Easy Does It

I am a 41yo gay man, a very amateur photographer in recovery.

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My Life, Living with HIV and Living Clean in New York City.


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    191 posts tagged AIDS

    The sum of us equals…

    image

    On Sunday, June 29, 2014, I got to March with HIV= in the NYC Pride March.  It was amazing to say the least; I had never Marched before.  I was really nervous for some reason when I arrived at the location where our group would meet; after a few members introduced themselves and I as given a tank-top to wear I quickly became a wallflower; speaking to anyone was difficult so I hid behind my camera or my mobile phone.  Isn’t it amazing how certain technological advances are meant ‘connect’ us really just help us more with isolating?

    A few more introductions and small talk with members and listening to instructions from our group leader didn’t really loosen me up at all; I wanted to run.  Then something happened…

    A man, an older gentleman with white hair, dressed in white and bejeweled with various pins feature rainbow colors.  This Sage asked me directly about HIV=.  I do not work for the organization however, I gave him this answer,  ”…HIV does not discrimination and neither should we…”  By the way, from moment he stepped up to me he had been using his point and shoot digital camera to record video of our conversation.  He was excited from my answer and expressed how he thought what we were doing was wonderful.  He then began to tell me that his best friend had died at the age of 32.  His friend had contracted HIV at 28 years and did not seek treatment; “He let himself go,” is how he explained.  Still pointing his camera directly at me he proceeded to tell me how his lover had also died from complications due to AIDS.  He began cry and his voice cracked and he wasn’t able to finish what he was saying.  I put my hand on his arm to comfort him.  He lowered his camera and began to step back and away.  I thanked him for sharing his story. In that moment I realized that this was not about me.  

    It’s about We.  You and me, You and I, Us.  It would be some hours later that our group would be Marching down Fifth Avenue following that lavender line, and I, with my camera, looking through the lens at so many of us living.  Living with pain, sorrow, heartache, happiness, illness, love, joy, hope.  Living with HIV.  

    This epidemic changed the way we love; it made some of us afraid to love. HIV itself does not tell you who you can love; it does not tell you to hate either; it will not tell you not to build a home or what neighborhood you can live in; it cannot tell you that you are less than or great than the person next to you; it does not know the color of your skin or how much money you have; it does not care about who you love. Society may try to impose some of these limitations on individual groups but HIV is all inclusive. This disease has touched so many lives; regardless of race, creed, religion, profession, gender identity, social standing, sexual preference, or HIV status we are all living with HIV.  

    What do we do?  Stand together, regardless of status.  Fight the stigma; educate our youth and all those who are misinformed about HIV and on how to prevent the spread of the virus; if you don’t know your HIV status, then get tested.  Don’t be afraid to ask a question.  Protect yourself!

    Together with compassion, education, perseverance, tolerance and love the sum of us equals LIFE.  A life where HIV/AIDS has been eradicated.  

    PS: I stopped being so nervous… HIV= leaders are an amazing bunch of men and women trying to bring on change for the lives of those living with HIV… that means All of Us [a global scale].   Through my lens I could so many people living with something and that’s OK… I don’t have to run and they don’t have to run from me.  Thank you Sage for showing me your heart and helping me see that we are all equal.

    HIV equal campaign… Photographed by my friend Thomas Evans

    angelindiskies:

    The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria

    self-portrait

    - Campaign Website »»The Big Push  

    - Read Article and Submit Your Portrait»»Huffington Post 

    http://awny2014.kintera.org/angelindiskies

    angelindiskies:

    The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria

    self-portrait

    - Campaign Website »»The Big Push  

    - Read Article and Submit Your Portrait»»Huffington Post 

    Now, before we begin, you can go ahead and unravel that tight wad your panties have wound themselves into. This blog post is not intended to promote the transmission of HIV, and in no way is it meant to glamorize HIV/AIDS. Is it even possible to glamorize such an abysmal disease? I think not. But I have noticed that when an HIV-positive man takes a public stance without the “woe is me” pretense, that is the general dissent. Glamorizing HIV would be like trying to Photoshop a picture of the Holocaust: No matter how you manipulate it, the ugliness remains. However, I am not HIV itself, and it’s time that people who are HIV-positive stop wearing the face of the virus as if it were their own.

    Sometimes life can deal you a hand that can make you feel like you will never win. Being diagnosed with HIV is just one example. But unlike some other unfavorable traits that we carry in our deck, being HIV-positive can seem like the only card you have to play. READ MORE

    HUFFINGTON POST

    On HASA and You’re a Student?

