All Grown Up With HIV
by Cristina González
David Goode, 24, Brooklyn, Behaviorally Infected
On his own since the age of 13 and still trying to make sense of his diagnosis and when and how to seek treatment, David is slowly carving out his life. While working part-time jobs and making ends meet with the help of government housing programs, he is taking it one day at a time.
I got HIV when I was 19 through unprotected sex with someone I met on the A train. Crazy, right? I was single and having fun and struck up a conversation. It happens. Except this time, for me, it was different.
Fast forward a few months later. I’m sick, I’ve lost 40 pounds, I’m hospitalized. The doctor took one look at me and tested me. I got a call from the doctor while I was at work. I was positive.
In that moment, that second, I became the hateful stereotype my family always believed. When I had run away [six years earlier] I thought I was going to prove my family wrong, show them my life was going to be OK. And now…I’ve let myself down. I’m ashamed and guilty.
I came out when I was 13. Thirteen. My first time had been at the age of 11, with a classmate. A boy. Two years later, after I came out, my Christian family excommunicated me. I’ve been on my own ever since.
Until I was 17, sex was the way to survive. I jumped around from friends to friends eventually attaching myself to a man 10 years older than me. I hung out with heroin addicts, I had unprotected sex, I engaged in prostitution.
During that time, I had no support to keep me safe—except the LGBT Center. I started volunteering and getting tested every six months. [But I was still having sex,] and the sex wasn’t always so safe. I just depended on someone else to have a condom. And they usually didn’t.
I’m not on treatment, and I haven’t seen a doctor. To think I have full access to treatment, a single gay male, and other people can’t. A mother with children in Zimbabwe can’t. I feel guilty.
Some days I feel like a leper, an untouchable. I feel different. People are out of touch with people who have HIV because positive people don’t stand up, they have no voice. And the government and prevention programs, they instill fear instead of spreading awareness.
If I had met someone my age who was also positive, it might have changed things a little bit. I might have played it safe, protected myself. It would have been more real to me. Now I know, this is real. We’re getting it, it’s still around. So we have to protect ourselves and others. Respect yourself and others. Don’t be that person who gave it to you.
Everyone probably knows someone who is HIV positive, and it would help us if [positive people were more open about their status]. That way when senators or someone had to decide on cutting back on funding, they would know someone it would hurt. [If more people were open about their status,] it would help with the stigma—it wouldn’t be someone dirty from the street they don’t know; it would be their brother or sister or neighbor.
We can end stigma, and we can end AIDS. We have to stand up at once.
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Search: Philadelphia, Brooklyn, New York, Indianapolis, National Survey of Family Growth, abstinence, sex education, Perinatally Infected, iChoose2live, LGBT, Red Cross
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