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Interview

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 TheBody.com 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?

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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 TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com.

Follow JD on Twitter: @JDAtTheBody.


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