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Personal Story

Inheriting the Unnecessary Shame and Guilt of HIV: Carlos Guzman

AIDS/LifeCycle Personal Stories of "Why We Ride"

June 19, 2014

Carlos Guzman

Carlos Guzman

Carlos Guzman, 30, lost his mother to an AIDS-related illness in 2001. She contracted the virus through blood transfusions made necessary by complications during his birth in 1983. "My mother and aunt found out about her illness in 1999 and kept it from us until 2000, when she was in the hospital after losing her vision from encephalitis," he recalled.

His mother was a special education teacher's assistant for the Chicago public school system, and Carlos still can't fathom why she was so ashamed of something she had zero control over. She received four blood transfusions and was in a coma for three weeks after giving birth to Carlos. "I did feel guilty about it, it happened at my birth," he said. Carlos has two older half siblings and felt partly responsible for the loss of their mother.

Carlos' mother passed away during his senior year of high school and the trauma of having to be open about how she died was just too much for him to deal with at that time. "In college, there were always all these charities for HIV/AIDS, and I never did anything," he admits. "It wasn't until I witnessed the shame and embarrassment that was associated with HIV, that her shame was passed down onto me." He spent 12 years attributing her death to cancer. "I am upset with myself for letting so much time pass by without discussing the truth." As an adolescent, and coming out as gay just one year after her death, it's understandable why he didn't want to add the stigma of HIV to everything he was already going through. "I kind of lied to myself for so long so I didn't have to deal with being so scared or ashamed," he said.

Carlos recognizes that, because of how his mother felt about her status, she didn't take proper steps to take care of herself. "This was in 2001, and she probably wasn't caught up on the realities of HIV ... that's the only logical conclusion I can come up with," he said. He doesn't want anyone to ever feel ashamed for having HIV. That's why he took the bold step of telling the truth about his mother and took it one giant step further by involving his employer, which happens to be one of the biggest corporations in the world.


"One of my coworkers told me about ALC [AIDS/LifeCycle] and that he wanted to do it," said Carlos. Around that time, he had just founded the Walmart Pride, Bay Area Chapter. "I was talking to one of my cochairs about another Walmart initiative dealing with bullying, and after hearing about ALC, we thought it would be a good idea to establish an exploratory committee to see if the company would get involved in the global fight against HIV/AIDS." The first step for Carlos was to participate in AIDS/LifeCycle with a group of fellow coworkers from Walmart's e-commerce department. The team consisted of 20 cyclists, and together they raised over $118,000 in just three months.

Carlos is intimately familiar with the difficulties of living with HIV/AIDS, and wants to make sure others get the care and help they need to remain healthy. He also rides to fight HIV stigma and make up for the 12 years that he lived in silence about his mother's status. By raising awareness through AIDS/LifeCycle, Carlos hopes to inspire more people to talk openly about HIV/AIDS.

AIDS/LifeCycle is a fully supported, seven-day bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles. It's a life-changing ride -- not a race -- through some of California's most beautiful countryside. AIDS/LifeCycle is coproduced by the Los Angeles LGBT Center and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and is designed to advance their shared mission to reduce new HIV infections and improve the quality of life for people living with HIV/AIDS. This year, over 3,000 cyclists and volunteer roadies raised just over $15 million.

David Duran is a freelance journalist and writer based in Brooklyn, N.Y. You can follow him on Twitter at @theemuki.

Copyright © 2014 Remedy Health Media, LLC. All rights reserved.

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This article was provided by TheBody.


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