Whether you are a long-term survivor or newly diagnosed, you can find inspiration in these first-person stories about gay men living with HIV/AIDS from around the world. Get firsthand knowledge about dating and sex, starting a treatment regimen, homophobia, disclosure, religion, coming out, self-esteem and growing older.
|In Life After Reality TV, Eric Leonardos Brings His Charm to Countering HIV Stigma|
"The work to see people living with HIV as normal and equal to others will be my most important area of focus until it changes," vows Eric Leonardos.
|This Positive Life: Ed Barron Is Not HIV Positive, He's a Person Living With AIDS and Complications|
Ed Barron has had his share of challenges in life. After being honorably discharged from the U.S. Navy for being gay, and after the dissolution of his last major relationship, he was diagnosed with HIV in 1986. He has since survived anal cancer and hepatitis C coinfection. Ed is the picture of resilience in the face of adversity. The key to his success is a great relationship with his doctor, who he says "won't co-sign my crap."
|This Positive Life: Antron Olukayode on Sexual Assault, HIV Disclosure and Spinning Life's Trials Into Art|
Antron Olukayode describes himself as an "artivist" -- a blend of artist and activist. After a sexual assault at the hands of his boyfriend at the age of 19 left him HIV positive, he experienced alienation and homelessness. However, his inherent creativity allowed him to spin these experiences into art and he is now the author of two volumes of poetry, each dealing with a different part of his life, but each centered around his diagnosis and subsequent life with HIV. And, he is no longer homeless.
|This Positive Life: A Longtime HIV Survivor on Public Health, Private Health and Spiritual Wellness|
Jeffery A. Haskins was kept alive by some pretty toxic early HIV med regimens; now he's willing to try any of the several one-pill-a-day regimens available to help keep his viral load undetectable. As a long-term survivor, however, he's interested not only in his own health, but the ways people living with HIV can come together and demand greater health for their community.
|This Positive Life: A Look at Black Gay HIV Activism, Through a Veteran's Eyes|
"It became actually my career, what I wanted to be, and do," says Jeffery A. Haskins of the HIV work he's been involved with since the epidemic's earliest days. His path was not always so clear -- he'd studied business, accounting and theater management, and when an accountant position opened up at the newly formed Minority Task Force on AIDS, his journey began. But that journey was not simply as an activist, but as an activist of color -- part of a group often overlooked in histories of early HIV activism -- and, by 1993, as a person living with HIV himself.
|This Positive Life: Newly Living With HIV, Josh Robbins Is "Still Josh" -- And Still an Advocate|
Josh Robbins was already an HIV advocate in Nashville, Tenn., when he was himself diagnosed with HIV in January 2012. He'd supported local HIV organizations' events as a small-business owner, and was even part of an HIV vaccine study. Then a brief unprotected sexual encounter put him on the other side of his advocacy activities.
|This Positive Life: Tim'm West Dispels Stigma and Shame Around Being Black and Bisexual|
Had it not been for HIV, Tim'm West might not have made any real contributions to the world -- at least, not according to him. En route to a philosophy Ph.D. when he was diagnosed, Tim'm became HIV positive while in a monogamous relationship. After he learned he was positive, he began to pursue a career as an artist and activist.
|This Positive Life: A Trailblazer Still Marches Forward|
Gil Kudrin grew up with HIV. He was diagnosed in the early '80s at only 18 years old, and has outlived many of his peers. At 53 years old, he has marched with ACT UP, helped found Nightsweats & T-Cells (which employs HIV-positive people and gives them work skills and experience) and has raised two young, homeless boys as his own sons.
|This Positive Life: An Interview With Jake Ketchum|
Jake Ketchum got his HIV diagnosis in 1998 at a routine check-up right before the birth of his daughter -- and it was a big surprise. His then fiancée, Becky, was there to support him, and he claims to this day that his daughter saved his life and continues to motivate him to fight. Jake's dating pool prior to his marriage had included men; it was no different after he and Becky divorced, but now dating meant facing disclosure.
|This Positive Life: An Interview With Timothy Brown|
Timothy Brown, the first person in the world to be cured of HIV, is soft-spoken and kind -- but unswerving in his dedication to finding a way to cure everyone. Watch Timothy open up about the joys and frustrations of being the famed "Berlin Patient."
|This Positive Life: An Interview With Tommy Chesbro|
Though it happened in 1986, Tommy Chesbro remembers his HIV diagnosis -- and the circumstances that led to it -- like it was yesterday. This Oklahoma resident and U.S. Midwest native recalls the moments leading up to his diagnosis and explains how he came to terms with HIV, disclosed to his parents and began publicly speaking about HIV in the heavily stigmatized U.S. heartland. As a son of two mixed-race parents, Tommy also talks about how his part-Native American, part-African American, part-Caucasian heritage played a critical role in his upbringing and his life.
|This Positive Life: An Interview With Cedric Sturdevant|
Cedric Sturdevant, a 46-year-old gay man from Jackson, Miss., was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in 2005, along with his partner at the time who was told to get tested after trying to donate blood. After a scary hospital stay where he disclosed to his family, Cedric knew he wanted to get better and become a voice for those living with HIV.
|This Positive Life: An Interview With Richard Cordova|
Richard Cordova, a 33-year-old gay man from Chicago, was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in 2002 -- which did not surprise him, since he had been living a life of hard partying, heavy drug use and unprotected sex at the time. He came across an opportunity for a clean break and ran away with it -- literally.
