Through Positive Eyes

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Artur Rio de JaneiroArtur

People think we are aliens, animals, beasts, as if we could infect them just by walking down the street. It is prejudice, of course. This makes me stop and think, ‘Shall I do this all on my own?’ And yes, I do.

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My name is Artur. I live in Rio de Janeiro, in the borough of Penha. I am 22 years old.

I was diagnosed when I was 19. I went to a local health centre to have an anonymous test done. I was sick, throwing up. When I passed by the place where everyone else had their HIV tests done, I felt something, some sort of warning, a fear and an apprehension. Eventually I gathered the courage to go. I made up a story and got my results straightaway.

My reaction at the moment I found out my HIV diagnosis was that of utter despair. The first thing that went through my head was that my life was over; it was the end of it all. I thought I was condemned, outcast, bound to die.

In the beginning I was being treated for psychological reasons. I tried to commit suicide. I cut myself, and I wanted to die. It was a side of me I had not known before. I was hearing voices, thinking about death, having hallucinations.

But the storm passed, I pulled through. Through the years I regained my self-esteem and I am stronger now. And no one can tell.

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I was referred to the nearest local health centre. But I did not want to have the treatment done near my house, though there is a specialist sector for HIV patients there. People would be suspicious. People who know me would see me. So as to not run the risk of being seen by people I know, I started the treatment elsewhere, in another city.

At first when I saw how weak people could get, I thought I would end up the same way. But soon I realised that by taking the medication at the right time and eating well I would be okay. I started to study and read, evaluate the origins of the disease, its consequences, the side effects and what the best possible treatment is. Consequently I sought the treatment.

Nowadays, it’s all good. No one can tell. My appointments are scheduled every three months. My doctor has temporarily suspended the treatment due to the low level of my viral load; it’s all good. Of course I get down from time to time. There is an uneasiness inside. I cannot say I have a normal life, and that is because of the medication, its dosage. For example, during the carnival I can’t just go and hang out, have fun, party for days on end. That is the difference.

Life is calm and quiet, restricted. I have learned a new life, a life with struggle, but with hope of believing in a new dawn. I have learned to live in the moment, but always with caution.

Through my participation in this project I learned about myself, all that surrounds me, all that makes up a society, everything. The photographs show how I live, my day-to-day. I have enjoyed taking part in this very much. I share my core in these photographs; each image reflects a part of my life. I took pictures during the day and at night, when I was happy and when I was down. I have documented all the facets of my life.

Why live in secrecy? Because there is prejudice. There are people who do not understand this. I am okay this way, living like this, doing my treatment. I share my experiences with people who are also HIV-positive, but not with my family. I live with my grandparents and with my mother. They know my sexual inclination, but that’s it. They accept it, although my grandfather is a bit sexist. I get my treatment done, I keep the tests in a safe place, and my medication is kept in my wardrobe. I am man enough to go through this on my own. I do not make a fuss about it.

Sometimes I have little mishaps and get sick. But I do it all on my own. I go by myself to the hospital, and no one has to know about it. People think we are aliens, animals, beasts, as if we could infect them just by walking down the street. It is prejudice, of course. This makes me stop and think, “Shall I do this all on my own?” And yes, I do.

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