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Don’t Hold Anything Back

Stories Of Promise

I found out I was HIV positive when I went to a clinic in the area in early 2000. My best friend and I decided to go get tested. I found out then that I was positive.

I didn't feel any different after I got tested and I still didn't feel any different after they gave me the results. It didn't hit me right away. And I kept the fact that I was positive with HIV a secret, because I didn't want anybody to look at me different. I never expected or thought I would contract HIV. I thought that I was invincible. There was a lot of fear and shame because growing up Christian I was taught; guys are not supposed to be with guys and girls are not supposed to be with girls. So, I just kept everything, my status and my sexuality a secret. I just kept living my life, like nothing happened, which was careless. I've kept journals since I was a little kid. I wrote in my journal, but that was it. The only “person” I really told that I was HIV positive was my journal.

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Why Are You Afraid?

Stories Of Promise

I am a product of the eighties. How I didn't get HIV during that time, I am not sure. Not that it's anything to be ashamed of, but back then people were, sadly, dying like crazy from the virus. A lot of my friends would go to New York City and come back and find out they were HIV positive. By the grace of God, I was able to avoid that. I remember years ago, where you would go for an HIV blood test and two weeks later you would have to come back for the results. There were no rapid result tests. They would sit you in a room alone and the nurse would come and say “hi, how are you?" Even if you were not HIV positive, you would have to go back to the testing center, and you would be a nervous wreck waiting for the result.

I went down Andrews Avenue in Wilton Manors the other day, I always drive by the Broward House clinic located there. This particular day, I saw a sign that said free HIV/STD testing. I had been thinking about getting tested for a while, but I did not know where to go to get this done. I had not been tested in 5 years up to this point. I called the number on the sign and the gentlemen at the front desk couldn't have been more kind, accommodating and welcoming. For someone anxious about testing this made all the difference. I made an appointment and I went in. I had all the blood work done that they offered for HIV/STD testing.

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Anything Is Possible

Stories Of Promise

I was transitioning from 16 to 21. During that time my mom passed away and my partner was murdered around the same time. I started using crystal meth and that's how I got HIV, I was shooting up. At that time, I couldn't emotionally deal with what was going on. I had so much loss and I had nobody, no support system, nothing. My mother   had been my main support. I went back into the closet about being transgender.

In 2007 I was tested and diagnosed with HIV. From there, it just led me down a bad path. I just didn't care about my life. I would take my antiretroviral meds, but I continued to use drugs. It was an interesting time in my life. During this time, I signed over my power of attorney to my then partner. I mean, I couldn't control what I was saying or doing. I was in a very bad psychosis. The fact that I signed everything over when I was using drugs, that scared me. I ended up in state custody and I had to fight to get out and have my independence. I’ve now been sober for a while and attend Crystal Meth Anonymous meetings. I found a local treatment center to support with case management and medical and I rely on my close friends for support.

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Hey, Listen, I Didn’t Die and I’m Not Going To Die

Stories Of Promise

I came to Florida from Los Angeles. I used to work in Beverly Hills as a hairdresser. I had a great life working in Beverly Hills; going to the gym, going to fancy places, getting dressed up nicely. I mean a whole different lifestyle. I moved to Florida to be near my mom. I told her that I was only going to stay with her for one year, and then I was going back to Los Angeles. That was the original plan. I was going to come here and stay for a year then, go back to my normal life in Los Angeles.

Then I got sick, the flu.

Then, I began getting sicker and sicker.

That was when the doctor told me that I have AIDS.

My first thought was how would I tell my mother. And, the next was that this is a death sentence.

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This Is Who I Am!

Stories Of Promise

I remember the day as if it was yesterday. I was incarcerated for using drugs, and then found out in jail that I was pregnant and HIV positive. I didn’t know how to feel or what to think. I was in a place all alone with a baby inside me, and I didn’t know anything about HIV. I wanted to die but, I didn’t.

When I got out of jail, I didn’t have support from anyone, including my family. But I was able to get cleaned up and started taking care of myself for my baby. When my daughter was born, she was thankfully HIV negative.

