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This Positive Life: An Interview With Anthony Castro and Frank Lopez

February 1, 2011

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Bonnie Goldman: How did you educate yourself?

Anthony Castro: I looked online. There are many places online where you can look for information. I talked to people that I knew that were infected. I went to centers, when they would give counseling to people with HIV. That way I was just getting a little information.

Bonnie Goldman: So what was your living condition like? Who were you living with at the time?


Anthony Castro: It was complicated because I came to this country undocumented. I just had my tourist visa, which was about to expire. So I was living with my father, at some point. He didn't like the idea that I was gay and HIV positive. It was not good for him, good for his image or anything.

Bonnie Goldman: So he wasn't supportive?

Anthony Castro: He was not supportive at all. So basically, I was jumping from place to place, little friends that I'd make. "Can I stay with you a week?" "Can I stay with you a few days?" What drove me to find the first job that I could find: I was getting a little better in my health, so I developed a nice body and I started working as a stripper. Working as a stripper, I got even more involved in drugs and stuff like that, unfortunately.

But then finally I found this nice person. He offered me a place in his big house and took me to some centers where I could get treatment for people undocumented like me. They give you free treatment, and they give you pills and counseling. And that way, I keep getting better and better and better. My T-cell count went from 4 to 36. Then it went up when I met my gorgeous partner, Frankie, in Miami.

I had a T-cell count, it was still low. It was still an AIDS diagnosis. It was 96. But I was already getting a lot better. I had already passed the self-destructive behavior. My pills are my religion right now.

Bonnie Goldman: What treatment were you given?

Anthony Castro: Well, first, it was three pills. One was Sustiva (efavirenz, Stocrin), Combivir (AZT/3TC) and I don't remember the name of the other one. Then I got in another treatment. I had a greater rejection to that, because of moving from place to place. I couldn't get the pills. So when you stop taking your pills, you can --

Bonnie Goldman: Develop resistance.

Frank Lopez: Resistance.

Anthony Castro: Resistance. So then I was the second person taking Atripla (efavirenz/tenofovir/FTC) in Miami. So they were doing their research with me.

Bonnie Goldman: You were involved in a clinical trial?

Anthony Castro: I was in a clinical trial. So that way I could get the treatment for free and, at the same time, get checked. But problems, I had to move again, so I couldn't finish with the treatment. And I developed a resistance to Atripla.

Finally, they put me on Truvada (tenofovir/FTC), Reyataz (atazanavir) and Norvir (ritonavir). And it's been working perfect for me.

Bonnie Goldman: What's your CD4 count and viral load now?

Anthony Castro: Well, my CD4 count now is 1,024 and my viral load is undetectable.

Bonnie Goldman: Who was the first person you told?

Anthony Castro: The first person I told, at this point, I don't remember. I went for like three months without talking to anybody. I was just in shock. I mean, people just saw me, that I was sick. And I would say, "Well, I'm just going through a very bad time in my life," not going into details. My mother, it took me like six months to tell her.

Bonnie Goldman: What did she say when you told her?

Anthony Castro: She cried. She said that maybe this was because of being the kind of person that I am. She never wanted to say, admit, that I'm gay. She's like, "Don't. Baby, this is happening because you are how you are." I'm like, "Do you mean gay?" She thought that it was a punishment from God. But at the end, God is love, so he doesn't punish anybody, especially this way. And I get to share my life with someone equally like me.

Bonnie Goldman: Do you want to talk about your first contact with HIV?

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