Conversations about HIV and Aging: Nicholas
Q: How has living with HIV changed your perspective on aging?
A: It may sound strange, but I believe I am much healthier at this age than I would have been had I not become HIV positive in 2007. Why? As a person living with HIV, I have been much more engaged with healthcare and self-care than I otherwise would have been.
Q: What does community mean to you? Where do you find our tribe to support your journey?
A: This would surprise most who know me, but I have a propensity to choose isolation and loneliness, and I am working hard to overcome this and to actually find a tribe. I know and love many people who know and love me, but I hunger for more intimate, sustained, and authentic human connections.
Q: What is the best advice you've been given?
A; I wasn't told, but I was taught by my loved ones who were dying of AIDS in the early 1980's that life is fleeting, and that my responsibility is to fiercely yield my life force and express my voice, my truth, and make every moment count.
Q: What have you learned about yourself living with HIV that your younger self would be surprised by?
A: That I am inspired to create and live a life beyond my wildest dreams.
Q: What song(s) do you play when you need to motivate yourself?
A: “It's My Time,” recorded by Martha Wash; “One Moment in Time,” recorded by Whitney Houston; and “It's in Everyone of Us,” by David Pomeranz.
Q: How did the U=U message shift your outlook on dating and connection?
A: It gives me hope, a lot of hope, but in my experience, there is still a tremendous amount of stigma about HIV in the gay male community. It is painful to be rejected by a potential intimate when I disclose that I am HIV undetectable. More and more people will learn and grow and evolve. I welcome this.
Q: What challenges have you faced aging with HIV?
A: Overcoming isolation and loneliness remain my biggest challenges and mission. I am making progress.
Q: What service or support group has made the biggest positive impact on your health and wellness?
A: Affordable housing, hands down. Coincidentally, the day I am answering these questions is my precise ten-year anniversary as a client of DAP Health. I was on the waiting list for housing for five months and then, for the last decade, including now, I have lived in the Vista Sunrise Apartments, a stone's throw from my medical team. Yes, I wouldn't be here without all the other amazing services I receive, from great primary care to mental health counseling (which I personally need and very strongly advocate for others) and so much more. But it all starts with having a place to call home.
Q: What do you want people reading this to know about aging with HIV?
A: We are all human, and no one gets out of this life alive. If living with HIV isn't one of your challenges, you'll have others if you don't already. We can all take steps to get the support we need to live our best lives regardless of our personal circumstances. Go for it. You be you, the best YOU possible.
Q: What's your goal for the future? What do you hope to be doing in the next 5-10 years personally or career-wise?
A: I am keeping my cards close to my chest on this one, but suffice it to say, my professional pursuits are very much about making the world a better place. On a personal note, I hope my life's great love affair is still ahead of me. I am keeping hope alive!
Q: What's your pro-tip for someone newly diagnosed with HIV?
A: I am sure most people with HIV wish they were never exposed and it wasn't an issue they needed to deal with. But since this is your new reality, celebrate the fact that this is the best time in history to have such a diagnosis. We can live long and healthy lives, have loving and intimate connections with others, and pursue our greatest and wildest dreams, all while living and sharing our truth. The world is a better place because of you!
Q: What movie or book inspired you the most?
A: “Alcoholics Anonymous: The Big Book”
Q: What's your personal mantra?
A: To honor and express my creativity in a way that makes a difference.