Realizing that you are gay isn't easy. Neither is telling
your family, especially if your mother is a strict Catholic.
Manny thought his mom might have known, but she never said
anything—until Manny began to exhibit signs of being
HIV-positive. When he started losing weight and wasting away,
his mom came up to him crying, and gave him a hug. That was the
sum total of her acknowledgement, except for the way things
changed at home. Everything became plastic at his house: dishes,
cups, utensils. He felt awful—as if he had leprosy—and
guilty because he had caused so much anguish in his family.
Yet today, Manny says that having HIV was not a curse, but
something that saved his life… It made him humble and he
realized that life is too short to be bitter. His dad, who had
always been the quiet parent, told him that just because he was
small (Manny is about five feet tall) didn't mean he couldn't do
anything he wanted. Manny realized it was the same with HIV.
Just because he is HIV-positive didn't mean he couldn't help
others, and he has been doing just that.
Manny believes that he became infected from his former
partner of 10 years who used heroin, crack cocaine, as well as
alcohol. Manny too began using drugs. Eventually, he realized
that this was not the life he wanted.
It took three attempts for Manny to become clean, but with
the help of Vida Serena (a drug rehab center), he has been
drug-free for over four years. Through SAAF (Southern Arizona
AIDS Foundation), Manny found help. At Vida Serena, he was
required to perform community service hours, which led him to
TIHAN. He began volunteering as a receptionist in the TIHAN
office, and now he is involved in speaking to groups, telling
his own story about living with HIV. He says he is tired of
being in the background and wants to make a difference, to be
useful. Currently, Manny also works for Vida Serena as a
Resident Manager. He talks to clients and tells them his story
in an effort to help them kick their habits and to show them
that it is possible to change their way of life.
Manny has some health issues— heart disease runs in his
family. His dad died after a quadruple bypass, so Manny goes to
the gym in an effort to regain his strength, takes vitamins, and
is currently on two medications at night.
Manny's new partner of five years is also HIV-positive. Manny
learned sign language since his partner is deaf. This has also
been a blessing for Manny since his partner told him that deaf
people have an advantage when communicating. Most people just
blurt out what they want to say without thinking about their
words or their consequences, whereas hearing-impaired people
have to think about what they want to say so they can form the
correct words with their hands.
With the help of caring people and organizations, and his own
strong will to survive, Manny is blossoming into a powerful role
model for others who want to live a healthier and happier life.
—written in part by Valerie Golembiewski
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work of TIHAN, please click
here or call (520) 299-6647 to make a credit card
donation by phone. You can also mail your check, made payable to
TIHAN, to 2660 North 1st Avenue, Tucson, Arizona 85719-2911.
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