Since then and for the past 12 years, I have struggled with disclosing my HIV status. I have experienced stigma with my family, where they would serve me food from paper plates. When my mother sees me feeding my kid with my spoon, she would say, “Don’t do that! Here, use a different spoon.” My fear has been not knowing how people will react, and I’ve been walking around with that fear.

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Take Your Medicine Everyday

Stories Of Promise

I had been in the homeless shelter for four months. While I was there, I had a seizure first and then a stroke. My whole left side was paralyzed. I couldn’t move it. The doctor wanted to find out why I had a seizure, so they told me they were going to run some tests and they were going to also test me for HIV.

Later, when the doctor came in the room, I said what’s the verdict? He said, “I have good news and bad news. The good news is you’re getting out, but the bad is you’ve got AIDS.” It shocked me and I was in denial. It didn’t hit me for a while what the doctor had said. Just be careful, because I wasn’t careful. I never thought I would get HIV and then this happened. I had unprotected sex with a girl, so just be careful!

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To My Younger Self

Stories Of Promise

Nobody could figure out what was wrong with me. I remember thinking, what's going on with me? I had lost a lot of weight and got pneumonia. My friend who was older and HIV positive said, “Chris, you need to go get tested. I'll go with you.” I said, okay, let's go. Two weeks later, he went back with me and I got the results. I had a feeling I was positive before the results, so it wasn't a shock when I found out that I was HIV positive, more a feeling of relief, but also a little fear. I had let it go for so long and I'd lost so much weight. I immediately flashed back to all this hypersensitive information from the 1980s that the news had put out there, if you get HIV, you're going to die. At the time, I was diagnosed in 2003, I only had one or two examples of people who were HIV positive for years and years, and who were living a healthy, normal life. That's where the fear came from. Wondering how soon am I was to die?

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AIDS Became My Mt. Everest and I Grabbed It By The Horns

Stories Of Promise

Not long after being diagnosed with AIDS, I moved from Iowa to Florida and stayed with my daughter and two grandsons. My oldest grandson started pre-school leaving my younger grandson Luca home alone with no one to play with. Luca meanwhile could see Papa lying in bed. He would come over and pile all his toys next to me and say, “Will you play with me Papa? You have to get up Papa. It's med time Papa.” This went on for two years!  

I've been in treatment since day one of finding out that I was positive in 2014.  I was in the hospital and the second day the doctor came into my room and asked me if I wanted to live. I said, of course, I want to live. He put his hand on my foot real firm and said, “No, Michael, do you want to live? Before I put you through all these tests, put you on all these expensive medicines, I need to know this one thing. Are you willing to do your part? If you are not willing to do your part, I will turn around and walk out this room.” This is what changed my life. He made it clear that if I wasn't willing to take these meds and adhere to them daily, I was going to die. All my life, all I ever wanted to do was climb Mt. Everest. AIDS became my Mt. Everest and I grabbed it by the horns.

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Stories Of Promise - Damaged Goods

Stories Of Promise

I was never careful, I’ve never been safe. The drugs and the needle came first. I didn’t care about anyone or anything but getting high. It is such a miserable way to live. I don’t know how I ever did it to begin with. It’s not fun. It’s like living a lie. Actually it’s not living at all. It’s meaningless. But as long as I thought I looked good, I never believed that I had a problem.


The only reason I got tested for HIV in prison was because it got me out of my room for a little while. They gave us food, some attention and we got to watch TV. At the time I was surprised to learn I was HIV positive. I took my medication in prison, but that’s because they made me. The minute I got out and started using again, I stopped taking my medication.

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Stories Of Promise - I Chose to Love Myself

Stories Of Promise

My name is Anthony, I am a heterosexual, white male and I am living with HIV. I’ve lived a life filled with hard choices, many of them wrong.

