Oh, Henry. Don't Do It.
I was born in Dominican Republic. I always believed that I had a problem before I picked up the first drug. I always knew that there was something off. That, because of family circumstances and poverty, I was chosen to be messed up.
I found out I was HIV positive in 2017. You know the buses set up in parking lots where you can donate blood? It was that type of thing, a mobile testing site. I saw they were giving away free movie tickets and I wanted one. The testing place called me back and told me to go to a treatment center back in Miami where I was living at the time. They would need to do more blood work. That's how I found out. It was shocking. I thought I was untouchable. I always thought, that’s not going to happen to me. At that point I felt that I was dead. Everything just came down. I was an active drug user and with the diagnosis I just felt like I'm already dead. I have nothing to live for. I'm a walking corpse. I started using even more. When I was using, I wasn't taking any Antiretroviral Therapy. I just thought “what the hell, why take it if it does get you high?”
Eventually I got therapy at a treatment facility, which made me feel better. I got into treatment for the substance abuse. I can tell you, I started to want to live more and more. I started taking better care of myself. I realized my life was changing I was getting older, and it helped me to make a change in my life. I met other people that looked healthy. I thought, you can live with this thing! I had always thought HIV and AIDS were the same thing. You got it. You're done. You know? In treatment, I met people that looked just like you and me, they take care of themselves, they are healthy. I take my meds every day and I have been undetectable for six months. This means I have no risk of spreading HIV to others.
I was born in poverty. I had to walk three miles back and forth, six times in the morning to carry water so my grandma could cook. So we could take showers, and we could drink water. I was only six and seven years old. My dad broke his back to bring us to this country, and this is how I'm repaying him? By being ungrateful. I found out the hard way that I don't deserve anything that I do not work for. And that's what I'm doing now. I'm working for things.