It was December 19th, 1989. After being celibate for three years, I decided to get tested to give my then boyfriend the nicest Christmas present I could think of. We were decorating our Christmas tree when the phone rang. My boyfriend answered and his words were, “They are calling to give you your HIV test results”.
I grabbed the phone and a cold voice that I will never forget said, – “ Mr. Garmendia your HIV test came back positive”. I became very confused, How could it be possible? After three years of celibacy I was pretty sure I was going to receive a negative result.
My boyfriend hugged me tight and I fell apart. All kinds of thoughts went through my mind. My whole life passed in front of my eyes like a fast forwarded tape. In those days HIV was a death sentence.
I immediately decided that I needed to see a doctor. I lived in Manhattan so I headed to "The Village" and managed to get an appointment with the only doctor that could see me that afternoon. I arrived at his office on time. Very nervous I filled all the necessary papers and my name was called. When I saw the doctor, I told him, “I just tested positive for HIV”. To which he responded, “What do you want me to do about it?” My world really fell apart! I couldn’t believe his answer and I exited the office with tears in my eyes. I have never been so scared in my life!
I have seen countless people die, many families destroyed by the deep anguish that AIDS spread over Manhattan. The lack of support from Ronald Reagan and the effects of a deep depression threw me into a hopeless state of mind. I decided to hide, not because of embarrassment but because, like a wounded animal, I went to the dark cage of guilt, hopelessness and despair.
There I remained until one day, after a gay parade, I ended up sharing a joint with five other guys on the piers. We were sharing personal experiences and I decided to share my HIV status with them.
To my surprise, one by one they all told me they were HIV-positive. That was a healing moment. I wasn’t alone, I realized then where I belonged. There was an HIV community out there that needed my help as much as I needed them.
I became an activist, and my sadness was healed. From then on, I started to grow from my own pain.
It’s been 25 years since that news hit my head like a hammer. With my rudimentary math, I realized that I was infected as early as 1987. Of course, there’s no way to know when exactly I was infected - but it doesn’t matter anymore.
Today I still stand on this Earth, proud and committed to spread a word of hope to everyone that is still in that dark place that I once lived in.
Yes, HIV struck me like a lightning bolt but it also helped me validate the wonders of life, friendship, love, and compassion.
Proudly, I can say with peace in my heart that HIV, made me a better person.
Thank you all for taking the time to read my story. If I can educate one person about HIV, this comment will serve it’s purpose - to break the news that there is life after HIV.
Thjsi artcile was originally posted on PositiveLite.com when Felix was a guest writer, in February 2014.