they're listening. And some may not be listening. But I see that they're listening and it's like, "OK, God. You giving me what I asked for."

Wow. Is there anything else that you want to share with our viewers and folks who are listening to your story?

If there's anyone who's living with HIV -- and family members, basically, are who I want to have this focus on -- you will help that person a lot from your love and support. If it wasn't for the love and support of my family, I don't know if I would still be here. I probably would have given up. Once they found out, there was no throwing the dishes away. There was no, "You can't be around the baby," or none of that. It was like nothing really happened.

"If you don't have support, just build yourself up. There will be somebody that will support you. But you've got to want to support yourself first. It starts with you."
I think that's the main thing. Because I hear a lot of the young guys now are afraid to tell their family. They are living in Jackson, but they're not from Jackson. They have no one but us -- when I say us, I mean myself, and then some of the other staff at My Brother's Keeper -- to lean on. And that's hard. I don't know where I would be if it wasn't for my family. They support me a lot.

If you are a person that's living with HIV, you can do whatever you want to, still. But you have to make sure you stay on your medicine, your treatment. It's no, "Woe, woe, woe is me. I'm going to die tomorrow." No you're not. You got to continue to be on your meds.

If you don't have support, just build yourself up. There will be somebody that will support you. But you've got to want to support yourself first. It starts with you. It starts with you.

This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

Olivia Ford is the community manager for TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com.


Copyright © 2012 Remedy Health Media, LLC. All rights reserved.
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