    Here’s something that your HRA Caseworker probably has not shared with you.   

    Did you know that HRA (aka Dept of Social Services) will reimburse your public transportation costs for each day that you are in attendance?  They may even prorate the amount.  

    Go to your assigned HRA office and ask for form W-700D it’s a 2 page form (front and back or copied on separate pages)  Get your attendance records for the semester, and past semesters.  Make blank copies of the W-700D (you will need to fill this out and submit at the end of every semester (you can also do it once per month) and submitted to your HASA Caseworker or Financial Worker (best to submit it to your Caseworker), and make sure copies are made and that your sign and you are given your proof of services received every time you visit HRA.  

    It could take a month or two but the money will be available through your EBT (SNAP) card.

    Be sure to ask your Caseworker if there are any other allowances for students whether it’s an accredited college, technical training, or trades trades training institution you are entitled to these benefits.  

    You don’t have to be on Public Assistance forever… The fact that you are in school shows that you looking to make a change and you deserve all the assistance you can get!

    Get it!

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    Christian Ledan (aka.Christian V. l’Aviance) is Freely Living Real & True = FLRT

    We identify courageous individuals who authentically share their life stories and are demonstrating what it means to Freely Live Real & True. Freely Living Real & True™ (FLRT) is a developing concept, that when realized, will convey the message of empowerment across the globe. By using a fun yet thought-provoking acronym our goal is to bring people together through the universal desire to freely live one’s life to the fullest, living through truth, and facing life challenges through empowerment.

    Christian Ledan

    My name is Christian Ledan and I live in NYC, NY.

    I learned of my #HIV status through the mail, on a Saturday, alone in my apartment, in Brooklyn, in April 2002. A few months prior I had flu like symptoms that I couldn’t shake and had gone to doctor in January, again in March, both times an HIV test was done with the results coming back negative. Due to being ill, I started thinking about what would happen if I died; who would pay for medical expenses and funeral costs? You know… all those morbid thoughts that one has when they get sick. Well, I decided to get a small life insurance plan that would help cover such costs since I was single and without children. 

    In March of 2002 I met with a financial advisor signed up for retirement plan/life insurance policy. Wrote a check for the deposit and scheduled the appointment for the phlebotomist to come draw blood (a requirement for the life insurance plan). April Fools’ Day of all days was the day. Twenty days later, I received correspondence from the company. In the envelope was a check equal to the amount of my deposit, a letter stating that I was denied the plan, and a copy of the blood work which appeared to indicate that I had HIV antibodies. I had to wait until that Monday to fax the results to doctor. It was confirmed two weeks later. The same week my doctor confirmed the diagnosis I was laid-off from my job. 

    I am what is called a nonprogressor; at the time of my diagnosis it common to suggest to wait before starting any HIV treatment. So that is what I did; waited. My t-Cells were always high and my Viral Load low. Physically, my body was doing a great job controlling the virus. Emotionally, I was torn up inside. I hid my pain very well from friends and family. I moved to Tampa to bring on a change and things started looking up. New home and a new job wasn’t enough. Suddenly I found myself using crystal meth. This became my solution to dealing with the pain. I had done plenty of club drugs for many years back when I dancing every weekend away but this time, with crystal, it was not on the dance floor. It was in my home. 

    My blood work still looked good even after moving back to NYC and progressing to a daily IV user of meth. By now my new doctor was recommending that I start HIV meds, due to the advancements in medicine and less side effects, and I continued to decline. I excuse was that I am allergic to so many things (which is true) and I feared having a deadly reaction to the medication. The truth, I read up on some of the medications and what I truly feared was overdosing because I was active user of crystal meth and other substances. Truly insane thinking!

    Today, I am in recovery. I’ve been clean since 10-24-2010! In the Spring of 2011 I had a talk with my current doctor and, although my numbers are still great, with his help I made the decision to start HIV treatment. He told me it was time to give my body a break and to let the medication do the work for me. I’ve been on Truvada and Isentress since August 2011, I am undetectable and my t-Cells are high. Recovery has helped me feel comfortable in my own skin and there is no shame in being HIV+.

    Tye Fortner has fine, delicate ears, a newly pierced eyebrow, and a trim beard. He’s wearing honey-colored contact lenses and a Jimi Hendrix T-shirt. “I wanted to be presentable,” he explains as a photographer snaps his portrait. “I was going to buy an outfit, but it was so hot.”

