February 15, 2013
Positive since 2008
I don't know where to start with these stories. I'm much more than my HIV but I'll tell the story of how it came to be and how I've overcome it and the adversity.
In September 2007 I was gay bashed. It took months to recover and to get back on with my life. (I’m still dealing with long-term effects.) I was in school at the time of the attack. In January 2008 I met someone who I thought was the one. Four months later I found out I was wrong and the break-up was difficult. Due to my attack I lost my job, and my credit dropped. When I reapplied for loans for school, I was denied. Because of the emotional toll I’d been through, I withdrew from school.
It was just too much to deal with at once. I started drinking a lot more at nightclubs and bars. I had a lot of unprotected sex and went into areas of Boston where guys had sex in public places — most of the time they were either extremely drunk or had blacked out. By the end of that summer I was infected with a few STI's. I was really sick from the end of July through the beginning of August 2008. I got tested for HIV but was too scared to get the results. In October 2008, I was dealing with other health related issues and my doctor tested me. The test came back HIV positive.
It took a few months to really sink in. I started doing recreational drugs to the point where I thought there wasn’t any place lower to go. I just didn’t care anymore. I was running on autopilot. Looking back, I still haven't figured out who I was then.
In December 2008 I took a look at my life and thought what the hell am I doing? I’m a 27 year old, HIV positive, single, gay, male college drop out, living in a small room in the city, and working at Starbucks with nothing to show for my life. I realized I needed help.
I started going to ASOs and an HIV positive support group. While talking to the program manager I asked how to get a job in this field and he said, “I just got an email looking for a peer leader and I think you would be great for it.” So he helped me with a resume and cover letter. I interviewed for the position in January 2009 and was hired at Cambridge Cares about AIDS in February 2009. (It later merged with AIDS Action Committee.) I was promoted to senior peer leader and PT case manager.
This past April I accepted a position at Span Inc. as a medical case manager for people living with HIV who are coming out of incarceration. I have spent the last four years of my life living, learning and teaching about HIV. I have spoken on panels, at high schools, colleges and have a YouTube video.
I live my life openly HIV positive. It has its setbacks with dating, relationships and sex. I try to be as open minded with people as I can, teach by example and hopefully change people’s minds and perspectives on what HIV is and how it affects and effects people. I want to do HIV work at a higher level than just case management. I would love to someday be a global voice. That would be my greatest achievement.
What three adjectives best describe you?
Out-going, smart-ass, hypercritical of myself
What is your greatest achievement?
I’m only 31 years old so I hope that I still have more time for my greatest achievement but being the event coordinator for the largest youth pride in 2001 in Boston is one.
What is your greatest regret?
Still being single and not married yet
What keeps you up at night?
Being alone for the rest of my life
If you could change one thing about living with HIV, what would it be?
The stigma and MRSA
What is the best advice you ever received?
To continue to speak from my heart and say what’s on my mind. Others aren’t always able to speak so freely like me.
What person in the HIV/AIDS community do you most admire?
What drives you to do what you do?
I think being a voice for people living with HIV is what drives me. I hear and see to many people who wont speak up or admit their status. It saddens me but it’s understandable.
What is your motto?
Don't be afraid to speak your mind and be yourself. No one can hold you to something that you’re not afraid to admit to.
If you had to evacuate your house immediately, what is the one thing you would grab on the way out?
My stuffed bear Bob
If you could be any animal, what would you be? And why?
A bird. I would love to travel freely, and to see the world.
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Search: Nicholas Paulo, Dorechester, Massachusetts
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