How has your race/ethnicity informed your experience with living with HIV?

Uriel's Answer

My experience living with HIV has informed me through my ethnicity every since I can remember. Growing up as a young Latino gay male who migrated from Mexico at the age of five years old, and being raised by a single mom and grandmother, who are very religious was very tough. I couldn’t identify what I was feeling, the emotions I was going through, I always heard growing up that I had to be a certain way since I’m the oldest male sibling out of four. I had to be overly masculine, sports enjoy the “dirty work” so to speak. I at times would hear the words HIV leave the mouths of people around me when I was younger and heard how bad they felt for the gay community, because they were more at risk to get it. I didn’t fully comprehend the conversations I was hearing  or what it meant to be HIV positive; sex wasn’t a topic that was brought up very much  during my childhood so I went into denial about my feelings and just pushed them away. Because the topic of sex, homosexuality and HIV were so taboo while growing up I wasn’t really given the proper tools for my adult actions so I didn’t really comprehend the adult decisions I was making at the age of 19 when I decided to start having sex and engaging in risky behaviors. I’m not at all placing blame since I have come to understand and make peace with a lot of my upbringing and am now living in the present, everything has taken a different course. I live with my boyfriend Eric and my family has met him and are very supportive of my decisions. I’m accepted and now teach them about my community as a gay male living with HIV whenever I can. Of course mom and grandma have their worries as is natural for every parent but there is more of a respect and communication that has been built. Now I also work at facilitating Mpower VIDA which is a support group for gay, bi or trans identified Latinx Spanish speaking community. Where I share my story, help support them, and give them a space to meet, hang out, and give them workshops on sexual health, and also do HIV testing. It has definitely been  a journey and I can say that I’m extremely grateful with life.

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