Needless to say, until now I haven't been able to write about the sudden death of Luis López-Detrés. I am hurting, grieving and reflecting deeply. I have never had a relationship with another human being like the one I had with Luis. It was a privilege, at moments a challenge, a joy, a brotherhood and, above all, it was unconditional love and friendship. The real thing. Please, bear with me; I do not know how much or how little my writing will be.
I met Luis when we were in college at the University of Puerto Rico in 1986. When we met, we had no idea of the journey we were taking together. What at the beginning seemed to be an ordinary encounter was transformed into an extraordinary friendship. When we met, we were dating other people and, due to one of life's "Je ne sais quoi," those two guys were partners themselves, and neither one of them knew what was going on with Luis and me, nor did Luis and I, meaning that neither Luis nor I knew about the "other guy" and vice versa. These two guys know who they are, and I hope they are smiling, as I am, if they are reading this note. When Luis and I found out we were in "the middle" of the storm, we joined forces and became an unstoppable hurricane. Big drama, puertorrican style; it was also part of the foundation of our relationship.
His major was theater and mine was Hispanic studies. He was a dancer, a singer, an actor and a fun-loving boy. I was a musician, a poet, an aspiring writer and a fun-loving boy. It was an instant connection of life and sensibilities, love and passions. We shared our devotion to the arts, and we were both deeply in love with life. Luis was smart; critical thinking was his trade and he was beautiful. Even with all that beauty, intelligence and sensibility, Luis was humble, generous, caring and down to earth. He had purpose and was always searching for the meaning of life and acting on it. He was my kind of man. Very few people in this world have all those qualities.
The same year I met Luis, I tested HIV positive. I had disclosed to couple of friends and some of them turned their backs. Because of those negative reactions, I struggled with disclosure. We are talking about San Juan, Puerto Rico, in 1986 at 21 years old. Luis showed his true colors when I disclosed to him.
There was no second-guessing in his reaction toward me, not even a micro-second of it. He immediately said, "It doesn't matter, I love you, and we need to get you strong." He took me to the gym because it was good for the immune system and taught me to work out. He started to supervise my eating habits, my vitamin intake, and he made sure I did not have to work harder than necessary. He had a crumbling car that we named Walter in honor of "Walter Mercado." I had a ride everywhere I had to go; he did not want me to get fatigued. He continued to love me. He did not run away. He did not know his status. He made that first year less hard and extraordinarily loving. Life continued. In 1988, I moved to New York for graduate school and he stayed for one more year to finish his BA. The separation was very difficult, but Luis was pragmatic; therefore, friendship was going to be the path.
Two years later, he moved to NYC with an HIV-positive result. I had dropped out of school and was involved in ACT UP. I referred him to my doctor and clinic at the Community Health Center at 13th Street and brought him to an ACT-UP meeting. He became a member of the Latino caucus. We continued our friendship. In 1993, I moved to Washington, D.C. to work at the National Minority AIDS Council (NMAC). Until then, I was the editor of the SIDA Ahora magazine by the People With AIDS Coalition, and I recommended Luis for the job. He took over the magazine and made it blossom. He continued his work on HIV until these days with love, dedication and commitment. Luis was also a perfectionist, and until the day he died, he loved his job and made a difference in the life of many as the coordinator of clinical trials and the community advisory board of the CCTU at Cornell University.
When I returned to NYC in 1998, our friendship picked up again. By this time, we were benefiting from combination therapy -- still involved with the community but wanting to catch up with life and fun. At that time, we had created the puertorrican activists and fun loving boys Chelsea club or what we will refer to as "Las hermanitas." We danced and partied at The Sound Factory, The Roxy, Splash, The Pyramid, Wonder Bar, Limelight, Body and Soul and more. We loved music, and music loved us. We loved the boys, and they loved us. We traveled together; we had fun together; we embraced life to the fullest.
Yes, there were consequences, challenges and bumpy rides, but none of it broke the inner connection of our spirits; to the contrary, Luis and I bonded so strongly. We were real, transparent, caring, loving; we watched out for each other and took care of each other. No matter how difficult or challenging some situations were, we verbally promised each other non-judgmental, unconditional love and brotherhood. And, even though Luis has physically left us, his energy and strong will is still looking after me. Luis has become my surroundings; he is in the energy that protects me. He is in my emotional and human DNA, and there is no separation but transformation. I love you Luis! Keep watching my back. I feel you.
Moisés Agosto-Rosario is a longtime treatment advocate and educator for people living with HIV. He has played a crucial role in ensuring that communities of color have equal access to care, treatment and lifesaving information and has won numerous awards for his work with the HIV community. He is currently the director of treatment for NMAC, formerly known as the National Minority AIDS Council.
This article has been adapted with permission from his Facebook page.