Dear HIV

Por: Jorge Diaz, MSW Clinical Social Worker

Fifteen years ago you arrived to my life and destroyed everything. Somewhere in my journey as a gay man, I learned that my identity was a “sin” and becoming HIV was the “gay mistake.” There I was:  Gay, Latino and HIV positive -that destroyed my sense of self-worth. I don’t know if it was my lack of life experience or the fact that I was young and naïve-but your arrival destroyed the respect and pride I had as a gay man. Prior to your arrival, I was “normal” and insignificant. For years I blamed my partner for allowing you into our lives. I tried forgiving him, but was unsuccessful. Through my journey, I realized that forgiveness needed to begin with myself. I needed to process the feelings of shame and begin to forgive myself for my own actions. But when pain and hate stemming from betrayal are the only emotions you feel at that moment, I was unable to view things through a healthier lens. I experienced depression, anger and loneliness. I felt tired and defeated. Although there were millions of people impacted by you, I felt alone. At one point I thought I would never love or trust again. I have realized that indeed I am not able to love and trust the same again. The love I had for that partner and our relationship was a unique experience. That’s the beauty of love-it’s a unique experience that we share with one or multiple people in our lifetime. Through my journey of healing, I realized that my partner did indeed love me but made unhealthy choices that resulted in two lives being changed forever.

Dear HIV, where do I begin to thank you for all you have given me. At one point you were the worst thing that ever came into my life. Ironically, you defined and gave me a platform to be who I am today. You created a leader and hero in me. I am no longer another Latino gay male impacted by you. You allowed for the name Jorge Diaz and leader to be place side by side. Isn’t it ironic how you can feel like the biggest mistake and now view yourself as a leader? The reality is that we give ourselves our identity but we allow others to destroy or enhance it.

It may seem easy to express myself about my HIV this way; however, it’s been my journey and experience. I understand that the opportunities given to me have not been available for others. I understand that the success and triumphs of my story may differ from others. However, what I do know that many of us share is the emotional rollercoaster HIV entails: shame, guilt and loneliness. However,  HIV is part of us and we must accept and embrace it as part of our identity.