I have been living with HIV for 20 years and for a decade now, I have been OUT publicly about my being infected with HIV. My work creating awareness globally has provided for many people, a face living with HIV and has helped to bring hope to people infected that they too can live!
For the past 9 months, I have been a regular contributor of HIV and AIDS articles in Enkidu Magazine, Web Edition http://www.enkidumagazine.com/ in Mexico City, which has published over a dozen of my HIV/AIDS articles and provided a page for all my articles. In April 2004, I received a letter from Dr. Lars Ivar Owesen-Lein Borge General Director/Science Editor and Lic. Agustin Villalpando Sanchez News Editor/Outreach Coordinator-Enkidu Magazine inviting their regular contributors/correspondents from continents all over the world, to attend their 2nd Anniversary of Enkidu Magazine. If I could get to Mexico, Enkidu would very much like to have me attend the anniversary and to have me speak while in Mexico, possibly at one of the outreach festivities held bi-weekly in Mexico City.
Initially, I conveyed my sincere appreciation for the invitation but expressed I would not be able to afford to attend given my limited income. However, an invitation was extended for me to stay with Lars and Agustin so that I would not have the expense of accommodation. Some of my friends who know all I have been doing creating HIV and AIDS awareness encouraged me to go and offered financial assistance. This made the trip possible!
I talked with my doctor to see if he felt I could make the trip and what if anything was necessary? After blood test results showing my immune system was strong, a B12 injection for my neuropathy, extra medications in case I should have any problem with the food or water, he gave me his O.K. I spent several weeks busily working out and putting on some extra body weight and muscle for the trip.
I was also very happy that I did not have to worry about access into Mexico because I am HIV+. This is a problem which plagues many people, forcing them to lie to border guards and stop or hide their medications when entering the United States. I have not been able to submit abstracts for conferences or accept invitations to present or speak at HIV/AIDS events in the United States, simply because I refuse to lie and hide my medications. I am OUT ABOUT HIV and there needs to be access for individuals wanting to enter other countries such as the United States, for reasons which may include receiving specific medical attention, attending conferences or providing HIV education and awareness. I thank and commend the Mexican government for allowing HIV+ people access into your country! All that was recommended was a letter from my physician stating my medications (not necessary to mention what they are for) were crucial to my health. I can’t tell you how good the feeling was to enter Mexico without the fear of ridicule and being turned away. This is the case for those stopped and found out, entering the United States. This is a cause I will work to promote change, not for myself but for the freedom of every person living with HIV!
My sincere thanks to Jose F. Colon and Agustin Villalpando Sanchez for their supportive comments in Jose F. Colon’s recent article in Enkidu Magazine:
“PATRIA OBRA Y SOLIDARIDAD EN EL VIH”
“In addition, we must indicate and denounce the public policy sustained by the United States, regarding its unjust and antihuman immigration laws that do not allow that an activist of the quality of Mr. Bradford McIntyre, correspondent of Enkidu in Canada, to enter the United States of America because he is openly HIV-positive.
According to what Agustin Villalpando Sanchez said: (and I quote as “ad verbatim” as possible): “What moral force does the government of the United States have to speak about freedom and democracy when it criminalizes people simply because they are carrying a disease?” Bradford is saying, in his veracity of heart, that he prefers not to visit that nation if it entails hiding his positive status, a fight that he has undertaken by a decade or more. His ethics and morals do not allow him to fall in this trap. For this reason, we applaud the valor and commitment of our companion Canadian correspondent”.
When I told my friend Larry of my trip to Mexico just two days prior to my leaving, he went to the library and took out a book about Mexico for me to read and learn before I left, of the people, the history, culture, sights and more, in Mexico. The very first sentence inside Insight Guides – Mexico City is: “Mexico City is a city of Miracles”.
I knew I was meant to go!
I flew to Mexico City for 8 days, from June 21st until June 28th 2004. It was a busy time for me in Mexico City, promoting HIV and AIDS awareness through speaking engagements, press conferences and interviews.
On June 22nd, I spoke at an outreach activity at EL TALLER, called LOS MARTES DEL EL TALLER, (Tuesdays of the Factory). The hosts, Augusto Molina, Agustin Villalpando Sanchez, Beto Gonze, Roberto “Ozzy” Fernandez and Gabriel Briceno were members of the group, Grupo de Osos de Mexico (Group of Bears of Mexico). There, I spoke about HIV infection not necessarily being a death sentence but more like that of a chronic illness. I related that there is much a person can do to stay healthy and alive, with or without HIV medications such as: proper nutrition, exercise, vitamins, a positive attitude and support of others! I explained that unprotected sex puts individuals at risk of not only contracting HIV but of being infected with multiple strains of HIV, other STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) and resistance to all the drugs the infected individual has taken.
There is a need for governments to provide health care and medications to everyone infected with HIV and for more efficient testing to halt the current problem with so many who have tested receiving false positives! There also needs to be world standards set for the appropriate timing to start HIV/AIDS treatments. We know that introducing HIV medications can be harmful to healthy people and many who are infected have a strong immune system with none or very little viral load, which means they may be able to forgo treatment at that time! However, throughout the world there still exists today among many in the medical profession, the practice of prescribing HIV meds just because a person has tested positive! It is imperative that all individuals in need of anti-retroviral treatment receive it and equally important that the proper tests be done to establish the need.
