This Positive Life: An Interview with Efrain Carrasquillo
May 1, 2011
Welcome to This Positive Life! We have with us Efrain Carrasquillo. In 1990, like most of society, Efrain, then 25 years old, believed that HIV was not a heterosexual man's issue -- until he tested positive. Because stigma was so staunch, he only disclosed to his immediate family, refused to date and lived in silence about his diagnosis for five years. It wasn't until 1995 that he found the courage to disclose to others. And once he did, his life completely turned around for the better. This Bronx native talks about the importance of having a strong support system; how HIV/AIDS work changed his life; and how his wife and her children have given him the family that he never thought he would have.
Welcome to This Positive Life. I am Kellee Terrell reporting live for TheBody.com and today I have with me Efrain Carrasquillo.
Thank you for taking time out of your schedule to speak with me. So let's get started. Can you describe the moment that you found out that you were positive and when was it?
April 11, 1990. [Sighs] Yeah I still take a deep breath when I remember that date. I was 25 years old and at that point in time in my life, I was really looking forward to having kids. Having a son, to carry on the last name. Or I would have been very happy with a daughter -- don't get me wrong. But unfortunately that was not the case.
In the 90s there was a high level of stigma going around as it related to HIV/AIDS. So, back when I was told by the counselor, the only thing I remember is standing up and was looking up to the sky and saying, "Wow, I can't have kids."
That's all that came into my mind. I mean don't get me wrong, I was numb, like shocked. It was one of the worst days of my life -- I need to say that. I am not going to say that it was easy.
Why did you get tested?
That's a good one. I was with some friends, I wasn't going to get tested, and I was just going to support.
So you were just showing up?
Yep, I was at the right place at the right time. Yes, I will say that. So the counselor mentioned that if you have had sex with men, unprotected sex, get tested. If you have had unprotected sex with women, get tested. And that rang a bell, because I was like, "OK, yeah," because that was usually my experience back then.
Unprotected sex with women?
Unprotected sex with women, yes. So I said, "You know what? What can I lose by getting the HIV test?"
And had you known anyone who was positive at that point?
At that point in time? No. I just say that I truly believe that I was going to come back negative. So I said, "Let me get that paper saying that I am negative." So that was not the case. So in two weeks I went back ...
And this was before rapid testing ...
Before rapid testing, the AZT era. When I went back, they called me in and they told me the results that I was positive. And I had 500 T-cells left.
So you went back to get your results ...
"I was numb, like shocked. It was one of the worst days of my life -- I need to say that. I am not going to say that it was easy."
Yes, and the only thing I remember was standing up out of my chair looking up to the sky saying to myself, "Wow, I can't have kids." It's almost half my life.
So you said that when you got tested, your CD4s were ...
So how long did they think that you had been living with HIV?
I would say that at least at the minimum 3-4 years.
Because I was a late tester. I wouldn't say late-late, but 503 can speak for itself.
And so during those earlier years had you ever thought...had you ever had a symptom? Did you ever feel run down or have the flu?
No, I just got tested.
And so what happened after you got your results?
My life changed.
Tell me what that means.
My life changed. I was living every day, looking to see if I had lost weight. I was ignorant, I didn't know much. The only thing that I had heard was people were dying within 6 months. So I was waiting to die in 6 months. Don't get me wrong, I had stopped eating, I didn't want to wake up. I would look at myself in the mirror; weigh myself, expecting that to be the process of death.
And who did you tell?
You didn't tell anyone?
No and I didn't date either.
This article was provided by TheBody.