I left home when I was just 8 years old. I either slept on friend’s couches or on the street. Not long after, I began sleeping with prostitutes. I was homeless, a thief, a liar and just a bad guy. In 1984 I left my hometown of Massachusetts for Florida because I had destroyed relationships with everyone I knew. I was screaming for help from the inside, but not in a way that anyone would hear. It was during one of my stints in the Department of Corrections that I tested positive for HIV. The days of unprotected sex with prostitutes finally caught up with me. Soon after that, due to HIV related thrush and rashes, I began to look as horrible on the outside as I felt on the inside. I tried to hide it: I wore long-sleeved shirts in the blazing Florida heat, and was embarrassed to tell people about my HIV status. I rarely went to doctors, and never took any HIV medication. I hated myself so much, I couldn’t imagine anyone else wanting to help me or care for me.

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Stories Of Promise - It’s Only the Beginning!

Stories Of Promise

I always had a dream of starting my own family, getting married, having a husband, kids, pets, everything. Then, in a matter of seconds all those dreams I had for my life came crashing down. That’s what it felt like when the doctor told me I tested positive for HIV, like my life had ended. I am a 36-year-old Hispanic man living with HIV and for 10 years I wasn’t able to talk about my status with anyone other than my doctor – until now. 

I come from a Hispanic background, my mother is Venezuelan and my dad is half Spanish and half German. In Venezuela, the HIV/AIDS stigma is very big; it’s like a taboo thing. Just by being gay, people already think you’re HIV positive. Coming out to my family was hard enough, especially my mom, she didn’t speak to me for three years. It took her some time to start a relationship with me again so when I was diagnosed with HIV, I couldn’t tell my family because I thought it was going to hurt them even more. I decided to keep it to myself.

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Stories Of Promise - Hope Will Guide Me

Stories OF Promise - RichardMy name is Miguel. I am a 52-year-old Latino Male. I was diagnosed with HIV in 2002 back in the Midwest. I thought I was in a monogamous relationship with my partner until I found out he was cheating on me. We hadn’t been using condoms, so I knew I needed to get tested. Right after I was diagnosed, when I should have been taking care of myself, I put my needs to the side and moved to Florida to take care of my cousin who had just suffered a stroke.

One night, after many bad decisions and poor life choices, I was arrested. The Judge sentenced me to an outpatient program but I knew that was not going to work for me. I now realized that in order for me to really make a change, I needed to be in a residential treatment program. I understood I was powerless and that my life had become unmanageable. I asked the Judge and thankfully he agreed to my request. I had a goal. I wanted to be in control of my own destiny and not let this virus inside of me take control.

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Stories Of Promise - The best is yet to come!

Stories OF Promise - RichardI always knew I was different. Growing up, I was an alien compared to other boys my age. I remember when I was eight, my Mom had this beautiful dress and I would always encourage her to wear it because I thought she looked so pretty in it. She knew it was my favorite dress of hers, but what she didn’t know was when she left for work, I’d put that dress on and walk around the house like I was living my best life!

I felt like an outsider but as I got older the transgender community welcomed me with open arms. I loved being part of that world, especially the nightlife. Unfortunately, there’s an ugly side to that lifestyle and because I was the type to try anything once, my curiosity eventually led me down a dark path filled with parties, sex and drugs.


When it came to love, I didn’t know what it meant to be in a healthy relationship and I ended up in this vicious cycle dating men who were no good for me. There was one toxic ex that would unfortunately alter the course of my life forever.

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Stories Of Promise - I’ve Been Given a New Lease on Life

Stories OF Promise - RichardMy name is J.R. I don’t hang out and do crazy things, but I did almost die in the Emergency Room not long ago. I’m usually very healthy, but I suddenly and unexpectedly became really sick, and I began looking real bad too. I had become terribly skinny, and my skin had started turning into scales. After the ER doc ran a few blood tests, he came into my room and announced I had HIV! He explained that the virus had already begun attacking my lungs, which is why I had COPD and pneumonia too.

It was a trying time because I didn’t know too much about HIV. I also didn’t know where to get help and I wanted to start HIV meds because I found out I needed them in order to get healthy again. By this time, I had lost my apartment because I was too sick to work, but God blessed me with an angel.

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Stories Of Promise - Take It Or Leave It

Stories Of Promise

Take a deep breath and pray. I found out I was HIV+ in jail and I was distraught. I knew what HIV was, but I was in shock. Then I got mad. Then I started crying. I felt like falling to the floor. Like time had frozen. I knew I had to talk to my parents after finding out my status. When I called, my father answered, and I said “Daddy I just found out I’m HIV+”. He asked if I was okay and my mom and dad, no matter what I did, never gave up on me.