|This Positive Life: Project Runway's Mondo Guerra Talks About Living With HIV and the Power of Disclosure|
When Mondo Guerra was chosen to be on the hit reality show Project Runway, his main goal was to live out his dream of being a successful fashion designer, not be a poster boy for HIV. But one emotional challenge compelled him to disclose on air that he had been living with HIV for the past 10 years. In this exclusive interview with TheBody.com, Mondo talks about living with HIV for a decade, overcoming fear and stigma, and the disclosure that was seen around the world.
|This Positive Life: An Interview With HIV Prevention Activist Jose Ramirez|
"[HIV] was just something added on the plate that I had to learn how to deal with," says Jose Ramirez. Jose survived many childhood traumas before his HIV diagnosis at 17. Now, 10 years later, he teaches LGBT youths in similar situations how to keep their sex lives safer, healthier and, yes, sexier. "I talk to people, I help people and it helps me," he says. "That's like my therapy."
|This Positive Life: An Interview With Jimmy Mack|
When Jimmy Mack discovered he was HIV positive, it was 1987, and an HIV diagnosis was essentially a death sentence. So instead of going to a doctor for treatment, he dived into a different kind of medicine: cocaine and alcohol. His journey out of addiction was difficult, but Jimmy has now been clean and sober for more than 15 years -- and he's got an undetectable viral load to boot.
|This Positive Life: An Interview With Gary|
"I never expected to be this alive at this point," Gary said to himself on his 60th birthday. Diagnosed with HIV in 1992, Gary has survived the tragic loss of his partner, a bout with prostate cancer and a heart condition. Gary talks candidly about his health, his family, the challenges of dating, and how he went from denial of his HIV diagnosis to being a knowledgeable HIV/AIDS advocate.
|This Positive Life: An Interview With Kali Lindsey|
Kali Lindsey was numb with shock when he learned he was HIV positive at the age of 23. "The day after I got my positive diagnosis, I was back at work, pretending like nothing had ever happened," he says. "I closed off from everybody." Three years passed before Kali was able to tell his family or friends about his HIV status. Today, however, Kali works to improve HIV policy in the U.S. as an outspoken advocate. In this one-on-one interview, Kali discusses how he learned to seek the support of others and to speak out about his status. "I would definitely tell [people who are recently diagnosed] that they should spend all of their time teaching themselves how to love themselves first," he says.
|This Positive Life: Nelson From Houston, Activist Since 1986|
An HIV/AIDS activist since his diagnosis more than 20 years ago, Nelson Vergel is also an advocate for regular exercise and good nutrition. After all these years, Nelson remains dedicated to helping people with HIV. He runs a few Web sites and discussion groups. He also has a full schedule of talks around the country. Originally from Venezuela, he has been living in Houston, Texas, almost as long as he's known he's HIV positive. Among Nelson Vergel's top tips for surviving HIV/AIDS: Stay informed and connect with others.
|This Positive Life: Reality TV Star Talks About Living With HIV and Fighting Stigma|
"By the time I got on Project Runway ... I was so comfortable being HIV positive and being open about it ... that I didn't really even think twice," says Jack Mackenroth, a former cast member of the Bravo network's fashion-design reality show. The fact that Jack has been living with HIV since 1990 is old news to Project Runway fans -- Jack was 100 percent open about his HIV status, even while living in the fishbowl of reality television. Now Jack uses his high profile -- and his design expertise -- to fight HIV stigma. Jack sat down with TheBody.com to talk about living with HIV, both on and off TV.
|This Positive Life: An Interview With Enrique Franco|
The U.S. military's "Don't ask, Don't tell" policy got Enrique Franco discharged from the Army. It also, oddly, was the reason he found out he was HIV positive. As Franco explains in this moving interview, diagnosis turned his life upside down, but he's now standing tall. "This is my body, this is my life," he says. "I'm not going to stop living. I refuse to put my head down."
|This Positive Life: An Interview With Ahmad Salcido|
Since he was diagnosed in 2007, Ahmad has had many ups and downs. But as he explains, Ahmad feels many of those life changes have been for the better. Being gay and HIV positive is frowned upon in many Hispanic and Muslim communities, and Ahmad faces unique challenges because he's part of each. However, he's found a supportive community in San Francisco, and his diagnosis has inspired him to take better care of his health.
|Catholic, Gay, and Living With HIV|
"I felt extremely conflicted. I was an altar boy and was very close to our parish priest. I recall hearing him preach that he could understand aid for starving people or for homeless people, but aid for people with AIDS was taking things too far," says Joseph, a Massachusetts resident reflecting on the homophobic rhetoric that he heard in his Catholic church growing up. Joseph recalls how his faith and guilt for being gay played a huge roll in his dependency on drugs and alcohol.
|A Personal Story|
"Honestly, I never thought about dying. Everyone else subsequently told me they did not expect me to leave the hospital, but I did. I had to leave not because I was well, but because I had to attend Joe's funeral. The next morning, Joe took his own life. I can only rationalize he did not want to be left alone as I was his only relative and his 'glue' that held his life together," recalls Kim Johnson of his partner Joe. Kim's story is a touching lesson that AIDS, death and fear should not stop anyone from learning to live and love, all over again.
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