Malcolm X once said, "I do not pretend to be a divine man, but I believe in divine power, divine guidance, and fulfillment of the divine prophesying. I am not well educated, nor am I an expert in any particular field - but I am sincere, and my sincerity is my credential. "
I was an injecting drug user in the beginning and middle of the 1980 decade, and I believe I get HIV somewhere, in time, between 1983 or 1984. I'm sure I've been HIV-positive for at least 30 for years, but I have not been diagnosed until 1991, and I've been stuck ever since.
At 1984, I was sentenced to 10 years for various car thefts. I was five years in prison. During this period, I became a very frustrated person in the course of my life and finally I submitted to God. I knew it was meant for better things. In high school I did the course honestly and consistently, but I valued the streets more than education and then I gave up. I decided to join the army, but once there, I was too young to adapt and really preferred the streets, so I was dismissed. Somehow I got to college, where I stayed two semesters and could not, or did not want to continue. In fact I never completed anything in my life and I was sick; and tired of going to jail from time to time.
One day, while I was in prison, I prayed for the grace of meeting a woman.
I met a beautiful young Christian woman. She made me feel complete, and after I was released from prison, we were married. Everything seemed fine for the first two years, until my wife became pregnant, and when she was eight months old, I became ill. I went to the doctor and he discovered some white patches on my larynx. He then did a thorough check up and diagnosed that I was HIV positive. My CD4 cell count was very low and they told me that I should have contracted the virus a long time ago. They gave me a prognosis of three to five years of life. I was devastated.
I needed to talk about it. That is, how I would deal with difficulties in my life. I never cared much about others' opinions, not while I lived alone, so I ended up suppressing my secret and it drove me crazy, and I started drinking and using drugs again. I took a gun for the first time in my life with the intention of using it illegally. I lost my job and started stealing. When I finally woke up from my stupor I was arrested again.
In prison, I hid my serostatus. Then I was very embarrassed, and I would not let anyone get into my "second life in secret". How did I have a "gay disease"? This has kept me from taking the medication for years. AZT and DDI were the only ones on the market at that time, and were easily recognizable. I felt I had to hide, even if it cost me my life.
At 1997, my CD4 count was below 100 and my viral load was stopped by the millions. What I thought was a scratch on my left eye turned out to be something much more serious, something that I did not know until all the right side of my body had become paralyzed. I was rushed to the hospital and they told me that I needed to take the medications right away or I would die; These were my concerns from then on ...
I remember going to church one morning in New Jersey State Prison (then known as Trenton State Prison) and there was a gay guy, Mike, who gave his testimony about being HIV positive. She did not know him, but she felt something for him. I knew that his testimony was like an appeal to acceptance; this would lead him to ostracism for much of the church. Yes, even the people of God would stigmatize people living with HIV, even if the disease affects all segments of society. At that time, most churches simply ignored HIV and, with these ideologies, plagued our communities.
We were two "gorillas no one wanted to talk to."
There were in the prison a group of about 20 men who were about to be baptized, Mike and I were among them. I still had not revealed my status to anyone. Mike sitting next to me, told me that all the guys had asked to be baptized before them because he was HIV positive. I looked at him and said, "Do not worry. You can go before me. "His face brightened at that moment; I gave him an unspoken acceptance. I really wanted to share my status with him and to tell him that I admired him for his courage, for the courage that led him to give this testimony, but I did not do it. It was a few months later that I finally revealed to Mike that I was HIV positive; now we've been close friends ever since.
There was an occasion when I was transferred to East Jersey Prison (the then prison known as Rahway State Prison), where I continued my masquerade. I seemed to have gotten better, although I was still not taking my medications regularly. I was singing in the choir and watching all the offices of the church; was a Christian of Christianity.
About two years after my transfer to East Jersey, Mike was transferred there, too. Once again he gave his testimony and I embraced him. I did not forget that he had been my confidant and encouragement. Although we stood on opposite sides of the prison, rumors arose about how close we seemed to it to circulate among the Christian population. They simply could not understand that fact; someone to be "friend of an HIV positive".
I was lifting weight every day on the patio and it seemed to be the "picture of health"; however, Mike was a skinny, gay and HIV positive guy, and yet we were still good friends.
The rumors grew so much that I was led to put myself some distance between myself and Mike or spread my HIV status. It was an easy decision for me; scary, but easy. Mike was like my little brother and would never turn his back on him. My chaplain, Rev. Rufus McClendon, who was more than a father to us, gave me the freedom to give my testimony as much as I needed. He had no idea that I was HIV positive, but felt that I had something important to share.
I shared my story of drug abuse, and how I ended up being diagnosed with HIV and my eventual fall, and my extreme disappointment at the rumors, revolving around the church, especially from people who had known me for years.
Should not we, as Christians, be more loving? I also made a point of recognizing Mike, who had been a pillar of strength, a confidant and one of great value to me. I'm sure everyone knew that he was not just my friend but my brother and that it would never change.
By the time I was baptized, there was a dry eye in the church. As Christians, we are all called by God to a life of superior exemplification; however, sometimes we fall short of His calling. But the church seems to be doing much better these days.
Thank you Rev. McClendon for allowing me to go to the pulpit to share my story on 1999. I also thank the Congregation in East Jersey for holding me and encouraging me to be strong in the Lord and to start taking care of myself. And I especially thank my brother Mike, my friend forever.
Although I am still trapped, my treatment has evolved and my health has also improved. My CD4 counts are above 500 and my viral load is undetectable since 2004. Taking your medications regularly and learning to accept your diagnosis are the keys to that!
It has little to do with miracles or money, although some blessings are involved. The word of God says that he causes the sun to shine upon the righteous and the unrighteous. It is not a Christian thing; is called grace, the undeserved favor of God.
In 2003 and 2004, I was trained by the Jacinto Foundation in the HIV / AIDS Pathogenesis. I was also trained as a counselor, a counselor, and a group facilitator for various organizations. I love being able to give the most needy a little of my living as an HIV carrier and thereby facilitate the absorption of the terrible initial impact that the person receives when he gets the HIV positive diagnosis. He gave me purpose in my life, something I had never had before. The most rewarding experience I had was to be trained as a palliative care volunteer. Being able to share the life experience, honesty and acceptance of finitude of life with individuals who knew that their time and, like everyone's, limited time has been a great blessing to me. But my greatest gift was salvation.
Even in prison, in the midst of all kinds of chaos, education can help you get away from the stigma that unfortunately is still associated with HIV. On the other hand, I can also help them become people who feel comfortable with themselves. It is difficult for people to overcome their fear of us, people living with HIV or AIDS, especially when we are afraid of accepting ourselves. It was difficult for the boy in me to learn how to become a man and face the reality of being HIV positive.
But thanks to brave people like Mike and loving as Rev. Mc Clendon, I can finally say that I have finished something in my life. Acceptance is positive.
Editor's Note: I have never been a convict and, as far as I can see, I did not commit any crime before the Law of Men, and yet I am confessing before the Law of God. I destroyed the ability to feel affection of countless women just for the pleasure of possessing them for one night and nothing more. By the way, I have destroyed homes, dismantled families, and God knows when it hurts in me to have this knowledge. Generally knowledge is a blessing and, in my case, would not be different, because it is thanks to him that I maintain this site and this is the only way I found of by "hands on" and move on; not without pity, not without remorse.
But if it is true that a small virtue covers a multitude of sins, I want to believe that in another ten or fifteen years, if God allows me to live so long, there is a possibility, though remote, that leaves the earth in a state of legitimacy tranquility