Our speakers represent a broad diversity of backgrounds from race to sexual orientation – while also sharing a common thread of knowing the impact of HIV firsthand. Speakers are well trained to deal with difficult questions and have experience talking with a broad array of audiences, from classroom to workplace, and college campus to community-based organization.
Whether you are trying to ensure your school is in compliance with Oregon state education laws that require a comprehensive approach to sex education and inclusion of information on HIV, or you’re looking to do sensitivity training around HIV and AIDS in your workplace – CAP’s Speakers Bureau is here to support your needs.
Meet the Speakers:
Let me introduce myself. My name is Guy, and I have been living with HIV now for 15 years. When I first became HIV Positive, I was well aware of how the virus was spread. Yes, everyone talked about the disease, but nobody ever talked about symptoms—or lack of them. In my case, it wasn’t until 18 months after I was infected that I discovered I was HIV positive. Living with HIV has its ups and downs. It took me several years to fully understand what the virus had done to my body, and to appreciate what it taught me about how to live with it. It changed my life significantly. I had to learn to reinvent myself, from what I do as an occupation to just having fun. One of my favorite past times is showing my two collies, Mr. MacDougall and Ms. Lisa Marie. Not only are they littermates, but they are both AKC Grand Champions.
I tested positive for HIV in April 1998. Subsequently, I found out I was quite ill with Hepatitis C and spent a year doing interferon chemotherapy, which was debilitating but successful. I did not handle myself well and began using methamphetamine to combat fatigue. It lead to a serious addiction, criminal activity, and a 15-month sentence in Federal prison. With the help of a supportive family and the light bulb that flicked on in my brain, I was able to turn those experiences into something beneficial. In the last 12 years, I’ve been active locally as well as volunteering extensively in Kenya. I’ve had some close calls with death in the last 3 years but am too stubborn to succumb. I thoroughly love sharing with others the wisdom I’ve gained from both my mistakes and my successes.
Maricela Berumen is a Latina mother of four who tested positive for HIV in 2003. Initially it was not easy for her to deal with her diagnosis. Like many others who test positive for HIV, she felt devastated and alone, yet it was her family who motivated her to find a sense of responsibility towards her community. She sought out Hispanic HIV/AIDS support groups; however she quickly realized the lack of resources and organizational support. Maricela volunteered for various non-profit organizations and promoted safer sex. By going to schools, churches and Migrant camps and sharing her story with others, she earned the respect and trust of the community. To this day, Maricela is active in the community promoting HIV prevention and awareness. “For me sharing my story with others has changed my life forever; it has helped me want to live. I have HIV, HIV does not have me. Why? Because I have it under control and I am not allowing it to control me!”
I was diagnosed at the height of my dance career. It was a time when I went from very popular to diseased and taboo. Many years of struggle ensued to overcome it all. But I progressed to be the opposite of everything I used to be. I’ve learned how to love unconditionally and that sex doesn’t equate to love; what it is to be human, not perfect; to have control over my life and not my life have control over me. HIV/AIDS taught me to be human.
After being married to my husband for two years, I received a phone call in 1986 from my mother telling me that someone I dated between 1980-81 had AIDS. That’s the reason why I was tested and I found out that I was HIV positive. I’ve lost many friends to AIDS since then, but I’ve been fortunate to have a very supportive HIV negative husband for 25 years who has helped me get through it all. Although HIV is no picnic, it has helped me grow in ways that I don’t believe I would have grown if not for the disease. I am a fighter and my first priority is my health.
Growing up as an Army brat, I moved nearly every year. This led to me isolating myself from people and to drug addiction by age 15. I was 17 when I found out that I had HIV in September of 2001. Not knowing what was going to happen, and under the false impression that I was going to die in a few years, I dove deeper into my addiction and became a heroin addict. Eventually I learned about what HIV really was and that I wasn’t going to die – but if I kept on the same path I surely would. So I moved to a small town in Nebraska to try and get myself right. During my 3 years there I dealt with real stigma – verbal, physical, and legal. I couldn’t get work, which prevented me from surviving by doing the right thing, so my addiction reared its ugly head again. In 2005 I moved back to the Pacific Northwest to try and live a normal life. Things worked out for a while and I had a beautiful little girl in 2006. Then, once again, my addiction crept up on me and this time it tried to take my life numerous times. In May of 2012 I got sober. Since then I have made it a goal of mine to help eliminate stigma through education because of the discrimination and stigma that I have personally dealt with in my life. Today I get to be of service – to myself, to my family, to the homeless population in Portland, to the HIV community all across the United States, to at-risk youth, and most importantly, I get to be the mother I was supposed to be.
August 22,1996 is the day I thought my life was over. That morning at 8 am, I received a phone call from my doctor who stated I’d tested positive for HIV. I actually recall going to work as if nothing had happened. But around noon, reality hit and I panicked. I splurged on electronics, ran up credit card bills, and started making plans for a funeral. Yet here I am today nearly two decades later living a strong, vibrant life and making plans for the future. I have survived the ups and downs of HIV as well as the stigma and detachment from friends and family. And after years of medical bills, various cocktails, steroids, and human growth hormones, I am still standing and ready to share my story. I may have stumbled upon HIV, but a stumble is not a fall.
I was a skinny man; I wasn’t the perfect image of a gay man. My flaws took control of who I was. I literally hated myself and got into drugs to numb the emotional pain. Finally, I let my guard down and took a risk by having an encounter with another man, and I became HIV positive in Spring of 2004. Becoming HIV Positive has changed my outlook on life and helped me be more responsible about medications and caring for the welfare of my partners. I’m not perfect, but I strive to be humble. I am still skinny, yet learned to accept myself for who I am. I am hard of hearing and my goal is to share with the Deaf Community about HIV and how to better take care of yourself.
I have always been an open person. I fully embraced who I was – a queer man – since age 16. I took what I inherently was – Latin – that is passionate and vocal and turned it to my advantage and presented myself open and out in my community. I marched in my first Gay Pride parade in San Antonio in 1981. I was out in the Navy, in culinary school, in everything I have done. I was diagnosed with HIV in 2007 on National HIV Testing Day. I was devastated by the results and had a lot of self-blame. Then I got to the point of acceptance. I am open about my HIV Positive status, just as I am with everything in my life. My family has been my great support through everything. Medication is not a hindrance and I live my life fully.
I have been living with HIV since 2001; I was diagnosed at age 14 while living as an at-risk youth. The impact on my life is much different than I initially thought. There are more health-related challenges and, of course, dealing with stigma and judgment from others. Today, I work as a Spiritual Counselor dealing mainly with transitional and vulnerable populations. My experience and journey has given me a unique opportunity to practice radical forgiveness and teach self-love and kindness, which I believe was the missing key for me during my youth.