It might sound crazy, but at different points in the epidemic's lifetime, people were also proud of having HIV. Many people were proud to say, openly, that they have HIV, and that they were no less human because of it. Yes, that was a source of pride.
Brazilians participated in plenty of demonstrations to ensure they would get free treatment from the Brazilian National Health System (SUS), until in 1996, a health reform ensured universal access to free health care. This was a source of pride.
I am alive, I am an artist, I am gay, and I am HIV positive. I am who I am, and I enjoy every day of my life. This is a reason to be proud. Yes, it is.
The cast of Boa Sorte, a musical that captures the dynamics of living with HIV. (Photo courtesy: Daniel Fama)
More than 30 years have passed since the world witnessed the first cases of AIDS, in Los Angeles.
For 30 years, social movements and health researchers struggled to secure life and dignity for those affected by the dreaded AIDS virus.
"In the absence of fear, we can cultivate love and dialogue in order to achieve healthy, pleasant and respectful sexual expression."
Today, we live in a new reality. A pill a day, instead of the toxic cocktail that made people infected by the virus suffer severe side effects, without a guarantee that they would survive.
Patients diagnosed early can immediately get started on treatment and never develop Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome.
We have come a long way. The scary face of AIDS is gone-- we have recovered our dignity. But we often find ourselves in hiding, due to discrimination at work, among our families, in our romantic relationships...
In addition, we've noticed that young people don't look at AIDS the same way. Young people are not afraid-- but we have failed to use that in our favor.
"Do you know someone living with HIV? Have you had a relationship with someone living with HIV? Have you ever dumped someone with HIV?"
In the absence of fear, we can cultivate love and dialogue in order to achieve healthy, pleasant and respectful sexual expression.
We must change the discourse and celebrate our achievements-- as we did when we first isolated the virus, found a drug to tackle it, or decided in favor of antiretroviral therapy.
Thirty years have passed. So many discoveries. And prejudice still reigns.
Do you know someone living with HIV? Have you had a relationship with someone living with HIV? Have you ever dumped someone with HIV?
Maybe you have...The truth is that this is hardly the subject of a conversation, except in tabloid journalism, which often publishes offensive stories, with pejorative terms that still haunt us every now and then, even in 2015.
I have been living with HIV for five years. And I am proud of it.
I am not proud of having had unprotected sex, and taking that kind of risk.
I am not proud of being like everybody else. Nobody should be proud of that. Yes, like everybody else. Because we all run this risk, don't we?
If you've never had unprotected sex in your life, please share this article and it will certainly reach someone who has. Maybe my piece will be effective in that way.
"I am proud because after my diagnosis, I gathered the strength to live and to do good."
The truth is we, Brazilians, are not used to wearing condoms. A quick Google search shows that.
Why then am I proud of being HIV positive?
I am proud because I am lucky.
I am very lucky.
I have the "Boa Sorte" (Good Luck) project.
It is a project I am working on with my boyfriend Gabriel Martins, where we discuss HIV in the most current and responsible ways possible. We conduct research, we give lectures and workshops, and we are preparing a photo essay and a musical.
Our project has grown very fast, with support from UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS.
And there is a lot more to come.
I am proud because after my diagnosis, I gathered the strength to live and to do good.
Today, this is my life. I talk about HIV. I decided to become the boy with HIV. And I am proud of it.
In a month, I will start telling my story through the musical "Boa Sorte" ("Good Luck"), using Brazilian songs that deal with life's frailty and the human condition. In the musical, I try to convey to the audience the whirlwind of emotions and thoughts that hit me when I heard the word "reagent."
For now, the play will only be performed in Brasilia. A lot of hard work has gone into it, unfortunately, with little support. Nevertheless, I am working with incredible professionals, and we believe that our crowdfunding campaign will make sure it's realized. People will help.
There are people who are engaged and interested in the cause, people that care and who boost the dialogue on HIV.
Men and women, gay and straight people, white and black people, people from different backgrounds-- we are all susceptible to the virus, so we should all care. All of us.
Maybe you're not there yet. Maybe you have not begun to understand how painful it is to live with HIV, how difficult it is to live in hiding, in fear...
Maybe one day, we will all be proud to say: I openly talk about HIV.
You can learn more about the project here.
This post first appeared on HuffPost Brazil and was translated into English.