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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 if someone just came to you, a friend, and said that they've just found out they had HIV, what would you tell them?

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Anthony Castro: Educate yourself. I would give them some places where they can go to learn more, Web sites. I mean, one of my best friends, it happened to him not too long ago. And he came to me because obviously I'm very open about my status. I don't lie. I mean, "Hi. My name is --" It's not on a business card: "Hi. Anthony. HIV." But I disclose my status to people. And they know that I know about HIV. I mean, I've been through a lot of stuff.

So, to my best friend, when he told me, "I have HIV," I said, "Well, these things. You know, this is what could happen to you. You need to learn about what a viral load is, what a T-cell count is." And he's been doing fabulous. The other day, he took me to his first appointment with a doctor in San Francisco -- he moved to San Francisco. And the doctor was so surprised that he has everything just like I told him to do it, a file with his latest counts and, "I'm allergic to this," and "This is my T-cell count. This is my viral load."

"It's good to feel that I'm passing on my knowledge to somebody that's going to do exactly the same to somebody else, that's going to do the same to somebody else."

-- Anthony Castro

It's good to feel that I'm passing on my knowledge to somebody that's going to do exactly the same to somebody else that's going to do the same to somebody else.

Bonnie Goldman: Do you think it's a big problem for people who are Spanish-speaking in San Francisco? Do you think that they're afraid to access treatment or access services?

Anthony Castro: Yeah. The thing is, like, Hispanic people -- first of all, they have a problem with being gay. And second, they have a bigger problem with being gay and HIV positive.

Bonnie Goldman: Is that the machismo?

Anthony Castro: Yeah. Machismo. I mean, as long as you are at the top, in a Latin Community it's OK. That's the problem with many, many Hispanic people. And even more, a problem to go to anyplace that they do HIV testing, or they do support groups for people with HIV. Many Latin people, they don't want to go there. They don't want to be identified with HIV, or standing there with the gay community.

Frank Lopez: Some people go so far as to, even after they find out their HIV status, they know that the help is available, but because of the machismo, they will not go. They don't want to be seen anywhere near it. And a lot of that has to do with the cultural background. A lot of it has to do with the religious background.

Everyone has their religious beliefs, and I respect that. But I think that the Church has a responsibility to humanity. Not to endorse what we do, that's our issue with whatever, or whomever or however many we believe in. But I think that the Church has a responsibility to humanity to say, "If you're going to sin, then use protection."

Bonnie Goldman: But don't you think that the religious authorities have a problem giving advice about protecting yourself while you're sinning?

Frank Lopez: Well, it's not up to us to judge. It's like they say: "Love the sinner, not the sin." OK, fine. Well, if you really love the sinner, love them enough to educate them. Use a condom. I believe strongly that if religious institutions would at least say that much, then it would go a long way towards reducing infection.

Bonnie Goldman: And what's the biggest lesson you've learned from being HIV positive? Or from going through these last 10 years that were so hard?

Anthony Castro: Never to give up; never to give up.

Bonnie Goldman: Are you planning to get married? Or is that a very serious subject? Sorry to bring it up.

"Disclosure is something that's different for everyone. And there is no right or wrong answer. There is no right or wrong time to disclose. For me, I disclose up front. And it's my shield to protect me. I don't handle rejection really well. Therefore, if you're going to reject me, reject me now that I barely know you and I really won't care."

-- Frank Lopez

Frank Lopez: No. What's love got to do with that? You know, it could happen. It could.

Anthony Castro: We don't know who's going to be wearing the dress yet.

Frank Lopez: Yeah, right.

Bonnie Goldman: You know, that brings me to this question. I know you guys think that a sense of humor is very, very important to surviving with HIV. What do you have, joke sessions?

Frank Lopez: I have a crude sense of humor. You know, it just depends on the mood. He's the one that wakes up with the pom poms; and he's jumping -- "Rah, rah, sis-boom-bah!" He has a way of taking a negative and turning it into a positive, or joking about something. And he just makes me laugh. You know?

Bonnie Goldman: And how out about being HIV positive are you?

Frank Lopez: You know, disclosure is something that's different for everyone. And there is no right or wrong answer. There is no right or wrong time to disclose. For me, I disclose up front. And it's my shield to protect me. I don't handle rejection really well. Therefore, if you're going to reject me, reject me now that I barely know you and I really won't care.

And for me to say I'm going to take six months, a year, five, 10, 15 years, out of my life and invest them in somebody, you'd better believe I'm going to want something in return. And from Anthony, what I get is joy, laughter, happiness, security, health. And he keeps me on the straight and narrow, sometimes.

Bonnie Goldman: And with that, this interview will come to a close. Thank you so much for talking with me and sharing your story with the world.

This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

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This article was provided by TheBody.com.
 
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