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

February 1, 2011

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Bonnie Goldman: So when you say your family, whom did you tell?

Frank Lopez: My mother and my father. And there was a lot of crying.

Bonnie Goldman: They were in Florida? In Miami?

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Frank Lopez: In Miami, yes.

Bonnie Goldman: Had they already accepted that you were gay? Or they didn't know?

Frank Lopez: Don't ask, don't tell.

Bonnie Goldman: OK. Suspected.

Frank Lopez: Yeah. With the confirmation that I was HIV positive, well, they put two and two together.

In any event, there were so many tragedies that were going on in my life; I really didn't have much of a chance to absorb my own condition. Because a month later, my father would have a stroke that almost cost him his life. Then he would have renal failure. And of course, he's back to smoking and drinking right now, driving everyone crazy. So we know he's fine. But then a month after that, my uncle would be diagnosed with cancer throughout his entire body. He was afraid for his life, and I needed to show everyone that if I was OK that they would be OK. So it was yet another way for me to channel what I was going through.

"I started to notice something. That by sharing my own experiences, I was helping other people. When I saw the confidence start to build in them, it gave me confidence. This is an affirmation for me."

-- Frank Lopez

I started to notice something. That by sharing my own experiences, I was helping other people. When I saw the confidence start to build in them, it gave me confidence. This is an affirmation for me.

Bonnie Goldman: What was your initial CD4 and viral load?

Frank Lopez: I don't recall the initial CD4. My initial viral load was only 23,000. My CD4 got down to 312, which is nowhere near Anthony's 4. He is my miracle. He's my inspiration. But my percentage went down to 12 percent, which, by definition, is AIDS. And my viral load had gone up to half a million. I didn't need to get that far to know that, "You know what? Frank, slow down."

Bonnie Goldman: How did you find a doctor?

Frank Lopez: At the time I had private insurance through my company. I was just going to the local clinic. I had designated him as my primary care physician, and he's who I was working with. It was just happenstance. I don't think it was anything that I had really planned.

Bonnie Goldman: So it wasn't an HIV specialist.

Frank Lopez: No, he wasn't. Eventually I ended up meeting a doctor through a program here in San Francisco sponsored by the STOP AIDS Project. It was the PLUS Seminar, a two-day seminar for people who have been recently diagnosed with HIV, to basically give them the ABCs of HIV: What is available, what are their rights, what are their responsibilities, how to live a better life, how to improve the quality of your life. And I'll tell you, everything that I needed to know I learned through the STOP AIDS Project, at their PLUS Seminar. Later on it would be further enhanced by the Shanti Project, which is a nationwide organization, and their L.I.F.E. Program, which . . . Anthony and I made a 16-week commitment to improve the quality of our life. In many senses, we've been blessed. Thank you.

Bonnie Goldman: You told your parents. What was their reaction?

Frank Lopez: There was a lot of crying.

Bonnie Goldman: Did they want to share cups with you, still? Did they have any issues about that?

Frank Lopez: No. They didn't. Keeping a country between us kind of helps, in a way. And again, with all the tragedies that were going on, in a strange twist of fate it actually helped me, because it helped to take the spotlight off of me.

Bonnie Goldman: They were busy.

Frank Lopez: They were busy. You know, my dad's trying to come back from a near-death experience. And my uncle thinks he's got one foot in the grave. And I'm, like, "Hey, guys! I'm still alive!" You know?

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