Positive since 1991
I am a 23-year-old survivor of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and a gay, southern resident of a small town in mid-Tennessee. My life has been a remarkable journey. When I went public with my positive status on World AIDS Day in 1994, it placed me in the spotlight in my small town. Many people thought I was crazy to admit I was gay, much less that I had contracted HIV.
Since then, I have spent the years being a voice not only for myself, but also for those who could or would not make such an announcement, for fear of being rejected, ridiculed, judged and, yes, even hated. I honestly wasn’t concerned about what others might say or do to me; rather I worried about the backlash my family might have to deal with. They still live in the small town I grew up in. Luckily, to my knowledge, there has been no backlash against them. For myself, it’s been a bit different as there have been occasional comments or actions toward me. But, I live freely not hiding myself or HIV/AIDS.
I am about to enter my 51st year of life and I know I am a blessed man. Blessed that I can be me, blessed that I have a loving partner and blessed with fairly good health. I have been a witness to the changes in treatments, the slow changing acceptance of those like myself who live and speak openly as a gay man, and as an HIV/AIDS survivor.
None of us are promised tomorrow, but living with HIV/AIDS allows me the opportunity to enjoy the gift of life, despite some of my health setbacks over the past year. I have hope for a better and brighter tomorrow and wait for the time when a cure has been found.
What three adjectives best describe you?
Strong, Caring, Optimistic
What is your greatest achievement?
Living my life
What is your greatest regret?
That I trusted the person who infected me, and that I did not protect myself.
What keeps you up at night?
If you could change one thing about living with HIV, what would it be?
I would still be working, rather than being “stuck” in the system.
What is the best advice you ever received?
Always have hope
What person in the HIV/AIDS community do you most admire?
My health care team at Comprehensive Care Center in Vanderbilt
What drives you to do what you do?
The urge to bring about change
What is your motto?
Kill them with kindness!
If you had to evacuate your house immediately, what is the one thing you would grab on the way out?
The dog, Sue Ellen
If you could be any animal, what would you be? And why?
A dog, of course!
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