On June 24th, I was included along with Mario Arteaga, president of COMAC A.C., Sergio Villarreal, Horacio Franco and Minerva Grijalvo in an informative press conference organized by COMAC and Enkidu Magazine [www.enkidumagazine.com]. This was held to inform the Mexican Press about the XXVI Marcha del Orgullo LGBTT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transvestites and Transgendered) of the City of Mexico and to talk about the goals and objectives of the parade as well as other GLBT issues. Sergio Villarreal read a letter to the press from the gay community, organizations, businesses and individuals with the intention being one where the press would be objective and not just look for the sensational and provocative in the parade. The parade represents the entire diversity of Mexico, which is the motto of the parade. “We are all equal because we are different!” (Somos iguales, porque somos diferentes) We all have our own individuality and we are everywhere; sexual orientation is one aspect of ourselves!
Minerva Grijalvo, a mother and a member of Madres Asertivas Padres Amorosos (MAPA), (Assertive Mothers Loving Parents of Gays) said, “Traditionally in Mexico gays have been marginalized and perceived as a threat to traditional family values. What Mexico needs is an including concept of family!” Horacio Franco spoke about the importance of the parade, coming out of the closet, breaking down the stigma and stopping the discrimination.
I conveyed that individuals living with HIV, gay or not are faced with discrimination. Unfortunately, many who are both gay and HIV+ are afraid to disclose in either case. It is my hope that by talking about being gay and talking about being HIV+ that we can all move away from the fear and discrimination. In April 2004, the Canadian government passed legislation extending hate-crime protection to homosexuals making discrimination based on sexual orientation illegal in Canada. There are GLBT individuals and groups worldwide who are working tirelessly so this can/will be true in every corner of the world. Our efforts do not only affect the rights of the GLBT community but they affect and protect the rights of all individuals.
In the early evening, I was interviewed for an article about my living with HIV for 20 years, to be included in Atracciones para Hombres Magazine and Enkidu Magazine written by correspondent Miguel Alonso Hernandez Victoria.
On June 26th, I took part in the XXVI Marcha Del Orgullo LGBT De La Ciudad De Mexico (the 26th March of GLBT Pride in Mexico City) festivities. Starting at the Angel de la Independencia (Angel of Independence) where from the steps of the monument, I held my sign high (Spanish on one side and English on the other) for all to see.
FUERA SOBRE VIH
VIH Por 20 a?os
OUT ABOUT HIV
HIV+ for 20 years
>From there, the parade began the four-mile route to its final destination in the Zocalo. I knew I was not going to be able to walk the entire four-mile parade route. I was very moved and grateful that I had received an invitation from Minerva Grijalvo and the other members of Madres Asertivas Padres Amorosos (MAPA), (Assertive Mothers Loving Parents of gays) to ride on the first float with them. This allowed me to walk some of the route while other times riding on the float. It was an emotional experience to be included and embraced by everyone on the float and to participate in the parade!
Once in the Zocalo, we were directed onto the stage in front of an estimated 130,000 people, where several mothers of Madres Asertivas Padres Amorosos addressed the crowd. Then, with microphone in hand I said, “Saludos desde Canada” (Greetings from Canada) and talked with the aid of a translator, about creating HIV awareness globally. The loud jubilant cheers that followed will be etched in my mind and heart always! Throughout the day, I walked amongst the massive crowd waving my sign and stopping to talk about HIV and AIDS with hundreds of people. Thousands of photographs were taken!
I was filled completely with great joy and often moved to tears as I watched and listened to the many speeches and exceptional performances on stage. The music and spectacular voices that echoed in the Zocalo, of Pedro Kominic, Eugenia Leon, Regina Orozco and the harmonic notes mastered by Horacio Franco on flute, not only caused the crowds to cheer louder and louder, but caused such a stir in me as to remind me of why I was there! My thoughts were of how I came to be in Mexico City, in the Zocalo and carried my sign proclaiming that I was HIV+ and living with HIV for 20 years. I remembered that time after time in the past I was given death sentences and fought one illness after another! I was amazed at the miracle of it all!
I would not be here if not for all the many people in my life! The years of fear, loss and isolation caused by the stigma attached to HIV and keeping HIV a secret are all gone! They are replaced with the LOVE for life, the will of spirit and the determination of mind to live my Truth! In that, I am free! With this freedom, I recognized that we are all here to LOVE and care for one another. We are all connected! Years of isolation were merely a faint memory while standing in the crowded Zocalo!
For those we loved and lost to AIDS, we will remember the Love we shared! Those of us who remain are even more determined that others do not experience what we endured! Perhaps, the most important judgment is to determine if a person is receiving LOVE or lacking LOVE. If it is lack of LOVE, then give LOVE!
On June 28th, my last day in Mexico City I was a panelist at the Sexualidad Masculina: Nuevas Perspectivas Conference, [http://www.enkidumagazine.com/art/2004/180504/E_036_180504.htm], with Alonso Hernandez, Yuri Herzberg Tovar and Jose F. Colon (from Puerto Rico). What is masculinity? Why is it so important? Questions were raised about the role masculinity plays in our sexual lives. It was very evident that the importance of the role or even pressure one feels to be masculine has a significant impact on how a man is perceived and/or accepted and how he perceives himself. Worldwide cultural influences inhibit people from disclosing their sexuality. From the standpoint of disease transmission, it is imperative that ALL people practice safe sex!
SAFE SEX = DISEASE PREVENTION!
In closing, I would like to thank everyone who made my trip to Mexico possible and I would like to thank everyone in Mexico City for making my time there so very special! I LOVE YOU ALL!
Mexico City IS a city of Miracles!
Whether YOU are affected by or infected with HIV, we must cross those boundaries of fear and discrimination. It is time to join OUR hearts, in the realization that we are all here to LOVE one another!
Love is the way!
I am Positively Positive!
By Bradford McIntyre, HIV+ 20 years