Saturday, August 29, 2009

Sunlight Found You

Here's a video produced by Beyond the Odds.

22 and Positive

Here's a blog from Beyond the Odds blogger Mr. Maximus. Have you seen our new site?

In 2007, when I first found out that I was HIV positive I felt so angry that my partner kept his status a secret from me. At the same time I felt hurt and sad. I could not even believe that I am positive. My Ex and I were going out for a year and we were having unprotected sex. He asked me nonchalantly if I wanted to use condoms during sex and I told him that I don’t use them. He responded, “That’s okay it’s your choice”.

At the time his comment seemed a bit strange but I paid it no mind. I did not know that he was indirectly telling me he was HIV positive. I guess I did not understand him. The night he finally decided to man up and be direct about his status was on New Year's Eve. We were in the Castro at a hangout spot called The Bar. I had just finished drinking my second Long Island Iced Tea when he told me he had something important to tell me. I said, “What is it?” He said, “I’m HIV positive”. It hit me like a fist to my face, knocking the breath out of me. I was ripped out of my drunken state of mind and instantly sobered up. I sat there for a while not speaking, letting the news to set in before I said anything. Eventually, I said “I am not mad at you for not telling me, but at some point it would have been nice to have been told. I am not going to dump you, but you are going to stick by my side all the way through.”

Every three months for about a year, I would go to the Larkin Street Medical clinic to get tested for HIV. In the testing room, I would sit in a chair sweating and waiting for the test results. To my surprise my test result always came back negative for HIV. Then one month, my lymph nodes started to swell, and then my boyfriend suggested I head back to the clinic for another test. This time, I decided to go somewhere new to get tested expecting the usual results of negative. However, this time when the nurse returned with the results she told me in a bittersweet tone, “The test indicates that you are HIV positive.” After I got the result they took six vials of blood from my arm to do a more thorough test for HIV. The next week, I returned to get the results of the blood test. The test came back “indeterminate.”

I contacted Larkin Street to inform them that I just found out that I was HIV positive. I told them about my last test being “indeterminate” and they said to take another one at their clinic. So the next week, I went down and got tested again. When the nurse came in, I told him that I just received a positive test result and then another that was “indeterminate.” He gave me two tests, the oral swab and the finger prick. The saliva came back as negative and the blood came back positive.

Immediately after receiving a confirmation, I told my boyfriend that I was in fact positive. His response was to break up with me that same day. This left me feeling brokenhearted, unloved and taken advantage of. I felt like killing myself because I was just diagnosed with HIV and all alone. Our earlier conversation at the Bar meant nothing to me now. One year later, I’m dealing with the reality of being 22 years old and HIV positive, all by myself. I have no family, no friends, no one to lean on.

The process of accepting of my status has been a long and hard road. There are times when I feel like ending my life. The stress and depression that I feel on a daily basis is overwhelming. To cope with my reality at times, I smoke marijuana, drink alcohol and pop ecstasy pills. I feel like an outcast every time I go out because I am almost always under the influence of something. I walk around with my head down so that I will not be confronted by other people. I know I can’t run from my reality but at times I attempt to hide from it. Eventually at some point the time will come for me to face my fears. But till then, I’ll just do me with the hopes of a better tomorrow.
For Beyond the Odds, I'm Mr. Maximus.

log onto for more personal stories from young people living with HIV.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

More than Sex

Have you seen our new site? Or watched our latest video

here's one of blogs written by JoJo Napoles.

Today I would like to talk about something that happened to me.

First of all, I don't consider myself the type of guy that goes online to look for sex, but something happened that one night in particular that made me do it. I was feeling kind of sad and disappointed that day and I wanted somebody to make me feel better.

I decided to go on Craigslist and I saw an ad for a “straight” guy; at least that's what he wrote there. He was very cute, Middle Eastern looking, between 25 and 30 years old, and seemed like a nice guy. So I emailed him and we agreed to meet at the marina near to my place. I was nervous, but exited excited at the same time.

I got there first. He approached five minutes later. We said hello to each other and smiled as if we had known each other for a long time. I felt very comfortable with him and he told me he felt the same. I was glad to have meet someone who I really liked. He was so nice.

We took my car to a shopping center and then he drove us to his place in the hills. While traveling there we talked about our lives. I asked him why a straight guy would go onto a website for gay people looking to hookup. He said “that's was a good question.” He considers himself straight, is even engaged to be married! But on that particular night he was really horny and wanted to be with a dude.

