I am from El Salvador. I came here to be reunited with my mother. When I arrived she gave me one hug and one kiss. That was it. I expected more after such a long time. I was eighteen and I hadn’t seen her in thirteen years.

My dream was to go to school, but I never got the chance because I needed to make money. I got a job in construction. For six years I worked long days, with no opportunity for anything else.

When I was twenty-four, I felt a curiosity and started a relationship with a man, someone who was not out about being gay. (It’s complicated.) We broke up. I got depressed and was getting drunk every day. And then, suddenly, in my mind I said, “OK, I have to start again. I want a new life.” So I turned to another guy who was supposed to be a friend. We didn’t use condoms. That turned out to be a bad decision.

One month later I got really really sick with all the symptoms of HIV. I realized I needed to get tested. The person who tested me didn’t counsel me at all. He just said, “You know you’re positive, right?” I cried for three days.

My mother doesn’t know about any of this. I’m scared about her reaction. I still have a lot of problems with her.

The guy I slept with, when I told him I tested positive, he just said, “We all have to die some day.” I said, “OK. Thank you so much.”

I know it doesn’t make sense, but since this all happened, I feel free. I have a lot of friends who have helped me. I feel so strong now.

I always loved to draw, from the time I was seven years old. Now I paint. At La Clinica del Pueblo, where I volunteer, I painted a mural of condoms and funny cartoon characters, with a positive message. I’m happy. I see light in my life now. I take pictures of lights, like the sun. And I feel it is my light. I feel I am alive. I don’t know why, but I feel I can express myself now, how I am.