Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Meet Matt and Cameron From San Diego; Together for Good; Part 2

 I am Cameron Earnheart and I want to share with you a chapter of my life in which many life changing events took place. Each of us have experiences in our lives that teach us, allowing us to learn and grow, this is mine.

Seven years ago I met a man who grabbed my attention and captivated me from the moment I met him. From day one I could feel that Matt had an energy and charisma that could not be denied. He was happy, full of life, and it seemed nothing could bring him down. When I met Matt I was very new to St. Louis. I did not know many people and I was a little timid being a young gay man in a big city. Meeting Matt brought my shyness and loneliness to an end. From the beginning he made me feel as though I was special and had someone who cared about me. He made this small town boy feel more at home in a city that almost overwhelmed me.

Our story together is one that began with honesty. An experience that occurred following our first initial meeting was very unexpected but it allowed me to understand and appreciate who Matt Schiermeier really was. Matt pulled me aside and told he had something important he needed to talk to me about. With open ears I listened as he expressed to me very calmly that he was HIV positive. He wanted to be honest and come out with this information so I could decide if I still wanted to continue seeing him or if this was something that would cause me to want to part ways. I have to admit, at this point in my life I had never met anyone with HIV and knew very little about it. I knew it had sadly taken many peoples lives but had never had any experience in dealing with it first hand. After our discussion, I had to leave because I was running late for work. I left his house, surprised, scared, and with many questions running through my head. Questions abut HIV.

Could I contract it easily if I continued seeing Matt? Even a greater question lingering in my head was; Now that I know this serious information should I still have this ultimate feeling of a true connection with him? By the time I finished my work day many other questions had piled up in my head. I knew I could not just run away, I knew I had to see Matt. I wanted some answers and I could not deny the emotions and energy I felt between us. We sat and talked for a very long time. He told me his story and educated me on several issues in dealing with HIV. At this point I took it upon myself to do some research and become more educated on this new topic that had presented itself to my life. From listening to Matt and doing my research I began to understand that this is not something I want to be scared of, it is something I want to be knowledgeable about, aware of, and be open minded to.
I grew up in a place where a lot of people could possibly be closed minded to certain situations or circumstances. I however, even from a young age, have been a person who does not judge, who is very open minded, and who desires for everyone to be treated equally as possible no matter what the circumstance. Because of Matt’s honesty from the beginning I was able to put my sense of fear aside and replace it with a sense of trust. It let me see that Matt was just as beautiful on the inside as he appears on the outside.

I do have to admit, as our relationship began to evolve and trust was in place, the fact that he had HIV still played a certain fear role in my life. This certain fear caused our relationship to become a little rocky at times. Looking back I realized that this behavior was a bit regretful and selfish on my part. Many people would say to me, “Don’t hang out with him, don’t you know? He’s HIV positive.” This statement caused me to think, if people knew I was with Matt; Would they assume I was HIV positive? This at first scared me and I was unsure how this would ultimately lead people to perceive me. Because of my uncertainty, I treated Matt unfairly at times. I soon realized that I was being very foolish and letting other peoples opinions persuade my thoughts and my actions. I opened my eyes and saw that most people telling me hurtful things, did not know who I was and most likely did not know who Matt was beyond his outer layer. I then began to focus on the most important thing, the relationship between Matt and I.


Matt and Cameron On the Instinct Cover

Matt truly helped me grow and become a better man. I became a man who was completely confident and comfortable with himself, from an issue of being gay to issues of knowing my own strengths and weaknesses. Now having Matt by my side gave me a huge sense of pride, HIV or no HIV. I was proud to have Matt because I knew Matt’s heart. HIV is part of Matt’s life and has now become part of mine. It is something I know he deals with daily and something we both desire to protect me from contracting. Matt and I have now been together 7 years. With my education being in dietetics and exercise, I make sure we continue to eat healthy, workout daily, and live each passing day to its fullest.


If you ever get the chance to personally meet Matt, you will feel this energy I spoke of earlier. An energy that draws you to him. Beyond Matt’s great looks, incredible physique and quirky,fun personality lies one of the biggest hearts I have ever known. A heart that has been uplifted and broken but one that continues to beat strong for things that matter to him most. Matt is my best friend and soul mate. We share many of the same thoughts and desires. This can especially be seen when it comes to the issue of HIV. Matt and I want people to become more educated about this issue, we desire to give to research organizations to help find a cure for HIV, and we strive for fear to be dispelled by an increase in knowledge.

