On a cold winter day in Manchester, England, I met Patrick Ettenes, an HIV activist and writer for Out Northwest. What really made me want to meet him was his statement on the phone that "HIV is the best thing that ever happened to me!"
When I went on Project Runway, I didn't really plan on getting into the subject of my HIV status. But when I revealed my HIV status, a weight was lifted off my shoulders. It turned out to be one of the most important conversations I had ever had. It changed my life.
For the successful gay 20-something, the threat of HIV can almost seem outdated, a scary memory that our community is lucky to forget. This dangerous fallacy is what led me to get gobsmacked with a dose of reality during my routine, "socially responsible" STD test.
Our collective mentality when it comes to treating the epidemic in older adults is a pre-1983 one. We are in the dark in too many ways, working without the basic information and data we need to address this population. Thus, the need for new research, education and outreach is critical.
Recently I wrote a blog about how HIV prevention should move beyond handing people condoms. My story wasn't that straightforward, and as I reveal how I became infected with HIV, hopefully you'll see my reasoning.
Instead of throwing a condom in a young gay black man's hand, first look at what his world looks like. What are his life circumstances? What societal barriers prevent him from getting the message on HIV? Does he feel that he has any worth?
I have a tale to tell. Although I am not singular, there are not many of us left who went all the way to AIDS and came back whole. I am an AIDS elder. I hold my story and the story of a generation who lived and died in an unprecedented era of plague.
I am not ashamed of my HIV-positive status, and I don't hide the fact that I have HIV, but I have never taken the time to write my personal viewpoint, mostly due to fear: fear of the response from the ignorant, or from people who are just hateful.
How shall we live, knowing the time of youthful athletic prowess is brief, knowing, as HIV/AIDS reminds us, that life is fragile, precious and short? For me, in my life, with my time, I choose not to be a victim.
Loneliness can devour a soul left alone for too long. So, when Robert's case worker called him with an invitation for a Christmas party, he was anxious and started to feel alive again. "Maybe, just maybe," Robert thought, "someone will save me."
It's sick and twisted that I feel I'm supposed to be "grateful" that I qualify for an insurance program intended for poor people. It's bizarre that having HIV allows me to get my medications free while millions of other Americans have to choose between their medications and, say, food.
My diploma symbolizes the fact that no matter what obstacles I may face, once I stop blocking my own success, I can do it. Despite the fact that I've been living with HIV for 25-plus years, I now have something I thought I'd never have: an unlimited world waiting for me.
Is the glass half-empty or half-full? I subscribe to the answer my colleague Sally Fisher formulated: "Both!" Life is both full and empty. When we are only in the empty part, we are suffering; when we are only in the full part, we are in denial.
When I tested positive in the spring of 2005, it felt like the end of the world. HIV was this boogieman that I had been taught to hate and fear since before I really understood how sex worked, and suddenly this monster was inside me.
It is important for me to tell those who are newly diagnosed to understand, having HIV does not mean your life is over. You have a lot to live for, and I am an example of what happens when one doesn't give up.
I talk with Ji Wallace, the 2000 Olympic silver medalist in trampoline from Australia. After coming out publicly as gay in 2005, Ji came out again last year as HIV-positive. In this episode Ji talks about running the L.A. marathon, online dating sites and speaking up for people with HIV/AIDS.