We liked each other and we enjoyed our time together. My sadness even went away. Driving
to his place took 20 minutes. Before we entered his home he told me that he needed to head upstairs first and turn off the lights in the house because his neighbor was nosy. I waited downstairs for a few minutes and headed upstairs. He waited in his room.

We kissed and I was felt like I was in heaven – crazy, but really good at the same. We went to his room and began kissing and touching. Then, we started talking again. He asked me if I was honest and I started feeling kind of weird. I said, “Yes, pretty honest.” I was scared. I wanted to tell him that I had HIV, but was waiting for the right moment. Even though we planned to have safe sex I think it is very important to tell the person you're having sex with your status. I know it's hard but it works for me, it makes me feel very good to be that honest.

I had to say it so I just came out and told him: “There's something I want you to know about me that I think it is very important.” He stared at me and he said, "You have HIV?!" I said, “Yes.” I felt bad and at the same time relieved. His reaction was my main concern, and I was amazed when he said he wasn't mad at me. I felt like I had wasted his time, but he actually made me feel good. He said that he made a promise long time ago, that he would never have sex with someone who is HIV positive. At first it felt weird, but I think that the reason we had gotten together that night was bigger than just having sex.

I told him not to trust people and to always use a condom, because there are people that say they are disease-free but it is not true. These are the same people who keep having unprotected sex with people and spreading it the disease. Anyway, he said we couldn't hookup because he had made a promise to keep his future family safe from disease. I agreed.

We kissed and hugged and he took me back to get my car. He told me on the way back that he saw sorrow coming out of my eyes. That really shocked me because to me it meant he and I both connected. I believe that this night, I wasn't looking for sex; but instead a strong connection with someone.

We arrived back at the shopping center and said goodbye to and thanked each other. That was the last time I ever saw from him but I hope he is well. I'm very glad to have met someone like him, even if he was already taken.

It was important for me to tell him to always protect himself because I never got the same opportunity. If I had been aware of every one of my partners’ status I may never have contracted the disease. I want my story to help inform other people about the conversations they should be having with all of their sexual partners. Most importantly, I want people to always practice safe sex, especially if they are unaware of their partner’s status.

For Beyond the Odds, I'm JoJo Naploes.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Last Two Weeks


we are less than 2 weeks away from our project finale! It's been an interesting journey. I've learned a lot along the way! Beyond the Odds has been a blessing and the many young people I've worked with are amazing! I wish them the best and excellent health. My hope is that we are able to continue the project in some capacity. Especially since each youth has expressed the need to do so. I was told it's like opening a can of worms and being told you can't go fishing any more, lol. Wow, I will really miss them. As difficult at times the project may have been there was more good than bad. Yes, for the past 3 months, I've had very little sleep. My back hurts, my skin is horrible but my spirit is good.

So for these last two weeks, I'm asking for folks to help get the word out about the project. Really, it only a week, we don't have much time. Tell a friend t become a face fan, follow us on twitter and check out the new site. Remember Beyond the Odds rocks.

Saturday, August 8, 2009


Hey folks,

Here's one of our latest blogs. Read more blogs @

Sleeping away on a mid-summer’s night alone in my bedroom with the window opened up halfway, I lay there in a dream state. Dreaming of a life other than my own I explore this other world with such vividness it's almost like I've gone into realm of my life in another dimension. I toss and I turn as I find myself walking through a dark alley with sounds of someone’s unusual footsteps getting closer and closer. I can't see anything but I have the sense that I am being stalked as I walk alone in an industrial warehouse not even knowing where I am going or why I am there. I suddenly fall into a vortex of darkness and start screaming and falling with a fear so strong I feel my body go into a complete state of paralysis.

I am awakened, gasping for air, in a cold sweat followed by a sense of hopelessness. "It was just a dream", I say to my myself. Overcome by extreme thirst and body heat, I reach for a drink of water sitting in a glass next to my bed. I drink it as if I was dying of thirst. I then sit there and stare at the ceiling trying to comfort myself as I feel my heartbeat from within. I sit on my bed and think, “Why me? Why must I go through this? Why must I take medication for HIV that makes me go through this?. Some nights I fall right back asleep. Others, there is no sleep. I take Atripla, the once a day pill used for the treatment of HIV infection. And while the single pill I take every night around ten has greatly improved my health, I've traded in the serenity of a nice evening’s rest for nights of anxiety, despair, cold sweats and insomnia only for the chance at a normal life span.

