Some of you may know, but for others, it may be news. I've been HIV+ for 3 years as of January 26, 2019, and I'll never forget the day I found out.
I had my first day at Apple on January 25. I got a call the next day from Strut. "You need to come in so we can discuss your test results," they told me. I was confused. In the back of my mind, I knew something was wrong--this had never happened before. If there's anything wrong with your STD panel, they just tell you what it was so that you can get treated. They refused to tell me over the phone, and in hindsight, I'm glad they did.
I drove up to San Francisco after work and went in. They sat me down in a cold, sterile examination room, and the counselor said, "There's no easy way to say this. You tested positive for HIV." Time seemed to stop. I sat in stunned silence. Surely there was some mistake? This couldn't happen to me. Sure, I'd just been sick all of January and lost 30 pounds from being sick, but I'd had bad stomach bugs before, yeah?
"Wait, you said HIV? HIV, right?" I stammered. "Are you sure?"
I didn't know what to think or say. I was numb. A moment, a lifetime, passed, and I asked, "So what's next?"
Whatever he said, I didn't hear him, and I don't remember it. I don't even remember the counselor's name. All I remember is his kind eyes. They were bright and empathetic but also discerning, trying to analyze how I'm feeling and how to support me.
The feelings didn't hit me until I left the office and stepped out into the cool night air of Castro Street. It was dark, and I made my way to the wine bar where a romantic partner was waiting.
"I don't want to have this conversation in here, but I just found out I'm HIV+. I'll be outside."
The moment I stepped outside, I broke down sobbing uncontrollably and inconsolably. We walked and talked and wandered through the Castro down to Dolores Park. He had taken care of me while I was sick. He brought me pho broth and Gatorade when it was the only thing I could keep down. He wasn't shaken by the news at all.
"It's okay to be sad, but it's not the end of the world," he told me. He lifted me up at one of my darkest moments and helped me rebuild my life and my confidence in myself.
I ride for him. I ride to support the services that saved my life--Strut and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. I ride so that others who are less fortunate than I can have access to quality healthcare including STD screening, PrEP, and HIV treatment. I ride to raise awareness that being HIV+ is not a disability, and for some of us it is a source of empowerment that gives us the will and courage to change the world. I ride in the hopes that the DL bros who are too afraid to get tested because of the stigma will one day seek out testing, prevention, and treatment to save themselves and others from infection.
Each of us can be a force for positive change. By donating to the AIDS/LifeCycle, you are investing in the community. Your money gives someone a hepatitis vaccination; a bottle of Truvada; a caring hand to comfort them on the worst day of their lives.
Please join me on this journey to zero new infections and zero AIDS-related deaths by giving whatever you can spare.