I was born in 1965 in Juarez Chihuahua, Mexico. I came to America in 1974 to a small town called Santa Barbara. I went to preschool and elementary school and my first year of high school, when my calling to Hollywood came in 1985. By then ARC [AIDS Related Complex] was in the media about a gay disease that was killing people. I think it was 1989 when the first testing was coming into being. So, because of my life in prostitution I tested every six months with a negative result. One day in 1991 I met a guy who said he wanted to commit in a monogamous relationship, so he suggested that we not use condoms. Two weeks later I got a bad flu that wouldn't go away. One month later I tested negative. I told my lover to get tested. He had full blown AIDS with 50 CD4 cells, KS [Kaposi's Sarcoma], and thrush. Even then I somehow felt that I needed to learn about this because I had sex with my lover, so it was only a matter of time before I would get sick.
One month later I tested HIV-positive with 500 T-cells and no more flu. My best friend was my sister and since we were close I had no pressure on how to go about telling her. It devastated her but I had to be strong. I was positive, my lover needed treatment, and I had to counsel my sister. So, I turned to the rap groups. I would first just listen; I couldn't speak. I would say my name and that was it. The fact that it was an HIV rap group helped me to realize that I belonged there.
In early 1995 I just became overwhelmed, and I became angry. I thought I had enough information to help me survive -- big mistake, the fact was I didn't want to deal with the subject. I started hanging out again with the scene. It led to me getting lost in drugs and booze. I wasn't talking to anyone other than myself. By the year 2000 I felt I was ready. So, when I came back, time had passed me by. I didn't know how to take my medication and in four years I had diabetes due to a side effect of my meds, as well as a buffalo hump, all of which could have been prevented if I had been informed of how to work with my doctor. But I didn't know what questions to ask. That's why I stress the rap groups.
It's been eleven years. I have never been sick other than a cold or flu. My lover passed away in 1992. As much as I hate to say, he did not attend groups and I can't stress how important they are. I encourage anyone with an HIV question to attend them. Before you even decide to tell someone, get a little bit of information because if you don't feel confident that you're going to survive, it is very difficult to make someone else believe that. Practice disclosing in the rap groups. Share fears, doubt, anything that will give you confidence. Oh, rap groups are not easy. I've seen people leave because they said rap groups made them feel worse. I don't understand that -- unless it was reality that sunk in. In the rap groups I also got the courage to question my doctor's therapy and at time changed doctors because I got more information at the rap groups than my doctor even knew. I can't remember where I heard this little phrase; the only wrong questions are the ones not asked.
This article was provided by AIDS Project Los Angeles. It is a part of the publication Breaking the Silence... (Rompiendo El Silencio).