    We are standing outside his apartment block in the Fordham area of the Bronx in New York City on a muggy Friday afternoon in June, a few days before Pride. A woman walks by pushing a wheeled cart from which she’s selling Italian ices. “Hey mama!” Fortner calls to her and asks for a scoop of mango and cherry that stains his teeth red. Refreshed, he leads the way up the stairs to the roof of his building, where he takes out a packet of Newports and, perched high above the city, begins to tell his story.

    Fortner was 22 and homeless when he started feeling weak, with crushing stomach pain and terrible headaches. A sex worker from the age of 16, sometimes too high on crack to remember to use protection, he had been putting off the inevitable for weeks before he finally decided to get tested for HIV. The result came back positive.

    “My whole world changed,” Fortner says, recalling the moment six years ago when he received his diagnosis. At first it changed for the worse as he struggled to come to terms with his diagnosis.

    But then, it changed for the better.

    After years of homelessness and a day-to-day existence, Fortner, now 28, was faced with the tantalizing prospect of a place to sleep, regular meals, and more thorough New York City services provided to people who reach a certain stage of the disease. First he would have to meet their diagnosis requirements; then he would receive help.

    “I didn’t know about the services,” he says. “I didn’t know that once you have AIDS you’re entitled to all this other stuff.”

    That silver lining was a surprise to Fortner. And while it might seem counterintuitive, contracting the virus has made life easier for other young homeless men in New York City, who in return for developing full-blown AIDS gain a roof over their heads and basic services.

    This cruel paradox — having to get really sick in order to enjoy a better, more comfortable life — has not gone unnoticed. “I have experienced people [who are] grateful that they have HIV,” says Sage Rivera, a research associate at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who has worked with hundreds of LGBT youth. “It’s sort of like a sigh of relief or an extra boost,” he says. “There are a whole bunch of different names for HIV within the [LGBT] community: ‘the monster,’ ‘the kitty,’ ‘the scratch,’ ‘the gift that keeps on giving.’ So people say, ‘I have the kitty — so now I can get my place. Now I can get hooked up; I can get my food stamps, I can get this, I can get that.’

    “Other people say, ‘I do not know what I would have done without the monster.’ I can think of five boys, automatically, who’ve told me this.”

    And it’s not just those who already have AIDS who view it as a lifeline; some young men who test negative aspire to contract the disease as a way out of trouble. Rivera knows at least one man who planned to have unprotected sex on purpose, an attitude he sums up thus: “My life is not getting better. I need a helping hand, and it seems like the only way I can get a helping hand is by getting sick.”

    For Fortner, the phenomenon of young men deliberately contracting HIV is dispiriting but not surprising. “When you’re on the streets every day — winter, summer, spring, and fall — and you find a way to have an apartment of your own, it looks better,” he says. His own experience is instructive: Once his AIDS was diagnosed, he was astonished at how much easier it was to live in New York City. “Right now the rent for my apartment is $1,150, but because I’m on the program I only pay $217, which leaves me with about $400 a month,” he says. “That’s still a struggle, but I feel gifted, because one way or another I pull through.”

    READ MORE

    pozmagazine:

    POZ STORIES: Savalas Squire

    A Baptist minister uses the church to address the injustices associated with HIV/AIDS.

    "I have committed my ministry and my life to addressing the injustices associated with HIV/AIDS. Being born and raised in North Carolina, I have been a student of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s all of my life. The struggle for justice as it relates to HIV/AIDS has become this generations ‘civil rights’ movement."

    asgardandbeyond:

    giraffepoliceforce:

    altering-cave:

    So I don’t think those free condoms universities hand out suck as much as guys say they do.

    Okay, but seriously. If you’re ever considering sexy times with a guy and he tells you that he can’t wear a condom there is a 100.3% chance that he is a liar, and you should definitely not have sex with him. Don’t have sex with liars. Have sex with a cute honest people that bring you ice cream the next morning. Liars do not bring you ice cream. And if they do it’s ice cream made of lies. Ice cream made of lies is very emotionally unfulfilling. Don’t trust liars or their disease-ridden ice cream.

    that was the best safe-sex talk ever.

    Assume always that you might catch something… protect yourself and by default you’ll be protecting your partner.

    (via lindseyjee)

    #DOMA is history! Let’s make #AIDS history!

    I am $200 away from reaching my Goal!!!

    Please support this cause by making a donation.  Thank you.

    AIDS WALK New York 2013

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