I had to tell my daughter; “Mommy’s HIV+”, and she asked me “Mommy, what happened?” I said to her “Well, mommy was out getting high and one night I got into the wrong car, and a guy raped me. I found out that he raped a lot of girls in the area. He always told them, “You’re going to remember me.” He knew he had it and he gave it to me on purpose. I was using protection even when I was out doing what I was doing in my past. It just took that one time.”

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Stories Of Promise - Honesty Is My Friend

Stories Of Promise

There is a stigma about not asking if you're HIV+ or asking when you got tested. That's the twisted thinking that I had. Because my ex-partner didn't ask me about my HIV status, so I assumed that he was negative, and I guess he assumed that I was negative also. I was diagnosed with HIV after learning my then partner was HIV+. I went in and got tested and low and behold, I was HIV+. At the time, I felt that I fell into a black hole with nobody around; and then like the whole world just stopped around me and it was just totally black.

I started on drugs because I didn't love myself and I felt like my life was over after my diagnosis and I was pretty much vengeful. I didn't care about myself, so I didn't care what other people had to say. That was because I felt like the whole world was against me because of my sexuality. The stigma was strong because of my family upbringing.

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Stories Of Promise - I’m Going To Do This For Myself

Stories Of Promise

There was a time in my life when I could barely get out of bed. I was always tired. When my mom was alive, we went to get medical advice to seek out what was wrong. That's when I got my diagnosis that I was HIV+. They linked me to a great doctor across the street and he got me to an undetectable level, where antiretroviral treatment has reduced the HIV virus to such small quantities that it can no longer be detected by standard blood tests, within nine months.

When my mom passed away, my insurance suddenly stopped. I had to figure out what Ryan White benefits were. I quickly ran out of my HIV meds and was trying to figure out, “What do I do here? How do I get myself linked back to care?” And you know, the phrase, not every helping hand is there to watch you succeed? That's what happened. I went back to a friend’s place and started a very deep drug addiction where I didn't leave his space again for another five weeks.

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Stories Of Promise - You Have To Put Yourself First

Stories Of Promise

How am I going to care for myself?
How am I going to get treatment?
What am I going to do?
Those were my biggest fears when I found out that I was HIV+. Not about having HIV, but how to take care of myself. I have always heard about how expensive it is. That was the scary part for me. I'm the type of person, whatever is in front of me, I just stop and don't dwell on the problem. I'd rather find a solution. I'm a person of faith. So, I'm like, “Okay, God, you gotta show me right now.” I Googled HIV care in Florida and found a local organization to help me navigate through these challenges. Someone from the organization came to the hospital in an hour. That same day I was discharged and the very next day, I started free Anti-Retroviral Treatment.

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Stories Of Promise - Knowing My Status was the First Step to a Healthier Me

Stories Of Promise

I was only a freshman. It was my first year at UCF when I tested positive for HIV. Growing up, I was the healthiest kid ever, so getting sick in my first semester of college was really weird. I’m talking drop dog sick. I’ve been sick before, but nothing like this.

Deep down I knew something was up and getting tested only meant confirming it. So I didn’t. For 4 months I put off getting tested. I would see my doctor a few times over at the campus clinic and each time she became more concerned for my health, insisting I take an HIV test. It took me a while to overcome that fear of knowing but one day I couldn’t deny it. My health was getting worse so I finally agreed.

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Stories Of Promise - I Chose to Take Control of My Health

Stories Of Promise

My name is Jennifer and I am a 37-year-old white woman living with HIV.

Since I was young, music has always been a passion of mine. In high school, I played percussion for our marching band and later received a Bachelor’s in Music Education from the University of Miami. I even played with the Broward Symphony Orchestra for six years. After playing with the orchestra, I became an Elementary school music teacher – and I loved it.  But just as music was a constant in my life, so was my battle with drug addiction. I was in high school when I started doing drugs and I tried pretty much everything. I was a little socially awkward so I felt like I fit in more, like I was accepted. My main go-to was always alcohol and as I got older, crack cocaine.

