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Breaking the Silence... Rompiendo El Silencio: Robert
Hi, my name is Robert, I work for the Department of Defense as an aircraft mechanic and this job also hinges on me belonging to the Air Force Reserves. I knew that I didn't have to tell anyone about my status due to the privacy laws that apply to HIV positive people. But, I felt morally obligated to inform my co-workers about myself due to the hazardous conditions that I work in. Also, due to the fact that I've only been diagnosed since May of 1999, I was still dealing with the shock and depression of finding out about myself. Plus, I was dealing with the divorce from my wife of 21 years, which only compounded my situation. I was a heart attack or stroke waiting to happen, and if I did suffer one of these maladies I would like my co-workers to know about me if they had to apply CPR to me. All in all, I work with approximately 400 people and I've received almost 100 percent support from them. There was the one or two loudmouths who made a little stink about it, but after I had a one-on-one conversation with them educating them about transmission issues and let them know what I've been going through, they've turned around 100 percent and are truly some of my best friends. I was also warned about these same people thinking that I was gay due to the stigma of this being a gay-related disease. But, I'm very comfortable about my sexuality and they know for a fact that I'm strictly heterosexual and have never had relations with a man or have never done IV drugs, ever. I have truly found some real dedicated friends since my diagnosis, and of course my family has been totally supportive of me, completely. I know that being Hispanic, there is always the risk that the "family" is old fashioned and will sometimes turn their backs on even their loved ones if they are diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. But, my family members are all educated and compassionate people and love me even more. Now, if I could find a young lady that would offer me complete support and love the way my family and friends have, I would truly be happy.

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This article has been reprinted at The Body with the permission of AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA).

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