I was diagnosed with HIV in mid December 2008 and was placed on HAART (highly active
antiretroviral therapy) drugs shortly after getting situated with a primary health care provider. I started taking Atripla February 18th, 2009. The first two months were crazy! I felt so bad all the time plagued by extreme fatigue and a lot of stress. My morale was in the toilet. The regimen, honestly, is a constant reminder of my status as a 25 year-old HIV positive male. For me it’s a daily reminder of this invader in my body; a burden that will never ever go away. Twenty-five years old and I am on medication for AIDS -- it's still really hard to come to terms with that truth.

Yet, as time has progressed the side effects have greatly subsided. I am able to have a normal day relatively symptom-free in exchange for nights of elevated body temperatures, extreme thirst, mood swings and unusual dreams. I think now more than ever it's the physiological impact of taking meds that is the hardest thing for me to cope with. I try and maintain perfect adherence, but hey I am not living in a perfect world and I am not living exactly what I would consider a perfect life. So, I really don't beat myself up for not following doctor's orders, even though I know the consequences of my actions can be life threatening.

That is my reality of having HIV. While the regimens have vastly improved the prognosis of HIV/AIDS to those who are live with this affliction, taking meds is no sweet ride. I am at a point in my life where I really have to make some life-altering decisions. I recently got the news that my liver was sending a warning sign that something may be wrong when recent blood work that came back from the lab showed that I had an elevated level of an enzyme known as Alkaline Phosphatase. My doctors advised me to stop drinking because of the threat of liver damage shown in my blood work. He said, “taking anti-retro viral medication and drinking alcohol at the same time is like dumping gasoline on a fire". Great, I thought to myself. My social life is over! It's already bad enough I have to deal with HIV and now this! But the reality is if I don't limit or completely stop my binge drinking, I am setting myself up for liver damage, cirrhosis or even kidney failure. And it all comes back to the pill I must take every single night in order to have a chance at a somewhat normal life.

So for me at this point it’s one day at a time. Some days are better than others, while the nights
usually are pretty much the same. I've learned how amazing and tolerable the human body can be to suffering. Even though I take medication to suppress HIV and prevent it from ravaging my immune system, in the end I still suffer. From within my soul, I still mourn the shock and fear of having HIV and what life for me will be from here on out. Yet this amazing piece of machinery I call my body miraculously pulls through every single night. What's the purpose of life if I have to live like this? I am not sure, but I know as long as I am on HAART treatment that I will have the time and chance to figure it out and find my purpose in this not so perfect life of mine.

For Beyond the Odds, I am Sergio Mendoza.

Read more blogs @

Saturday, August 1, 2009

My Diagnosis, My Words

Hey folks! Here's a recent post from B-Lady, a youth participant of Beyond the Odds. Check out the site at Site relaunch date is set for August 10th!!

In January 2006, I was standing in front of my grandmother’s house by Lake Merritt in Oakland, California. It was like 10:30am. I was waiting on my best friend to come thru so I could “line him up.” This really dark skinned, southern brotha named “Bob” on the back of the 40 bus was looking all out the window. He got off the bus and walked up to me and said, “Hi.”

I was like, “Hey.” but I was on guard waiting in case I had to get real ugly.

We talked for a really long time until my best friend showed up. Quickly, we exchanged numbers and parted ways. My best friend didn’t question the situation until we went into the house. Considering that I don’t usually fool around with dark skinned men. I laughed and said, “Life is experiences.”

Two days after our first meeting, we were on the phone for hecka long at least
five hours. That's when I was like, “Well I should come over to your place. Let me get my son dressed and I'll be on my way.”

Once I got to his place, we started drinking some Patron Tequila and Seagram Schnapps and got drunk. I guess I became an easy lay as some would say. I was eighteen and didn’t know my alcohol limits.

I don’t remember much, but what I do remember is we had sex and I heard the condom break in my drunken stupor. I figured it was a gun shot in the distance, outside. It wasn't ‘til after that we discovered it had busted. But by then it was too late.

The following months were crazy. In March, I became pregnant by this person and I ended up having a miscarriage. It was not a happy time for me. In my opinion, going through a miscarriage is the worst mental state for a woman to be in. And when I told him, his response was, “that’s too bad” and offered me some candy. In May, he started telling me he had to go back home to Mississippi to be with his mother because we started coming down with the same symptoms. That's when I started
becoming really suspicious of the situation.

