HIV patients share their experiences and tell the community to seek help since the disease can be controlled

César Sotelo says that at age 14 he joined a gang, dropped out of school and started using marijuana. He adds that he only spent it at parties.

But bad times, it wasn't the only thing that bothered him. “Since I was a child I felt different from my brothers…. I didn't want to accept who I was because of fear and fear of my dad, who was the classic Mexican male, ”says La Opinion César — ​​who today identifies as bisexual.

He says he lived fighting with his thoughts. "I wanted to pretend what I wasn't and I had a tangled life," he says.

At 18 he married a woman. The relationship ended in separation and returned to drugs, this time: heroin.

"That drug got me and I couldn't get out," César recalls. “I played soccer in a family team, but I kept falling; I relapsed constantly until I was imprisoned for three months in Lancaster and began the process of my deportation. ”

His parents brought him to the United States from Guerrero (Mexico) at age 8.

César was deported but returned, separated and later began another relationship with another woman for five years. He adds that during this time he kept his job and turned away from drugs.

Everything changed when in 2010 he moved to Los Angeles. "This is where‘ I came out of the closet and lived with my partner … I gave myself the opportunity to live what I felt, "he said.

He says that four years later, the relationship ended and he returned to drugs. His new vice was crystal.

He used it every weekend, and then, almost daily, until his instability led him to lose several jobs. César says that during his drug addiction, he also had several unprotected partners and relationships.

César Sotelo, 40, says his illness is controlled and he attends a support group.

"The strongest was between 2015 and 2017," he recalls. “I had nowhere to live, I thought they wanted to kill me and I talked to my brother to come to Los Angeles for me. It was when I took the exams. ”

In August 2017, César went to a clinic in Santa Barbara and was diagnosed with the HIV virus.

“My life was a lack of control and that's why, when they told me I had HIV, I was not surprised; I knew what I was risking with unprotected relationships and sharing syringes, ”he says.

Despite the diagnosis and a social worker, drugs and parties were still in César's life, who, seeing himself without friends and family support, said he reached the point of wanting to die.

He tells us that one day, “the miracle happened” because he was accepted as a volunteer in a food preparation program in the church and from there he made the link with Bienestar Human Services.

Today, at 40 years old, he attends a support group. "I have not used drugs for a year, I feel happy and happy, I became an undetectable person with the HIV virus and that is something great for me," he said. "Today I want to be a spokesperson for life after HIV."

On Friday night, César shared his testimony with this newspaper in the framework of the 35th anniversary of the organization Bienestar Human Services, who together with authorities of the Ventanilla de Salud program of the Consulate General of Mexico in Los Angeles, celebrated the National Awareness Day of HIV AIDS.

“An HIV / AIDS diagnosis is not a sign of the end of life,” said Elena Aragón, director of the consulate's health window. "All people can live normally with additional care."

"Testimonies of Hope" had Mariachi music to celebrate life and raise awareness in the Latino community about the importance of preventing the spread of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) that could lead to the acquisition of Acquired Immunodeficiency Virus (AIDS).

In the latest report from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, the HIV and sexually transmitted diseases division and the strategy for 2020 and beyond indicate that at least 8,900 people are infected with HIV and do not know it yet because they have not undergone a screening test.

"Simply the fear of being tested is a stigma that has not been overcome," said Silvia Valerio, health care liaison coordinator for Human Services in East Los Angeles. "They don't want to know that they are infected."

Valerio, who for 22 years has collaborated with the organization, said that many believe it is better not to find out because they mistakenly think they will die and do not realize a treatment does not mean death.

"That happened in the 1980s … Now, if the person receives adequate treatment, on time and leads a healthy lifestyle you can live a normal life up to 80 years and even more."

During the event, stories of courage, survival and motivation were heard by Damaris López, César Sotelo, Fernanda Celarie, Sergio Maíz, Kelly Muñoz and Carlos Catano.

"In 30 years we have managed to bring HIV prevention services to the community, which we didn't have before," said Roberto Contreras, president of Welfare.

"Tonight (Friday) we have brought hope and we have told all people that HIV and AIDS are chronic diseases and that they do not (necessarily) kill."

In figures

  • Andrea Kim, head of the HIV and Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD) unit, said that in Los Angeles County the number of men and women with HIV was 27,993 and people with AIDS 23,353 in 2016.
  • In relation to gender, men accounted for 86.8% of cases with HIV and 87.6% with AIDS; while among women there were 11.6% cases with HIV and 11.% with AIDS.
  • Of the total in 2016, Latinos accounted for 41.2% of cases of HIV and AIDS; Whites 30.6% with HIV and 29.2% with AIDS and among African Americans, 21.4% with HIV and 19.9% ​​with AIDS.

Source: Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, for the full report visit:


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