September #127 : Back to School - by Nicole Joseph

POZ - Health, Life and HIV
Subscribe to:
POZ magazine
Join POZ: Facebook MySpace Twitter Pinterest
Tumblr Google+ Flickr MySpace
POZ Personals
Sign In / Join

Back to home » Archives » POZ Magazine issues

Table of Contents

Back to School

The Money Pit

Retro Virus


Old School

“C” Ya In Bed

Kick in the Butt

Dear Dairy

Magnum PIs: Protease inhibitor bulletin

Code Blueberry

The Porn Identity

Bye George!

Good, Dirty Fun

Deposit Slip

Blood Sport

United We Fall

U.S. Steal

A Capitol Punishment?

The Mourning Show


Hurts So Good

Editor’s Letter-Septmeber 2006

Mailbox-September 2006

Catch of the Month-September 2006

Most Popular Lessons

The HIV Life Cycle


Herpes Simplex Virus

Syphilis & Neurosyphilis

Treatments for Opportunistic Infections (OIs)

What is AIDS & HIV?

Hepatitis & HIV

email print

September 2006

Back to School

by Nicole Joseph

You don’t have to give up dreams of higher education because of HIV. Veteran Ricky Rivera gives Randy Piovarchy a refresher course in financial and emotional aid

Randy: When I was diagnosed with HIV, I was 19, and I’d just finished cosmetology school. I had decided that wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life, and I wanted to get a different degree, but I didn’t want to spend what I thought would be the few years I had left sitting in a classroom. I spent them instead as a customer service representative just for the money and health insurance.

Ricky: I understand how you’re feeling—I went to cosmetology school too! I dropped out after I was diagnosed, in 1988, because the doctor told me I had only six months to live. I thought, “If I’m going to die, I might as well just relax and drink.” I went back to the doctor a few months later, and he said I might have two more years. This went on and on, and I started to realize that I might survive a long time. Five years ago, I returned to beauty school.

Randy: That’s great. About five years after my diagnosis, I realized I’d survive too. So I decided to enter a nursing program, something I had long considered. But returning to school is hard. Keeping up with tuition is so difficult, especially with doctor and treatment bills. I hunted for scholarships for HIV positive students but found nothing. How did you do it?  

Ricky: By law, if you’re HIV positive, you have a terminal illness, and you can get financial help from the government. I used VESID [Vocational and Educational Services for Individuals With Disabilities], which helps students in New York with disabilities; you can find information about every state at They even helped with subway expenses.

Randy: OK, so you figured out the finances, but what about the fatigue? I need to work while I’m in school, but I don’t see how I can keep going. Upper-level courses are so intense, and I’m afraid I’ll completely exhaust myself.

Ricky: That was an issue for me too. But I was determined to get my cosmetology license. HIV had stolen so much of my life. When I needed to take off to rest, I would take off. Ask your doc for advice. You’re going to have to push yourself, but once you get your degree, it will be so liberating because you’ll be prepared for the next
chapter of your life.

Randy: What about regrets? I wish I had realized earlier that my life was not going to end so soon. During the first five years I was positive, I worked, but I could have done so much more with my life. There are so many things that I wanted to do. Wasting that time was my biggest mistake.

Ricky: Maybe it wasn’t a mistake. Maybe you needed the time to heal. You took five years; I took 12. I needed all of that time to be angry and to come to terms with my diagnosis. It’s not easy to return to school—the other students were in their early twenties, and I was in my thirties. But it doesn’t matter what age you are; you can start life anytime. You get to learn a brand-new lesson, and the other students get to learn from you. I’m with you that HIV steals our lives—but look at us—we’re proof that you can get back on track.   

Interested in becoming a mentor? Looking for advice? Visit to sign up.  

[Go to top]

Facebook Twitter Google+ MySpace YouTube Tumblr Flickr Instagram
Quick Links
Current Issue

HIV Testing
Safer Sex
Find a Date
Newly Diagnosed
HIV 101
Disclosing Your Status
Starting Treatment
Help Paying for Meds
Search for the Cure
POZ Stories
POZ Opinion
POZ Exclusives
Read the Blogs
Visit the Forums
Job Listings
Events Calendar
POZ on Twitter

Ask POZ Pharmacist

Talk to Us
Did you participate in an event for National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day 2016?


more surveys
Contact Us
We welcome your comments!
[ about Smart + Strong | about POZ | POZ advisory board | partner links | advertising policy | advertise/contact us | site map]
© 2016 Smart + Strong. All Rights Reserved. Terms of use and Your privacy.
Smart + Strong® is a registered trademark of CDM Publishing, LLC.