Though extraordinary circumstances may exist in a relationship, I would like people to realize that it is possible to be with someone and truly love. Yes, there are risks involved. It is each individuals responsibility to be aware of their health status, be knowledgeable, and make a devotion to protection. Matt and I have come together at this time in our life to take our experiences and our love and share them in a true desire to help others. Showing people that with honesty, knowledge, understanding, and a desire to give back, we can all come Together For Good, controlling and fighting.




Meet Matt and Cameron From San Diego; Together for Good.

Beyond Matt and Camerons gorgeous looks they both have big hearts. They have passion for life, for one another, and for helping in the HIV/AIDS community. Through their website and brand S&E they are giving back to the community. Visit their site for updated blog entries, fitness and nutrion advice. Their stories are filled with encouragement, words of adivce, inspiration, and hope. Without further delay it's my please to introduce you to Matt and Cameron; in their own words.


Matt and Cameron; Instinct Photo Shoot
 I am Matt Schiermeier (right in pic) and I want to tell you about myself, my goals, and my journey through some life changing experiences that ultimately gave me strength and left me inspired.

I was born and raised in a small Midwestern American town and quickly developed an appreciation for nature and wildlife. Growing up there, surrounded by nature’s beauty was a blessing that I never took for granted. This appreciation of beauty has had a major impact on my life. Through working with and appreciating painting and drawing, I understand the way they have impacted society’s present, past and future. Through a combination of what has intrigued me most, photography, fashion, music, and modeling, I am now creating my current and future projects. My focus here is on projects that will bring needed awareness to certain societal issues. This allows me to “give back” at the same time as pursuing what I love. My desire is to work on projects that will inspire people to act and contribute to a purpose driven cause. I feel that great things can be accomplished by allowing a collaboration of the minds and hearts of artistic people. The images within my site are both strong and unique and I hope they will provoke thought and make everyone want to act and “give back”.


Matt and Cameron

From a young age my family instilled in me very strong religious beliefs & values. I am a man who believes in prayer and the impact it can have on one’s life. My family always taught me to treat others with respect and to fight for and defend those who are less fortunate. Growing up, my family was your typical American family, strong and grounded. I grew up with a younger brother and a brother who is my fraternal twin. My family unfortunately went through some very hard times during my developing teenage years. The family with the most solid of a foundation, as I knew it, cracked. Our very structured life with rules, guidelines, and overall discipline faded. My grandparents stepped in and tried to hold together what was left.

I, however, took this unexpected freedom and acted out in misguided ways. I ventured out on my own, at a very fast pace, with no sense of responsibility. Without an authority figure to guide me, I made certain decisions and choices that were ultimately not the best. This was a time in my life where I was naive, inexperienced, and thought of myself as invincible. Not knowing who to trust or who to follow, certain opportunities presented themselves and little did I know of the everlasting consequences that can come with ones decisions and actions. Some of my careless and unfortunate choices have created a label for me in which some people continue to perceive me. This perception, however, is far from the man I have become today.

As a young adult, I also found myself in a couple of relationships. Being young and again naive, I was very trusting of my partners in these relationships. Having someone loving you and then being dishonest with you never crossed my mind. A few relationships had come and gone and I began to become aware of some physical changes my body was going through. Still having a sense of invincibility I just ignored these changes and was sure nothing bad could ever happen to me. Over time, however, my body changed more and my weight was on a continuous downward slope. This was a point where even some friends were bringing my drop in weight to my attention. In my heart I knew something could be seriously wrong with me but my mind was refusing to accept this fact. Not only was my weight down at this point but a rash had appeared near my eye. I soon found myself at the eye doctor. The doctor took a look at the rash and conducted an eye examination. As he took a very close look deep into my eyes he asked if I had ever been tested for HIV/AIDS. I told him no and my heart sank. Those words, that thought, left me feeling empty, alone, and scared. With no sympathy, no remorse, the doctor confidently said, “the last time I saw what is happening to your eyes was in a patient who passed away two weeks later due to AIDS.” He then stood up and left the room. A nurse then came in, comforted me as I cried, and waited with me for someone to pick me up from my appointment. I then knew that I had to take some responsibility in my life and take myself to get tested.

I scheduled the test, waited a week for the results, and prepared myself for the worst. The doctor informed me that I indeed was positive and unfortunately my t-cell count was below 200. This was an extra concern because when your t-cell count falls below 200 it is considered full blown AIDS and many people are unable to bring their t-cell count up at this point of the illness. I received support from my new doctor and was immediately placed on medication. I was young, afraid, and unsure who to turn to and who to confide in. My ability to place trust in anyone had been shattered so many times at this point in my life. I decided I would pull from the strength within myself and let God be in charge of my outcome. I realized there were two things that could happen now, I could let HIV/AIDS defeat me or I could defeat HIV/AIDS. Letting this defeat me was not an option.

