KC: My purpose is to spread awareness and not HIV! The more people I can reach, the better. Hopefully, through time, patience and daily dedication, I will change the stigma with HIV. That way others in the future will not have to live in shame or guilt because of their HIV diagnosis.
Sugar Pie: As of now, you’re just providing a forum for HIV infected individuals, do you plan on taking your project to a higher level?
KC: I definitely would like to! I know that the challenge to change the stigma with HIV is a great challenge to accomplish, But I’m dedicated and prepared mentally for the challenge! Once I feel that the stigma is changing or changed, I definitely want to take the awareness higher. I’m not sure exactly what that entails, but I know I have dreams and visions of having great people of power speak about my cause. As cheesy as it may sound, I’ve had thoughts about Oprah speaking about HIV and my cause to change the stigma.
Sugar Pie: How long have you been infected?
KC: I found out in August of 2003. According to my 'numbers' at that time, the doctor said I was probably infected a couple years prior (2001). Based on that, I have an idea of who infected me due to unprotected sex.
KC: Now this is a tough question! J There are so many aspects that have been difficult over the years. I would have to say overall, the main difficulties are: mental clarity, emotional stress, staying healthy, relationships/love, the fear of death and judgment from others. Relationships can be difficult for HIV negative individuals, so being HIV positive, makes it even more difficult due to the fact that the stigma causes instant judgment of HIV positive people. Therefore, it’s not easy to ‘find’ someone to be on the same level as you, unless they’re HIV positive as well. Through my experience, I’ve come to the conclusion it’s easier to date someone HIV positive, since they know what you are going through and can relate to your ups and downs with the disease.
The fear of death, I know are instant with a diagnosis. When I found out I was HIV positive, for months I would think ‘How long will I live? Will I die of AIDS? When will I get really sick? Will I live past 10 years? I won’t see my nephews grow up and graduate and/or get married?’ All these questions that kept running through my mind daily. Over time, I had to tell myself, ‘we never know when we are going to die’ , whether it be from AIDS, a car accident, any unfortunate event, or any other disease. But no matter how many times I tell myself that, every time I feel like I’m getting sick or I get a cold, the thoughts set in of ‘what’s going to happen? Will I get better?’ . . .I had double pneumonia in 2005 with 14 T-cells (T-cells being our immune system to fight off infections/disease; average person should have at least 500 or more ), generally people with AIDS, frequently die from pneuomia. At least that is always what we would hear growing up and after having that ‘near-death’ experience, I’ve tried hard to focus on my health. Thankfully I made it through, quite quickly, and started HIV medication a month after being out of the hospital. My immune system was damaged due to the double pneumonia, but my virus has been undetected because of the medication.
Sugar Pie: What gave you the courage to speak so openly about being positive?
KC: Gosh it was really hard, but the past few years, I’ve thought about it greatly. Do I want to share this with everyone? How can I make a difference? I’ve always been someone to try and help others. Being HIV positive, has kinda made me not stay focused on ‘ME’ . . . Trying to balance all the ‘difficulties’ I listed above, make it such a challenge that I felt all over the place my entire life of living with HIV. I had a dear friend of mine die of AIDS in November of last year. He went for so long of repressing his HIV status, that he ended up really sick and had numerous infections that nothing was able to get him better. I had so much sadness when he died, It took so long to cope with his death, especially the fact that we were so close, and both were HIV positive. We were friends since we were 16, so to see him leave this earth, in such a horrible way, made me want to say Fuck it!! I’m going to share my story, without regards to judgments or opinions. I’m going to inspire others, to open up, to not repress their HIV status. . .Then thinking about it so much, I tried to find why is HIV the way it is? Why is it 30 years into this epidemic, and people are still being infected daily by the thousands? I realized , it is the stigma attached to HIV, that has people living in fear and sadness and causing them to ‘repress’ and close up, which leads to a life of self-destruction and misery. It’s easy to go down that road, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
Sugar Pie: Do you find that starting your forum and being so open about being positive has helped a lot of people?
KC: I do!! It has been amazing and wonderful! You already know, I’m a positive person, no pun intended, lol . . . but seriously, it has helped from what I know, just because I’ve received so many messages from people I know, and people I don’t know about their HIV status, and/or questions. It definitely has created more awareness. I’ve had some that don’t agree with me being ‘open’ , but we all have opinions and or ‘judgments’ , I know I’m doing the right thing, so I will continue doing what I’m doing regardless if people think otherwise.
Sugar Pie: On average how many people have opened up to you about being positive or about wanting to be tested?
KC: Over the past few months, I would say at least 100, roughly. I know that doesn't seem like a lot, in the big picture of things, but I think if even 1 person has opened up, it's all good!
Sugar Pie: What should people take and learn from your experience?
KC: I would like people to take and learn from my experience, the gift of inspiration. I didn’t realize how much impact my true sharing, would make on others. I would want them to know , they can make a difference for another human being by sharing their story, their experiences. I would want them to not be scared, to not be fearful. I would want them to inspire others as well. Whether they are HIV positive or negative.
Sugar Pie: Name a few HIV/AIDS organizations out there that you are inspired by?
K.C: www.facebook.com/myhiv lol j/k . . I know that isn’t an organization, yet!
I am inspired by many HIV organizations, and a few of them are:
The AIDS walk organization, Let’s stop the stigma campaign, POZ magazine, AIDS healthcare foundation, The Ryan White foundation, AIDS Life Cycle Organization.
Any Organization/Foundation/Cause, that supports HIV awareness and causing change in the epidemic, get kudos in my book!