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Stories Of Promise - Learning My Status Made a Difference

Stories Of Promise

It all began with me getting trapped in the Dope Hole at Overtown, and it was difficult for me to leave because everything comes through there like male callers and drug dealers. It’s set up like a town, and my drug addiction had me believing I had everything I needed right there. I was a 32-year-old Black-Puerto Rican woman living on the streets because “stay high” was my motto, and there wasn't a day that I could blow a sober breath. Sometimes gentleman callers refused to use condoms with me. From my point of view as an alcohol/drug user, I thought, “If I don’t jump on this, then I’m going to miss out on an opportunity for getting some money to stay high.” So sometimes I would give in and not use protection. I also donated blood a lot because it was another way to get money for alcohol and drugs. I was already at rock bottom when the Blood Bank sent me a letter later that year, and I knew it couldn’t be good news, so I avoided reading it.

My mom found out about the letter. She has been HIV positive since the early nineties, and she was like, “Take that pipe out of your mouth, Tanisha, and go to the Health Department. You need to find out what the letter is all about, and you need to get tested because the earlier you deal with it, the better it will be.”

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Stories Of Promise - It Helps to Talk to Someone

Stories Of Promise

My name is Angel, and I’m a 48-year old Hispanic guy living in South Florida,

and I’m also living with HIV. I found out about my status after taking an HIV test when I was in prison. I knew I was risky because I’ve been with a lot of women, some guys too, and I didn’t always use condoms. So, I wasn’t completely surprised, but I still felt depressed when they told me I had HIV - I thought my life was over! I didn’t

want people to know I was HIV positive or think I had HIV, so I didn’t tell anyone, not even my family, and I refused to take HIV meds for a long time for fear that people would find out. Eventually, I got real sick though and was in so much pain with shingles straight down my spine that I had to start the meds to feel better. It wasn’t until I ended up in an Assisted Living Treatment program with others also living with HIV that I began openly talking about my HIV status. Feeling that support has been good and I no longer feel alone in this. It gave me the opportunity to practice sharing my status with my family - I’d wanted to tell them for a long time, but I anticipated they would treat me like an outcast when they found out.

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Stories Of Promise - Protect Yourself At All Costs

Stories Of Promise

The words, “You’re HIV positive,” changed me instantly because I had no idea what I was about to go through. My name is Katara, and I’m a beautiful, 33-year-old trans woman from Fort Lauderdale. When I was diagnosed with HIV, I broke down really bad. For me, not having HIV was something to be proud of because of the stigma of everybody saying, “You’re gay, you’re gonna get HIV and AIDS.” So when I found out I had HIV, I felt dirty and nasty inside like I was a cockroach that needed to be stepped on.

The thing is I had been using condoms, but it only takes one time. I was in between escorting and having a boyfriend. As an escort, I always used condoms, but with this boy, I didn’t. I didn’t know him well, but he told me he would never hurt me. When he looked into my eyes and said we didn’t need to get tested because he didn’t have HIV, I was like, “Okay, baby, I trust you.” But the relationship became rocky, and I found out I was HIV+ after he left me. I was not thankful for what I was left with - I felt like I laid down with a dog, and I got up with fleas. Fleas go away, though. HIV doesn’t.

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Stories Of Promise - “She believed me and couldn’t understand why my HIV meds weren’t working for me.”

Stories Of Promise I’m Kendrick, and I’m a 60-year-old straight man from Jamaica. I am also HIV+ and have been living with HIV for many years. Because I take my HIV meds every day, my HIV has been undetectable, and I’ve felt really good, but suddenly I began feeling pretty sick again. It reminded me of how my body felt before I found out I had AIDS. Anyway, I kept on taking my meds, but my health was getting worse! When I finally made an appointment to see a doctor, the doc told me my viral load was high. It didn’t make any sense because I wasn’t doing anything different and the doc had a hard time trusting me when I told him I never missed taking a dose of my meds. 

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Tel (954) 568-7373 ext 7373

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