I grew up in a broken family. My uncle raised me along with my cousin, but it seemed like all the love went to his own child. So I acted out by doing drugs to get attention. At that time, a lot of drug users lived in my neighborhood. When I had problems, there was no one in my family I could talk to. But when I was with my group of friends, I felt important and understood.
Among my friends, I started to create myself as the person I wanted to be. When I was in my teens, I was a bad boy. I tried all kinds of drugs. I always said to myself that it was only once, that I could always quit. But it didn’t turn out to be as easy as that.
The year I turned 19, I encountered a life crisis. My father passed away. I felt devastated. At 20, I entered military service for two years, during which I used a lot of drugs. My new friends at the military base had access to all sorts of drugs. By the time I finished military service, I was fully addicted, had no job, and no money. I was enslaved to drugs. I didn’t care how I got money for drugs. I did anything, from robbing to stealing to picking pockets. I was in and out of prison nine times.
Eventually, I switched from smoking heroin to injecting heroin. I shared needles with others without knowing what a bad idea that was. Heroin was easier to find than needles. Possession of needles was against the law. This situation practically forced drug users to share needles. One needle would be used by seven to eight people.
During this time, I landed in prison again. I began to feel really ill. I didn’t know what had happened. I went to get my blood tested and found out I was HIV-positive. I didn’t even understand what HIV was.
I kept this a secret from my family. Well, no one would have paid attention anyway. None of my family members ever came to visit me when I was in prison. Five years later I felt so ill that I knew I was in a critical stage. Opportunistic ailments attacked my body. So I decided to tell my family. They couldn’t accept my bad news.
I thought of finding some place to go until I would die. I contacted a support group for people living with HIV and AIDS. I told them about my situation, that I needed to find a place to stay. They recommended Alden House, a place for HIV-infected people. There I received the right medicine and got better after two years.
At Alden House, I worked as a caretaker for other HIV-infected people and helped them to get into the healthcare system. Then Alden House had to be closed down. From that time until now, I have had no job. It doesn’t matter if you have HIV or not, money is important for everybody. As long as society puts up a barricade between HIV-infected and non-infected people, and shuts off opportunities for us to work, this will continue to be a problem.
I am a loner, no one from my family wants me. They are disgusted with me because I am still a drug addict receiving Methadone treatment. I speak the truth about my life now so that others in society know about the behaviors that transmit HIV. I try to raise awareness among youth by using my life as an example. Anyone who takes risks like I have has a chance of getting HIV too.
Fear of the healthcare system has caused many HIV- infected people to die needlessly. As long as we open ourselves up and get into the treatment process, no one has to die. I am still alive! As long as I am still breathing, I won’t give up.