RAÚL Roldán has lived two lives. There was his life before HIV: Abandoned in Tijuana by his father when he was 11, he later spent years homeless in San Diego, supporting a 17-year addiction to crystal meth with maintenance jobs. A marriage came and went; he barely knew his daughter, born in 2000.
In 2006, Raúl's second life began. Diagnosed with HIV while he was in a substance abuse program, Raúl's CD4 count was already below 300. Yet it took him a while to even accept that he was positive. "That was my main hurdle; I had to overcome the stigma from within," he recounts. "I was uncomfortable with my status because everybody was saying it's a gay disease or it's this or it's that, and I was just as ignorant as they were."
Raúl found a drop-in center that taught him about HIV and connected him to the services he needed. A heterosexual support group at Christie's Place became the family he never had. His HIV is now under control, thanks to his HIV meds.
Raúl quit crystal meth for good in 2006. He now has a steady job as an HIV case manager and is leasing his first apartment. He began paying child support and regularly spends time with his daughter. He even recently found love.
"The most important thing that HIV has taught me is to just live my life," Raúl says. "I have learned that HIV is just a small part of who I am: I have brown eyes; I have black hair; I have tan skin. It's just a part of who I am. It's not everything. Life is what you make it, so I just strive to make life good."
This article was provided by TheBody.com. It is a part of the publication HIV and Me.