When I was a kid, and the AIDS epidemic was constantly in the news, I always just assumed it was happening to other people. I didn’t know anyone who had it, and according to my family, it happened to people who were living an unhealthy lifestyle. It couldn’t happen to me.
Flash forward to 2012. As a young professional in my 20s, living in Los Angeles, leading an ordinary life, I didn’t really fit those stereotypes my upbringing had me believing about people with HIV. I practiced safe sex, didn’t do drugs, and got tested regularly.
Professional and personal reasons were forcing me to make the difficult decision to leave my job at Apple. I chose to leave, as it was the best decision at the time. A week before leaving my job, I went to the doctor for a routine physical. My health insurance was spectacular, and I didn’t know if I would have those kinds of healthcare options for a while. My doctor called and she asked if I could come in to discuss my results. I told her that whatever needed to be discussed she could say to me over the phone. She went over every aspect of my labs and told me that everything came back normal...except that I had tested positive for HIV. I asked her if she was sure, she replied yes. I asked if it was possible she was mistaken, she said unlikely. I politely thanked her for the information, and told her I would come by the next day to pick up the results.
I have always handled stressful situations well, but It took every bit of strength I had to go about my day. I acted as if it was no big deal like she said I tested positive for the common cold... but in my mind, everything went fuzzy. An intrepid future I had planned suddenly seemed farfetched and unobtainable. I was so careful, so responsible. “How could this happen,” I thought, and how could it be happening on the eve of what was supposed to be the beginning of my new life?
A few weeks had gone by, and I was frantically trying to find another job. I was unemployed, facing HIV with no insurance, and while I kept calm on the outside, inside I was scared. I recalled a Facebook acquaintance of mine posting about raising money for AIDS/LifeCycle. I messaged him, told him my story, and asked if he could help me figure out what to do next. It seems so strange to me looking back. I wasn’t the kind of guy who would reach out to a stranger for help and expose myself. I guess I just desperately wanted someone to give me all of the answers. He invited me to meet up with him and talk. In our first conversation, he made me feel normal again for the first time in weeks. He told me about the LA Gay & Lesbian center, and how they could help me with medical assistance while I looked for work. He talked to me like I was a regular person and made me feel like I was going to be ok.
A month or so later I began treatment at the Jeffrey Goodman Special Care Clinic where I was able to receive medical care and medication and within a short time, the virus was undetectable, and by all medical standards, I was healthy. My fuzzy vision of the future was starting to clear up. I saw that my life didn’t have to stop or slow down.
Inspired by the good will of my friend and the generosity of the LA Gay & Lesbian Center, this year, and for many more years to come, I will ride in the AIDS/LifeCycle to support the fight to end AIDS. Without the support I received, I am not sure I would be where I am now. The Center gave me hope. It gave me back my future.
This summer, from June 1st through the 7th, I'm biking in the AIDS/LifeCycle. It's a 7-day, 545-mile bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles to make a difference in the lives of people living with HIV and AIDS.
If you can, please help me support AIDS/LifeCycle by donating to my ride. There are plenty of options to donate, so don't feel like just because you can't donate $100, your $5, $10, $20 donation isn't enough. There are payment options that allow you to stretch your donation out ten months if right now isn't a good time, but you want to donate more. Please know that anything helps and is much appreciated.
Thank you for helping me in the fight to end HIV/AIDS.