I then decided to make healthy lifestyle changes. I began to eat healthier and began to train at a local gym. There were times I was down on myself and times of depression but with my lifestyle changes and my more positive train of thought, my t-cell count went from the lower 100’s to an un-detectable virus in a remarkable time. As I began to care more about myself and care more about the decisions I made, my friends and family began to come together and support my healthy lifestyle. I am a true believer that the mind is the most powerful tool we have in overcoming obstacles in our lives. If you remain confident, positive, and believe, then you can overcome. I kept this attitude or train of thought through this rough time and I keep it still today. HIV in my life has now become a maintenance issue. Something I know must be maintained and controlled but not something that I dwell on or let bring my positive outlook down. I began to educate myself on this issue and intimately feel a strong need to educate others.

I knowingly should have made some smarter choices in my life. Decisions I made, good and bad, have impacted me each day of my life. However, I do believe I am the man I am today because of my past successes and most of all, my past failures. Today I want to make sure people do not have to go through some of the experiences I went through. I want others to know that no matter what is going on in one’s life, it is important to make smart, healthy decisions. These decisions will ultimately follow you each day of your life. And those people who are going through this illness need to know they are not alone and they have a friend. Each person can remain strong and healthy and it starts with believing that in one’s mind. On a very serious note, there are people dying every day from this illness: Some without a choice or a way to receive medication. Some who never get tested because of fear. It is so important to dispel this fear and to empower people through knowledge. Knowledge is a powerful tool that we can stand on, rely on, and give. I truly believe that together we can all make a difference, make a change, and take a stand to see through this illness.

For the past ten years I have been focusing on eating well and working out. Over the past two years my desire to be better physically has pushed me toward the task of pursuing a modeling career. I have met and worked with some amazing photographers and with a fantastic, creative clothing company. Together we have had some great times and created some extraordinary images. I have gained a following of people who enjoy seeing my images and experiencing what is going on in my everyday life. I appreciate everyone who has shown interest in my images, my work, and my life. Because of this appreciation and because of an inner desire to help others, I want people to know the real Matt Schiermeier. I want people to know and relate to more than just my outer shell. I want them to see my inner desires and my soul, completely stripped down. I am a person who is living everyday with a disease that has killed so many people, yet I live each day to its fullest and have a desire to show others that they can do the same. In order to show my undying devotion to see an end to this illness I have come together with two others to create a website and a brand that will not only allow individuals to experience my life but also allow them the ability to give back to research and causes that will bring an end to HIV/AIDS.

By joining my site today, buying images and trademarked items you will be joining me in giving back to research to help find a cure for this illness that not only affects me but so many others. My desire is for my brand, Schiermeier & Earnheart (S&E), To be one that I proudly represent because it is a brand that will continuously give back. I am hoping you will want to join my efforts to help my brand grow so there can be a nonstop fund available for research and education efforts. Even if you as an individual stop by my site and cannot afford to join, buy, or give, all I ask of you is that you respect what I am trying to do and say a small prayer that my efforts and others will make a difference. Again, I am a man who believes in prayer. I believe in creating a good energy that is available for all mankind to share. Whatever your outlet may be or whatever brings you peace, from prayer to screaming to the top of your lungs, when you believe a true difference can be made, great things can happen. I hope you enjoy my site and receive satisfaction that we are giving back together!

Meet Cameron Part 2

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Meet Anthony Polimeni; Founder of My AIDS


click image to enlarge
Being positive for HIV is not who I am.  I was born in 1981, so my life has never known a world without AIDS.  When I was born though, I did not know about it and it was not who or what my life was going to be.  Growing up my parents instilled in me that I am meant to be anything I want.  I never said that I wanted to grow up and become an AIDS activist.  What my parents also taught me as well is to be the best person I can be and when I am able to do that I can be proud of who I am.

When I got a little older, I also learned the lesson of connections.  My life is based on my decisions and how those decisions affect those around me.  I understood this when I started volunteering at 14 years old.  By wanting to help others, I decided that being there to help in whatever way possible could change the lives of others.  And in return my life started to change as well.  From that moment on, I realized how much a smile can impact the world.  If I smiled at someone, they felt better and smiled back.  The same was true in the reverse too.  Life is about how we connect individually with those around us.

