By Enrique Franco
February 10, 2010
After I was diagnosed with HIV back in 2007, several thoughts came streaming into my mind. One of them I have tried to pay close attention to. This is the one thought that could be of great help. I had a thought that I needed to do something. Something that would contribute to helping the HIV/AIDS cause. Something I could do or say that would make a difference.
You see, after getting HIV I came to a crossroads. I had a serious heart-to-heart with myself. I sat down and took a moment to reflect on how I got here. I don't blame ANYONE for my HIV. I don't like pointing the finger at someone or something else for MY own actions. I have HIV because of the decisions I made. I have HIV because of the choices I made. So I have this because of ME. And I came to this thought that I, Enrique Franco, have a moral obligation to do something about it.
By the grace of God, my personal testament was seen by the special people at TheBody.com. They were intrigued and contacted me about a possible interview. And I thought, this is a gift from God. He has heard my thoughts on paying a debt back. Here I can make a difference. So I agreed to the interview and here we are today.
I am a very private person at times, but the events that unfolded in my life in 2007 have led me to this point. I have received a lot of e-mails and comments on how courageous and bold I am. Quite the contrary, I just feel that I must be responsible NOW. I owe it to our future gay and lesbian generation. Like I said, I believe that I am morally obligated to help in any way that I can.
The gay Soldiers still being forced to hide need to hear and see a voice. The gay Latino teen who is scared and feels ashamed because of hearing what his friends say about and do to gays needs to have a voice. The person fighting for their life with HIV for twenty years and STILL hiding it from the people he/she loves needs to witness this voice. That is why I decided to be so open and willing to have my story out there. It's not because I want people to feel sorry for me. Or because I have this huge ego that needs feeding. No, it is because I CARE about all of us. I AM one of us. I have been in those serious situations that still have yet to be openly addressed. So I tell my story, and I live an open life. If you want to call me courageous and bold, then thank you. Thank you for just listening to me and reading my words.
You know, after my story went up on TheBody.com, I said to myself that if just ONE person gets to read this and it inspires them or touches them in some way, then I am doing what I set out to do. If one person feels and gets where I am coming from, this is worth it. Because then, THAT person will be moved to do something great in his/her life or community. That is why I do what I do. I want to live my life forever boldly. And inspire others to do the same.
I choose to come out this way to inspire the younger people. In my youth I made very poor and foolish choices. I would on occasion go to adult books stores and cruise. I would have a few drinks at the strip club across the street to get my nerves up. This place, like so many others, had a back room mainly for guys to hook up.
You would be surprised at some spots guys find to cruise. I would sometimes cruise at a popular book store. Of course I won't disclose the name, but believe it or not it was a cruising site.
Yes, back then I was also guilty of smoking pot and messing around with other guys while I was in college. Of course we were ALL straight and would NEVER do that sort of thing had we not been high. I found that commonplace when I was younger.
I did what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it. I lived this carefree life that I thought had no negative consequences. Maybe that is one of the reasons I have HIV today. I was living a secret, fast life.
I am not at all proud of what I did. I helped hurt the homosexual image by acting out on those stupid stereotypes. I was living for the moment. You know what happens when you live like that? Well, I was living it too fast and derailed. I was living it secretly so no one was there to help pick me up when I derailed. No one was there because they didn't know. I didn't get the help that I needed until I spoke out. But, at the time, that was the best way I knew how to live. I didn't have any mentors or guys I looked up to. I chose that. I was wrong in doing so. This is why I choose to live openly and boldly.
I was wrong in some of my actions and deeds before my HIV. I know that now. But that was yesterday. Today, I choose to live my life in doing something positive for my fellow HIVers. I want to pay it forward and help in any way that I can. I want to be responsible and unashamed.
Has my debt been paid? NO, not by any means. I will continue to march on boldly and write and speak out and live out loud. I may be wrong sometimes and I may even get it right now and then. But today, I believe that in doing what I am doing I can spread this courage and this boldness to all of you. In fact, I charge you all to do the same. I charge you to prove to those that do not know us or refuse to understand us that we are good and decent people.
You can stare at yourself and say, "Yeah, but I'm a bad guy. I've seen and done a lot of nasty, bad things." Yeah, maybe, my friend. But that was yesterday. Do something about it TODAY. There is never, ever a time in our lives where we say we have failed and that's it. Or, this is how I am and I can't change. I refuse to believe in that. Why? Because I have changed.
So I charge you to not be afraid and to make a difference somewhere, anywhere. I charge you all to live bodly.
To contact Enrique, click here.
A Brighter Vision
The U.S. military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy got Enrique Franco kicked out of the Army. It also, oddly, was the reason he found out he was HIV positive.
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