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My name is Sergio Estrada. I was born in Guatemala and came to Los Angeles at the age of 22. Shortly after that I met the love of my life. He was my first lover, an older, handsome man. He was as much in love with me as I was with him. We were very happy and I always wanted to be faithful to him until he no longer wanted to have sex because of his age. I decided to abstain from having sex thinking that because of this disease it was best not to do anything sexually.

But there came a moment of weakness and necessity of being loved and with time I met a young handsome man of my same age. We met, we talked and I fell in love again, forgetting about my partner. I wanted to leave him for the younger guy and not look back. I was willing to lose something that was valuable to me, spend frivolously and go anywhere and be irresponsible in my home.

Time passed and my new partner said he was faithful. Until one day, I went to the park and saw him with another person doing something in a car. Honestly, I was very hurt by what I had seen, but what hurt me more was that he was with one of my friends. I thought that that was the end but I remained with him and I felt that I had to meet other people to get even with him. It was stupid on my part, but I only hurt myself: after taking care of myself for 17 years, I ended up with someone who wanted to play games (have sex) with whomever he came into contact with. For me it was too late.

Well, soon after that, I came up with an infection in the stomach from an ulcer that would not heal. After seeing several doctors, one of them suggested I get checked for HIV. I did not accept this since I did not believe I was at risk for HIV since I took care of myself, in the full extent of the word. I even left on vacation because I did not want to accept that I had that (HIV). Immediately upon returning, my partner and I got tested. I tested not only positive with HIV but was diagnosed with AIDS.

My world collapsed of course. I did not know what to do or who to tell; only my partner knew.

It was very painful for me because I had taken care of myself for so long. I suffered a lot. I never thought of telling my family. I never trusted them to tell them that I am gay -- even worse that I had this disease. The only thing that my mother knows is that AIDS kills. I only told my brother who is also gay. He gave me a lot of strength and courage to continue and to keep on going. I started going to a support group that helped me a lot. I met people who were in a similar situation. I learned that other people were worse off than I was. I learned how to take care of myself and about all the treatments available.

I have been able to manage the disease at great costs. I do not have support from my family. I promised myself not to disclose but I have realized that this has been a mistake since I have to continuously lie about why I am not working and have to hide when I take my medication.

My advice to young people is for them to take care of themselves, to ask, to educate themselves. Do not trust someone who looks good, since appearances can be deceiving. The best advice I can give is that if you have a partner, take care of them, respect them so that you will not have remorse in the future. Let it not be too late since this person is the only person who will understand you and will be with you in the future.

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

This article was provided by AIDS Project Los Angeles. It is a part of the publication Breaking the Silence... (Rompiendo El Silencio). You can find this article online by typing this address into your Web browser:

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