I met Brian at an HIV support group I used to attend. After the meeting we shared some conversation which led to complete laughter and comedy about the group, which led us to hang out more.
It wasn't long before I invited him to go out on a photo safari and through the magic of photography we've become pretty close. However the friendship is not like any other friendship I share with my other friends. Brian is gay and HIV positive and my close circle of friends is straight and HIV negative. Our friendship is unique and comes with plenty of challenges, but as is the case with anything worth keeping in my life, Brian is both special and dear to me. I thought it would be very cool to interview him so he could share a small part of his awesome story with my readers.
Kengi: What's up Brian? Thanks so much agreeing to this interview.
Brian: Thank you for asking me. I'm very excited about it.
Kengi: So, you've been living with HIV for 12 years and sober for 3 years, but things have not always been as they are now. You've had to fight many things to get where you are today. Tell our readers just a little about that.
Brian: Yes, that is true, but to be honest I lived in denial of my HIV for ten years or more. I've been able to break the cycle of denial as a result of being clean and sober for three years.
Kengi: Now when you were diagnosed with HIV, you were also diagnosed with diabetes as well, right?
Brian: Yes, that is true. Currently I'm taking oral medications and by changing my diet as well as getting proper exercise, I hope to one day stop taking these oral medications.
Kengi: I recall you saying that for a while you hid behind your diabetes diagnosis and HIV was something you would take with you to your grave. Why was that?
Brian: The day I was diagnosed I decided right then and there that I would never tell anyone .I was not going to be associated in any way with HIV.That would be the ultimate secret that I take to my grave. Diabetes was my disease and I would use it to explain any illness or other conditions.
Kengi: How much does your sobriety play a role in your HIV diagnoses?
Brian: It plays a huge role. If I wasn't for my sobriety I'm pretty sure I'd still be in denial about HIV, I wouldn't be taking care of my overall health. and I'd still be engaging in risky unprotected sexual behavior.
Kengi: How hard is it to live each day clean and sober?
Brian:The hardest thing for me is to make sure my daily life is structured around my sobriety. If not I can quickly slip back into my alcoholic, addict selfish and self centered behavior
Kengi: Has it been hard to establish new healthy friendships and release any secrets you've kept?
Brian: Yes, it's hard and establishing new healthy friendships is still a work in progress on my part. As for my secrets, that too is something I must work on daily. Right now I'm a work in progress, my biggest concern is, no longer living in the shame of my secrets.
Kengi: Recently you shared with me that you disclosed to your father. Was that as hard as you thought it would be?
Brian: You know Kengi, disclosing to my father, surprisingly, wasn't hard at all. It was something I wanted to do in my own time and on my own terms, but to be honest all the fear of it was all in my head.
Kengi: You once told me that you're learning the truth about yourself and it isn't so bad. What does that mean?
Brian: I was referring to some personal issues I'm working through in therapy and that everything I beleived about myself isn't all bad. The day I mentioned this was one of the best days I've had so far in therapy.
Kengi: After all that you've been through, you've decided to be part of a film called Breaking the Silence. What has being part of this film meant to you?
Brian: First of all, I'm honored to be a part of this film. For me this film has meant that I get to break my own silence about living in denial, shame, fear and stigma about my HIV diagnoses, sharing all that I've been through openly and out loud. This film has also opened my eyes to the tremendous lack of access to services of minorities, predominatel, the African American communities. Most of all it's allowed me to be heard in my own voice and in my own words.
Kengi: You've also become a shutterbug?
Brian: Yes, I have. I've been exploring all aspects of picture taking including subscribing to photography magazines and going on photo safaris with my friends. I was part of my first art show for World AIDS Day and looking forward to the ENUF Art Show in June for National HIV Awareness Month. It's been a very relaxing and stress-releasing hobby for me. I'm enjoying it very much.
Kengi: Brian, thanks for taking the time to do this interview and share a small part of your amazing story us.
Brian: Thank you for asking Kengi. It was my pleasure.
My circle of friends is pretty eclectic, representing very diverse backgrounds and life experiences. Brian is no exception to this. Although our friendship presents challenges, there is something about him that tells me to stay the course. There's this shine in his eyes that comes through every now and then and the trace of joy and fulfillment that shines bright when he's able to let his guard down and relax. At the end of the day, he truly is a work in progress and I am honored to be able to see the transformation taking place right before my eyes.