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Personal Story

When I Was Young and Didn't Know Better

June 23, 2014

Ernesto

I first heard about HIV in high school in Far Rockaway, Queens. But not as much as I would have liked. They showed us a movie called "Kids" and I felt scared about what the main character, a straight female, went through. Her appearance terrified me!

But I didn't connect with the information they gave me because they only focused on straight relationships. I began to feel attracted to boys at age ten, so I felt like my feelings were not counted or accepted. I kept my thoughts to myself and just listened to what everyone else said. There was nothing in the sex ed class about gays.

I came out to my friends and some cousins when I was in 10th grade. In December 2011, I came out to my family after the school contacted my mom about a rumor about me and another boy. I felt scared and alone, and I was afraid that I was going to get kicked out of my house because I was gay. Fortunately, that didn't happen. But my parents didn't want to accept that I was gay, so I never brought it up again. Since my family didn't really talk about sex, I never talked about it with them either.

I had my first boyfriend when I was 17. He was my age and we always used condoms when we had sex. But after we broke up a year and a half later, I wanted to try new things. I found a new boyfriend who was a couple of years older, and the condoms just kinda came off. I had a little bit of concern about that, but I just put it in the back of my head and didn't think about it. He told me he was tested for HIV every three months and was negative.

"I wasn't thinking about HIV because I never really learned about it. The only thing they talked about was that you could die from it. And everyone they showed us who had HIV looked really sick. My boyfriend looked healthy, so I never thought he could have HIV."

To be honest, I wasn't thinking about HIV because I never really learned about it. The only thing they talked about was that you could die from it. They never talked about anal sex. And everyone they showed us who had HIV looked really sick. They were all thin and looked like they were dying. My boyfriend looked healthy, so I never thought he could have HIV.

I had an HIV test in July 2012 and I was negative, but when I tested again in November, I was diagnosed with HIV. My heart stopped, and all I could think about was death. I felt scared. I told my boyfriend the same day and he said he didn't have it but he still loved me and stuff like that. He eventually admitted that he did have HIV. I didn't think to talk about it when we were dating. Now I know you can't tell if a person is infected or not.

I feel like society failed me because people don't teach you truthful information about STD s and HIV. People teach more about straight sexuality and not about LGBT sex. I wish society could teach better about LGBT-specific issues because not everyone lives a straight life and they're hurting kids that might feel lost, like I was.

The other gay guys I knew in high school never talked about HIV. I think they thought like I did, that you could tell who has HIV because they looked unhealthy.

I honestly thought I would never get HIV, because I learned to think that you can tell if somebody has HIV, the skinny body and pale face. But I was so stupid to believe those stories I heard. I never knew that there were medications that could keep you healthy when you have HIV so no one could tell if you had it. The only thing I learned is that HIV kills you.

Now I speak to my friends about HIV a lot. Some of them are partners that I told. They didn't even know about it and they said we could be friends, but they shut me down. Some of them think you can get it just by sharing things, to this day. I showed them some info and told them that wasn't true.

There should be a spokesperson who is living with HIV who goes to schools to show them that you don't have to look unhealthy if you have it. The school should let you know that it's unnoticeable and that you can catch it without knowing that your partner is infected. Advertise it -- do a TV commercial about it -- there's not much of that. There should be books about it in schools that tell the whole story. They should give out more information and not just scare the kids.



This article was provided by ACRIA and GMHC. It is a part of the publication Achieve. Visit ACRIA's website and GMHC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.
 
See Also
HIV & Me: A Guide to Living With HIV for Hispanics
The Body en Español
More Personal Accounts of HIV in the U.S. Latino Community

 

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