It will be 10 years this August that I became HIV+... I was 19 years old. At the time, because of instilled prejudice, stigma and lack of information, I knew in my heart that I would become a social leper and would be dead before I reached my mid-20s. This, of course, was not true. But, I had to reprogram my psyche and educate myself on what was really going down, because no one else would even mention HIV above a whisper.
The fear of having a conversation about HIV is the true enemy in this affliction...
Believing I only had a few years left to accomplish the lofty dreams that I naively thought would magically come to fruition by pure will, I pushed my way though doors and friendships and burned a few bridges along the way, because -- well -- I wouldn't be around much longer, so who cares!
This slanted view of the world led to a roller-coaster existence that included many unique experiences and memorable stories, but no sustainable success or stability. I had no real need for a life plan... as I was about to die. It was the "live fast, die young, leave a pretty corpse and hope people show up at the funeral for other reasons than to make sure you're dead" mentality.
As I reached age 23, due to a strong immune system, I still required no medications. I dreaded even thinking about medication as I believed the side effects could turn me into a monster... visually speaking of course (there were the antiquated rumors of shells, humps, and lesions). My vanity knoweth no bounds!
Having to face mortality at such a young age caused me to -- fortunately -- become more ambitious in perusing my life goals. Eventually, I realized I might be around for much longer than I had originally considered and began to reevaluate my destructive behavior. This was during my stint as a bohemian vagabond in NYC living out of the '88 Lincoln Limousine I had bought in the Corn Belt, drove to Manhattan and parked it in Chelsea for the eight months, whilst I slept behind the black tinted windows. With dilutions of glamour, I chose the limo so I sleep lying down and, designedly, a hearse would have been a bit too morbid, even though I "saw" death on the horizon.
It wasn't until I met my friend, Mich Lyon, that I began to consider a prolonged future. It was Mich who pulled me out of this sordid spiral and onto the silver screen. Mich is the executive producer of Positive Youth, the story of four young people who are surviving with HIV -- including me. It's a bumpy road, but it is possible in the 21st Century to live, rather than die, with HIV.
It was time to fill the empty void of information and start the conversation about HIV. Producer/Director Charlie David brought these heartfelt stories to light in an uplifting and inspiring way to demonstrate that there is life after diagnosis and to stop the steep rise in the youth infection rate. Positive Youth teaches the HIV novice that fear is no longer a part of the equation when dealing with this affliction. Now is the time to have a generation that's HIV-free!
I urge everyone, positive or negative, straight or gay, to watch this flick! It's now even free and on demand on Hulu.com, so why wait?
It will be 10 years ago this August that I became HIV+, and I'm currently running in a campaign for a four-year term on the Phoenix City Council. Clearly, death is not in my purview any longer.
Hulu Link: http://www.hulu.com/watch/503154
More about Austin Head: http://www.austinhead.com