This will be my 26th year participating in AIDS Walk New York. This year I'm walking with the CandyWrappers Team!
I was diagnosed with HIV in 1988 & AIDS in 1995. At that time I went to a few ASOs (AIDS service organizations) to find information, services, and other people like myself. These agencies included GMHC and Body Positive (now run by ACRIA , among others. My wonderfully supportive family, friends, and doctors, along with these incredible organizations literally saved my life. AIDS Walk New York raises money for the above mentioned organizations and many others in the New York area.
I’ve dedicated my life to helping give a voice to the community. In 2005 I decided to leave my graphic design career and go back to school full-time to pursue my social work degree. I am now in private practice and see lots of gay men living with HIV individually and in groups. I disclose my positive status to them so they don’t feel so alone, even though our life paths may be different. I've found stigma, fear, and disclosure, are still huge issues for people. People are still scared to tell their family members about their HIV status; still terrified to tell people they may be interested in dating.
There have been great strides in medication and prevention recently! There is an approved medication called PrEP (Truvada) - a daily medication people can take to prevent HIV infection, much like The Pill prevents pregnancy. When people know their HIV status, and if they are living with HIV, they can take their medication and get their viral load to undetectable levels. While they are not cured, they become virtually non-infectious. This is called “treatment as prevention” or TasP. Additionally, U=U (Undetectable = Untransmitable) goes along with that, a person living with HIV who achieves an undetectable viral load cannot transmit HIV to anyone else. So it is extremely important to know your status. That being said, HIV is still spreading worldwide - "an estimated 1.8 million individuals worldwide became newly infected with HIV in 2017 – about 5,000 new infections per day." I work to get the word out about PrEP, TasP, and U=U and support those living with HIV, as does GMHC.
If you have any questions at all about HIV, prevention, a new diagnosis, or about what it’s like being a long-term survivor, or anything about me or my journey, please feel free to ask. There are no stupid or silly questions.