In June, we broke off our very unhappy courtship and I ended up very sick with the worst flu like symptoms ever and a growth on my groin stretching through to my thigh and abdominal area. Heck, I couldn’t even walk after a while. Soon, thereafter, I went to the Summit Hospital emergency room. The hospital staff explained that I contracted MRSA and could have died had I waited any longer.

In a few days of being at the hospital, I was operated on and soon after I started to walk again. I saw “Bob” on the fourth floor hospital smoking area and when I questioned whether the drug Norvir was a known HIV drug, he simply stated to me “I didn’t ask, if he was HIV positive.”

After I got out of the hospital, I ended up going back a few more times. Eventually, a nurse told me to go and get myself checked. The nurse had been my nurse every time I came to the hospital. She was a very nice person.

I took her advice. November 27th it was a rainy day I wore black and I don’t remember sleeping. I do remember, distinctly, when a white lady named Kate handed me the paper. She just slid it across the table and looked away as I read the results.

I felt like a hot egg had been cracked over my head and the hot contents were running down my body. I began laughing and then the tears came. I went numb. My mind was blank and I felt as if I was detached from my body like a third party. When I snapped out of it, I called my mom, she came, and we cried together. That’s when the white lady spoke and said that I needed to get more blood work and start my medical services.

But my stepdad, my mother's first husband who was more like my real father, was also HIV positive. So we already knew what to do. I remember wanting to just die. Wanting to walk in front of a bus, jump off the bridge or fall out and die, which by the way is a very normal way to feel after hearing this type of news. Of course, it isn't okay when you start trying to act on it. That's when you should seek help.

So far, I've come to terms with this illness. I'm not happy, but I have to deal with it. I have my son to live for as well as my little brothers and myself. Now that I know I can have children without passing the virus, I have a beautiful baby and yet another one on the way. So I discovered life was just beginning for me in a way.

Even though, I would like to be present when Satan skins “Bob” and sticks pineapples in his ass, I have no regrets. I wouldn’t change anything because it’s the messed up part of my past that defines my strong will today. I was on a destructive path and now, I have to have the will to strive. To live. It's strange but true.

For Beyond the Odds, I'm B-Lady.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

An American Tragedy

Here's an interesting article on HIV/AIDS in the African American community. Check it out!

New data show the terrible toll that HIV/AIDS is taking among African Americans.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

DR. JEFFREY CROWLEY, director of the Office of National AIDS Policy, has been tasked by President Obama with developing a national AIDS strategy within the next year. It's long overdue and desperately needed. New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide the starkest evidence yet that an American tragedy is underway.

While HIV/AIDS is an indiscriminate killer that cuts through every socioeconomic group in the United States, statistics from 2006, the latest available, show that the epidemic with no cure is devastating the African American community. Although blacks make up just 12 percent of the population, they account for 46 percent of those living with HIV/AIDS. There are now an estimated 56,300 new HIV infections annually, 45 percent of them by African Americans.

Men who have sex with men (MSM) continue to bear the brunt of the epidemic, with about 30,000 becoming HIV-positive each year. But young black men are hardest hit. "Young black MSM aged 13-29 . . . account for more new HIV infections than any other age or racial group of MSM," said Kevin Fenton, head of the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention at the CDC. "Among MSM overall, there were more new HIV infections in young black MSM aged 13-29 than any other age or racial group of MSM."

As we learned earlier this year, the story in the District is no less grim. A report from the city's HIV/AIDS Administration revealed that African Americans account for 76 percent of the cases here. In total, 4.3 percent of the black population in the District is living with the disease, as are 6.5 percent of all black men.

These numbers should shock the conscience -- and spur action. The national strategy being crafted for the president must include efforts to destigmatize the disease and to get people tested and into treatment. HIV testing must become a routine part of medical care (akin to testing for diabetes, for instance). Work with African American civic organizations to stress the importance of testing and treatment must be accelerated. But none of this will work if all people from all ages and backgrounds don't know or refuse to learn their HIV status. This head-in-the-sand mentality cannot continue. Mr. Obama is leading by example. To mark HIV testing day last month, the White House released video that showed the Obamas getting tested during a 2006 visit to Kenya. In the District, free testing is available. Go to to find out how to follow the president's lead.