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Living with AIDS in Watsonville
Author: Claudia Ramos

My cousin died of AIDS three years ago. Then, the only thing I knew about HIV was it is transmitted sexually or by using needles. I wanted to learn more. Like,
what a person with AIDS really goes through. I asked the local AIDS Project to help me find someone who could talk to me about living with the disease.

“I have no idea when I got it,” said 40 year-old Anthony, who was diagnosed with AIDS in 1992. After a former partner was diagnosed with the virus, Anthony
went to the clinic to get tested. That is when he found out that he too had a positive diagnosis. I was impressed by Anthony’s courage. I don’t know if I
would have the nerve to go to the clinic and get tested.

When he found out he was HIV positive, “My first reaction was to cry and think, ‘When am I going to die? How long do I have to live?’” said Anthony. “My life changed completely after that. I was only 30 years old.” Just imagine, in a matter of seconds, the diagnosis of a deadly disease can change your life.

“Back then it was pretty much the death sentence,” said Anthony. When Anthony was diagnosed in 1992, talking about AIDS was a big issue—no one wanted to
know the truth about the disease.

I asked Anthony if, before he tested positive, he knew a person could get AIDS from having unprotected sex. He said he was aware of the risks, but it never
occurred to him that he should use protection until after he was diagnosed. Like many of us, Anthony did not believe it would happen to him.

I asked Anthony what it was like to know he was HIV positive. “Life is not easy,” Anthony explained. “I take about 25 pills a day” to help control the disease. He paused for a long time, let out a big sigh and said, “When a person is healthy, I think they take their good health for granted. You don’t realize what
you have until it is taken away.”

Anthony wants people to know, “Just because you have a partner and you’ve been together for a while, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be safe. You need to be safe no matter what.”