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Living With HIV for 33 Years and Speaking Out Against 'Trumpcare'

April 7, 2017

Raul Robles

Raul Robles (Credit: Selfie by Raul Robles)

Raul Robles says his mission is to help others in need through empowerment and education. With a background as an attorney, he's got a full plate ranging from serving on multiple advisory boards to hosting a longtime survivors' support group for Spanish speakers. He's crystallized his community's concerns about threatened cuts to HIV care through a horrifyingly catchy slogan: "Trumpcare: Make HIV AIDS Again."

Robles recently took a few minutes out to talk with about his work in and beyond Chula Vista, California, via an email interview.

JD Davids: How long have you been living with HIV?

Raul Robles: I was first diagnosed in 1985. I have been living with HIV for almost 33 years.

JD: How do you choose your priorities as an advocate?

RR: My priorities as an advocate are to empower, educate and engage the Latin@ community, regardless of immigration status. I use culture as a one of my main tools to break the stereotypes and stigmatization of what it is to live with HIV.

JD: What are the top issues in HIV that you are personally concerned with right now as a long-term survivor? And what are the top issues that you are concerned about in the broader community?


RR: Personally, one of my main concerns is to keep up to date with the latest information on medication and groundbreaking treatments all over the U.S. -- particularly, the effect of the medication on longtime survivors.

In general, [I'm concerned with] promoting and educating my community regarding the importance of adherence to medication, as well as the fight against stigmatization. Another big issue for me, right now, is to inform under-represented communities about HIV in a linguistically and culturally appropriate manner.

JD: Tell us about your work with your Spanish-speaking longtime survivors' support group. What are they most concerned with?

RR: The reason why I began this support group was to create a space specifically for the needs of longtime survivors, keeping always in mind the cultural and linguistic aspect of this particular community -- and to include other members of the HIV community such as straight and transgender individuals who are living with HIV.

JD: You came up with a very powerful meme: "Make HIV AIDS again." What does that mean to you? And how did you come up with it?

RR: It is crucial that we all realize that we can go backwards on the great progress we have made so far in dealing with HIV. The meme came up as a satirical play on words of the slogan used by a candidate during the recent presidential campaign.

Make HIV AIDS Again

JD: Who are/were your mentors, and what did you learned from them?

RR: Ricardo Gallego is one of my mentors. Ricardo has always being very supportive and a great influence on keeping me grounded and engaged. Ricardo has taught me a great deal about strategies and about ways of conveying my thoughts and ideas, and how to present these to my community in a positive, realistic and genuine way.

JD: Are you working with younger generations? And what is that like?

RR: Through social media and throughout my personal involvement in various organizations, support groups and peer advocacy, I have able to work with younger generations. Working with them is extremely rewarding and fulfilling for me, particularly when I am left with the feeling I have made a positive change in the lives of this younger generation.

This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

JD Davids is the managing editor for and

Follow JD on Twitter: @JDAtTheBody.

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