This Positive Life: Life After Being Cured of HIV
September 5, 2012
[Timothy's partner, Ralfka Gonzalez, joins in the conversation.]
Ralfka Gonzalez: I'm Ralfka Gonzalez. I'm an artist, a painter. I have a children's book out called My First Book of Proverbs. I was born in San Antonio, Texas, but I've lived in Philadelphia. I've had public art in Philadelphia at the Convention Center; San Francisco; Oaxaca, Mexico; Albuquerque, New Mexico and Chicago for a little bit.
Olivia Ford: Tell me how you've come into the life of this gentleman here.
Olivia Ford: Timothy, how is it for you to be in a relationship with someone who is positive when historically, since you've been positive, you made that choice, but now you're ostensibly an HIV-negative person? How does that change your relationship?
Timothy Brown: Well, originally, I thought that I was immune to all kinds of HIV, because that's what one doctor told me. So we didn't worry about that. The last relationship I was in, the other person was negative. So we didn't really worry about that, either.
Since then, I have been concerned that I could get reinfected. In Philadelphia, I came across female condoms. So we started using those, and they're great.
Olivia Ford: Good plug there for female condoms.
Ralfka Gonzalez: Yeah. Female condoms rock.
Olivia Ford: Awesome. That's good to hear. So, now, tell me a little bit about the Timothy Ray Brown Foundation, and what your vision is, as far as what the search for a cure, and eventually finding a cure, is going to look like.
Timothy Brown: We grounded the Timothy Ray Brown Foundation with the help of the World AIDS Institute. It's the only foundation in the entire country that has ever had the cure of HIV as its primary reason for existence.
I hope that everyone in the world who is afflicted by this disease can be cured of it, no matter where they live, no matter what their socioeconomic background is, no matter what their color is, their sexual orientation is. I want everyone to be cured.
Ralfka Gonzalez: He's insisting on a cure in my lifetime, and his lifetime and your lifetime.
Olivia Ford: Thank you so much for doing that. Let me ask you this: If you could change one thing about the past several years of your experience with being out in the public as the first man to be functionally cured of HIV, and all of your experiences with that, what would it be?
Timothy Brown: I haven't always been treated the way that I should have been by some organizations -- I won't name them -- but a lot of times, they don't look out for my --
Ralfka Gonzalez: -- best interests, for your health.
Timothy Brown: For my best interests, yeah, for my health, for my financial well-being. The fact that I live in these pretty horrible conditions is despicable for the person that has given people so much hope.
Ralfka Gonzalez: Housing is so important to people's well-being. When you have organizations that have a budget of $23 million and the soup kitchens that we go to are empty, you know. The housing lists are really long and when you finally get into a place, the places are filthy. There's so much. It's just really hard to see so much money wasted sometimes. The people that really need the help are treated like animals. I would love to see the CEOs of a lot of these organizations sleep under the same conditions that Timothy has to sleep in.
I just find it disgusting that the soup kitchens are empty, but these people are making so much money. And a lot of people who are working in these organizations aren't even HIV positive. I would love to see some of these people live the life that most people with HIV and AIDS have to live every day, even just for one night. That's worth the $200,000 or $300,000, or however much they make a year.
Timothy Brown: I certainly don't want to say -- and I've said that being the only person in the world cured of HIV, or, hopefully, not the only person, the first person of many, I want everyone to be cured, so the numbers will continue to go up and up and up. I don't want to say that I deserve more than everyone else. I want everyone else to have better living conditions than they do.
Ralfka Gonzalez: Timothy does so much work. He's constantly going to the doctor, and all of the scientific results are open to everybody. So if he just keeps doing that. And I just want to say he's really great, and really down to Earth. I hope that other people understand that he's really humble about this. It's an important thing to cure AIDS and to have research that's out in the mainstream. The Timothy Ray Brown Foundation is here to find the cure, and to find alternative ways of healing. We have to start thinking out of the box. That's really important.
Olivia Ford: Well, with that, I think we have to bring this interview to a close. It's wonderful to speak to you, Timothy, and to you, Ralfka. I'm very glad that you, with your compassion and conscience, are two of the faces of this new chapter in the search for an HIV cure within all our lifetimes.
Olivia Ford is the community manager for TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com.
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