POZ Stories : Anthony Raiola

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October 18, 2013

Anthony Raiola

Anthony Raiola
Anthony Raiola
Staten Island, New York
Positive since 1996

From 1996-2000, I was in denial about my HIV status. I was smoking crack and shooting crystal meth and just wanted to get high and higher because if I was going to die, I wanted to die happy and high.  Happy and high was my frame of mind at the time.

Four years later, I was still alive and healthy, so to speak. I decided to get help for my addiction and get educated about HIV/AIDS. I am happy and proud to say that I have been clean from the drugs for 13 years.

I became an HIV/AIDS outreach worker, educator, presentation specialist and test counselor. I have also been a member of New York City’s HIV/AIDS Planning Council and on its advisory group. I am an HIV/AIDS advocate and a human and civil rights advocate. I have found my passion and know now that HIV is not a death sentence, but a change of life. I spread the word that "WE CAN LIVE" and live a very happy, productive life. 

Before I was diagnosed with HIV, I was addicted to crack for 12 years and lost everything: my job, my partner of eight years, my home, but mostly myself. At the time, I wasn’t addicted to crystal meth but easily could have been. I am better now with thanks to many, but mostly I wanted a better life and surrendered to a higher power. Jesus showed me the way and I chose to get the truth. I will persevere in this fight to educate and fight for the rights of people living with HIV/AIDS and all people who are treated unjustly.

I have never been more content and happy than I am now. I am 49 years old and have had HIV living with me for 17 years. I am now in control of it. It has no control over me. I am the landlord—HIV is just a tenant.

I went back to college and earned a degree, which landed me job as a case manager focusing on HIV/AIDS. I help people find housing and provide education and counseling and have assisted many in getting their lives back from a life of hopelessness.

I started working with the special education community for the New York City Board of Education when I was 22 years old so you could say education has been in my blood for many years. As the years have passed, and after my sordid life experience, I have seen much injustice and that is why I started my journey towards human and civil rights for all. I am lobbying, educating and counseling others and I’m not going anywhere. People who know me and the work that I do, know they can call on me for assistance at any time.

What three adjectives best describe you?
Friendly, outgoing, humble

What is your greatest achievement?
Educating and assisting others

What is your greatest regret?
Being unemployed but I volunteer whenever needed

What keeps you up at night?

If you could change one thing about living with HIV, what would it be?
Medications with no side effects at all

What is the best advice you ever received?
Keep it real with a positive attitude

What person in the HIV/AIDS community do you most admire?
Everyone working in the field to make a better and brighter future

What is your motto?
"Knowing is living”

If you had to evacuate your house immediately, what is the one thing you would grab on the way out?
I have a to-go bag ready. I live on Staten Island and after Hurricane Sandy hit, my bag was immediately packed.

If you could be any animal, what would you be? And why?
A tiger, because I am ferocious and I don't back down to a challenge

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