My name is Leotino, I live in the neighborhood of Tomate Coelho. I am HIV-positive, I am gay and I live in a community where I am taking a big risk if they discover that I am HIV-positive.
I was born in the city of Cuiabá, Mato Grosso, in the central western region of Brazil, bordering Bolivia. I have lived in Rio for 8 years. I came to Rio to grow as a gay man, to come out as a gay man, because with my family I couldn’t do this. I came to Rio to get a better job and to get ahead in life.
I found out about my HIV status in September of last year. It is difficult to live with HIV within a community, facing discrimination and prejudice. We are already stigmatized for being homosexual; being HIV-positive is still something completely different. To be gay is to discover oneself, it is to be what we want to be. It is permanent, a fixed thing. Whereas being HIV-positive is a fact, it’s a malleable thing.
I really believe in scientific evolution. I believe that one day there will be a cure. I live with HIV, but I hope for a cure, a complete cure, a scientific cure. I think one day there will be a definitive cure for AIDS.
I am a member of ABIA working on events promotion. ABIA has things like body workshops as well as events for interaction and integration between people. They show gay films every Friday, and there are outings to cultural centers. There is a fulfillment in this coming together, of reading and leisure—this interaction completes me. HIV-positive people need information, need to interact, need to develop, and ABIA gave me the process, the structure that I really needed.
I am self-taught, I have no academic study or extra-curricular study. I really read for the sake of reading. I became interested in two specific areas, socio-biology and linguistic programming. These two subjects made me see other things beyond HIV. Neuro-linguistics covers several themes, like self-esteem, and the search for excellence. All the things that I learned in neuro-linguistics allowed me to move forward with the issue of the HIV, to see it with different eyes.
In the photo of the penis I wanted to show life, a life that comes out and blooms. This life overcomes HIV. From the moment when life is renewed, you have, practically, secretly, the cure for this virus. It’s really this magic that exists in a sperm, because by itself it is nothing, but when it fertilizes an egg, you have life. Then you need someone else, and this reciprocal needing of one another gives us momentum. We are each other’s mirror; we are other people’s reflections. This is what I wanted to convey with the photo of the sperm.
This photography project was a unique experience. It made a connection with HIV, being HIV-positive, and taking real photographs of my real life. It gave me a different view of the world.
I dream of finding a partner who can understand me, who can give me a foundation—be it intellectual or financial. Someone who can see me through different eyes, not with disdain. I am a vulnerable person, and this vulnerability is what led me to contract this virus. It’s really this thing of not being vulnerable, of having a partner who is out, getting married, someone to share opinions, share perspectives. This will allow me to live more.
Our true treasure is within ourselves, and this introspection that I have in my life brings me a certain balance between being HIV-positive and being gay. I want to pass on to every HIV-positive person in the world that he should explore all the internal resources that exist within him, because the true solution of physical healing and emotional healing lies within oneself. I don’t know whether I will catch an opportunistic disease; I have not had one yet. But if I do I will handle it through looking for my personal power. This is why I didn’t see an obstacle when I saw the HIV virus shining on my face, in my thoughts, in my actions. It was all temporary.
I am 28 years old and I’m still going to see the cure for HIV. This allows me to go on living, because if I didn’t have this point of view it would be impossible to keep going right now. This allows me to live—looking ahead to scientific evolution that could bring the cure to HIV. That’s how I’m here.