In May of 2006, I lost my smile when I was diagnosed with HIV.  I had grown up with this disease being around me ever since the beginning but it was never a part of my life.  And now all of a sudden it stopped me in my tracks.  I only knew of a couple of people that were positive and had no idea what it meant now for my life.  That day I got some of the best advice I could have ever received.  I was told that I needed to learn for myself what it meant for me to be positive before I went out to share my story.  After a little while though, I realized that not many stories were being shared.  This disease had become a memorial disease, not a living disease.

One night in the summer of 2006, I decided to start connecting those that were positive with the help that they needed.  Maybe this was because even though I was involved I still did not know where to go or saw that it was difficult to connect, whatever the case I decided to start making a difference.  I gathered up all of the HIV agencies information in Las Vegas and compiled it into one central website called Positive Vegas.  Since that night, Positive Vegas has been retransformed, restructured, and reincorporated as what is today “My AIDS.”

Over the last few years, I have been listening to what people around the country have been saying and asking for.  With all of that knowledge, My AIDS is now ready to start helping those make a difference in their own lives.  And when one makes a difference in their life, it affects those around them.

I bear witness to this in my own life.  I am open about my HIV status and because of that have been able to help dozens of people with their diagnosis.  One day while at the bank, the teller asked what our organization did.  I told her that we help connect people living with HIV or affected by it.  She at that point asked if she could volunteer.  I was stumped because I did not know how to get her involved.  While I was in my car driving away, the idea of coming up with personalized campaigns for people to get involved hit me.  The beginning of the My AIDS Campaign was born.  The teller helped inspire me to create a new way of letting PEOPLE take control and make as much of a difference as they want.  We just help structure and give the tools to them to do it.  It is their faces and their stories though that will make the biggest impact on those around them.  No matter what message My AIDS can write, a personal story and face will change more lives.
These campaigns are for everyone: positive or negative, every race, gender, age, sexuality, location, religion, everyone has a story of how HIV affects them.  I just want to help share those stories and give people a way to see how they impact decisions through the My AIDS Campaign.

Beyond posters for the campaigns, My AIDS is an organization built for you.  Those that are affected and infected have a voice, a story, and a life to share.  From our social network at www.MyAIDS.net to our social support program of Intersects, peer to peer counseling through Poz2Poz, or our other programs launching as well this year, My AIDS is built for the people using it.  We believe an organization is not the walls of our offices but the hearts and souls that make us who we are.

Personally in my life, I see the impact that I have had and look forward to what the future brings.  My story of living with HIV is not over and still has a long ways to go.  I do know already what it feels like to lose a good friend to the same disease that could kill me, not knowing if I am healthy because I have not seen the doctor in a long time, being told no because I am positive, being depressed and thoughts of not wanting to go on, I have been through it all.  The one thing that I do know is I am not alone, and that keeps me going.  Being able to say “I know what you are going through, it will get better” brings my life back to a place of saying I am here and human too.  But that is what this is all about, being human.  We are born, we live, we connect, and we keep on going until we can’t any longer.  But it is what we do that make us, US!  I am very proud now to say I am an AIDS Activist.  I am even prouder to help others say they are AIDS Activist too!

This really is My AIDS Campaign, make it yours too!  Please join me and many others by making your own difference at www.MyAIDSCampaign.org.

To find out more about me and the work that My AIDS is doing, check us out at www.MyAIDS.org

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Robert Breining's Story; Founder of Poziam.com and Cyber-Activist

I met Robert through a mutual friend and was connected to poziam.com where for the first time I was able to interact in a live chat room with folks who understood me. This was and still is very good therapy for me. I live in a rural area and it's really nice to be able to log in and get the support you need, ask questions, and just chat with people who understand you and HIV. Robert runs a weekly radio show every sunday at 9p EST; details below. I was very fourtunate to be able to tell my story on one of his shows.  Robert is someone who has been rising up, standing out, and speaking up about HIV/AIDS for many years. Without further delay; here is the story of Robert Breining.


Listen to internet radio with POZIAM RADIO on Blog Talk Radio


About Robert:
Sports fan and self-proclaimed "cyber-activist" Robert Breining used to be in the closet about his HIV status. Now he hosts his own online radio show and runs a social-network for HIV-positive folks. Robert has been playing soccer for over 20 years and currently plays with the Philadelphia Falcons Soccer Club. In 2009 Robert shared his story with Ongina for Logo's HIV+ME Project and was honored as one of the top 25 LGBT leaders in the fight against AIDS by HIV PLus Magazine & APLA.



I wanted my first blog to be about how I got to where I am today. I wasn't always as open about my HIV status. It took me about five years to accept it myself and move forward. I want to take you back about nine years ago.

