My name is Marcos Moreira, and I live in Vigario Geral, in the outskirts of Rio. I am 41 years old. I have been HIV-positive for 7 years.
I probably caught the virus when I turned tricks on the street. Today I work there, trying to help gay boys who prostitute themselves not to become positive, to use prevention, to have a better quality of life and health.
In the beginning it was very hard, because I didn’t know anything. I didn’t have any support. I discovered things on my own. After I found out about my HIV status and I started accepting myself in the best way I could, things changed. The biggest prejudice can be inside ourselves, and when you start to understand this, things get better. If you can’t resolve this, you’re never going to be ok with anyone or with anything else. Today the most important thing is the quality of life I have, not the virus. The virus is only one more detail in my life.
I got here and I’m nothing. I am a common person like everyone else. But I was able to transform into a superhero and survive. If I am able to, anyone can.
I started in the gay scene as a rent boy. My father was a preacher, and my whole family is Christian. I never had to tell my family about my homosexuality, but I never had to hide it either. They accepted it in a completely normal way. But I did not accept my own homosexuality. I started going out with this friend who was a rent boy and I started doing it too. I did it for less than a year, because I knew that was not me, it was only a way to hide my homosexuality. Since I was paid for it, in my mind I was going out with other men for the money. It is very likely that I got infected during this period.
After a year, I stopped doing it because my mind got clearer. I understood I did not do it for the money, I did it because I enjoyed it.
I got tested for HIV in a private laboratory, and I didn’t receive any kind of support from them. They literally do the tests and hand it over to you. The rest is up to you. I did not know any organization dealing with HIV/AIDS, so, I had to take it from there. In the beginning it was complicated, but I knew I had two options: to understand HIV better, or to kill myself—which would be easier. I chose to try to understand it.
AIDS became more evident when famous people, rich people, died from it. It was an artists’ illness, singers and so on. These were people better off financially and consequently had more access to information. They had power. They could question the situation and demand that the government do something. Eventually AIDS became common to the point where, nowadays, people believe it to be a chronic illness.
On one hand, Cazuza’s attitude was good because he made HIV more evident by showing that something should be done regarding medication. He could afford to get the medication from abroad, he made it visible to the government that something had to be done to make medication viable to everyone. On the other he was a bad example, because as a person he was a pain, he was very complicated. If he could have had his way, he would have killed himself straight away. He did not die earlier because his parents went after everything for him. He himself was addicted to drugs, a mad man who did not give a damn about anything, especially prevention.
The government and the NGO’s have launched quite a few campaigns, but even within the organization I work for, I personally question the issue regarding prevention. I really believe in the work we do, but we’ve come to a point where protection has been trivialised. It is not only about handing out condoms, we must rethink the whole approach. There are people who pick up condoms but do not know how to use them. I have given workshops in big corporations where, at the end, we ask someone to volunteer to put a condom on a rubber penis. You find that there are well-educated people who make the silliest mistakes, tearing it the wrong way, putting it on without getting rid of the air. And there are particular groups of people who need to be focused on, like housewives who cannot negotiate the use of condoms with their partners, or young people who still do not use protection for various reasons.
There is still a lot of prejudice against the so-called promiscuous. I have abolished this word from my vocabulary—I believe in vulnerability instead. There are vulnerable people who have sex more often than others, but still, they are not doing anything wrong. I know of people who have sex less often, but when they do, they do not use protection. I don’t have hang ups about anything—to me everything is fine as long as it is done properly. Within the NGOs dealing with AIDS, some people are a bit apprehensive about me, for being gay and for having an open mind.
I found Through Positive Eyes to be extremely interesting. It can be useful for positive prevention, to show people living with HIV that they can have a better life, a normal life like anyone else. But in relation to the prevention of the general public, I think it will hardly reach those people. As for the stigma issue, even less so.
I took my pictures for this project in the street, because that is where I started, in the late ‘80s. It was common at the time for young men to go out in the street to sell their bodies. That was about the same time when people starting talking about AIDS, but very little. There were no prevention programs, nobody handing out condoms. People were not informed about it at all. The first condoms available you had to buy yourself and they were not cheap at all. I saw many friends die. From the thirty or so boys who worked the streets with me, there must be about five still alive today.
Strength is inside everyone. Every day I have a different struggle to win: the medication I have to take, the side-effects, and most of all the prejudice, the stigma. Even after all this time it’s still here and we have to life with it. We can all do it. I am able to overcome adversity everyday because I believe that I’m a hero, and that anyone could be one. It depends on us, really.