I can't tell you how many times I'd go to a bathhouse for what I convinced myself was "just for a couple of hours." But then I'd return home tweaked out three days later. I called those times tweakends. All I'd have to do while at the bathhouse is walk by somebody's room and hear them sniff; it meant I could get a bump of crystal meth or cocaine from them. It is a known code in those places.

Then after I was bumped up (i.e., high on drugs), most of the time I was so high I wouldn't even have sex. I would just sit in my tiny room in the bathhouse. The room consisted of a thin mattress on top of a big wooden box frame, a hook and a light switch that always seemed dimmed no matter how high it was turned on.


I remember sitting on my bed with the door open, my head spinning from the meth as men would walk by and ask: "You want company?" or they would walk by and sniff, which was a discreet way of asking me if I wanted drugs.
Like many people who use meth and/or cocaine, there were times I just couldn't sit still. When I wasn't sitting in my room, I was constantly walking around. The bathhouse in Philadelphia had three floors with about twenty private rooms and four of those rooms were what they called VIP rooms. Those rooms had a double mattress and a TV streaming porn. Now that's some real VIP treatment! The bottom floor had a gym, sauna, steam room, showers and locker room. I think I managed to walk all four floors within ninety seconds. It was so repetitious and one hell of a work out on my legs. I remember the sound of the birds chirping in the morning. It meant that I had stayed another twenty-four hours. To this day, I still hate the sound of the birds in the morning because it reminds me of that times I was tweaked out in the bathhouse.

Sex happened, but really I think I went to the bathhouse so people would look at me. Just so they would compliment me. But they were only saying nice things to try to get me into bed. It was more about the chase for me, you know? After I got the guy, I was over it, but it was nice to know I could get him. I could give you the gory details, but you know what happens at a bathhouse, so use your imagination. I continued these private getaways to the bathhouses for about six months until I decided to face the reality of my addiction.

I never really thought I was at risk, or that a HIV diagnosis could happen to me. I always practiced safe sex. When I dated someone we would get tested together. When the tests results came back and both of us were negative, we would then and only then have unprotected sex. I thought it was how a couple showed true love. I thought HIV only happened to other people, not a suburban guy like myself.

I remember going to my family doctor to get a HIV test. I had this gut feeling or intuition that I needed to be tested and soon. A week later I received a phone call from the doctor and he said he wanted me to come in. I was so nervous. I knew it wasn't good news. I could hear it in his voice and I felt it in my gut and my gut never lies. I have very good intuition so I am told.

I called a friend and she came and picked me up and off we went. She waited in the car and I went in. I remember it being so cold in the doctor's office. It was June 7, 2001, the day after my deceased father's birthday. The air conditioning was cranked up. The chairs were plastic and cold. I remember going back when my name was called and praying my instincts were wrong. I walked in the room and jumped on the table. The door shut and I was alone. I was alone for 30 seconds and it felt like an hour.

I remember crinkling the paper that is laid out on the table to sit on. Then the doctor walked in. I gasped and took a deep breath. He looked at me and said, "I got some bad news." That is not what you tell someone who is newly diagnosed with HIV. At least that is not what I would have said. He said, "You tested positive."

I looked at him with a blank stare as if I didn't hear what he was saying. I responded with "What?"
And he said it again, "You tested positive." I felt alone, scared and ashamed. All the normal feelings one feels after hearing a HIV diagnosis.

The real story I want to tell you about is what happened after I found out I had become HIV positive. At first, so much was going on in my life; I was in recovery for six months and had just lost my father to cancer six months earlier. I just tried to forget about it. That worked for a little while, but eventually it just wore me down. I remember I woke up this one morning and it all just hit me. I was 21 years old, HIV positive, addicted to crystal meth and addicted to going to the bathhouse.

That was a harsh way to see myself, but it was a big moment when I finally said it to myself that plainly. For once, I had no excuses or bullshit. It scared me to death, but it was also a relief because I knew it was the truth. Being in denial takes so much energy and you don't even realize it. I was exhausted.

Realizing where I was, I also started to see what I'd really been doing. Like I said, the whole time at the bathhouse, it was always about the chase even more than the sex. That made me think that it really wasn't the sex I was after as much as the acceptance. It felt like I was changing myself all the time, I would do anything just for a compliment or a smile. I was trying so hard and felt so disgusted with it.

I thought if my problem is that I try too hard, I'll just stop. I'll stop trying to be acceptable to everyone and just be myself.That was hard, cause I knew that meant I had to tell people I was HIV positive. I couldn't handle being in that closet again but I wasn't sure how everyone would react, you know? Funny thing was, that's exactly when things started to work out for me.

First person I told was my mom. And of everyone I told, this was the hardest conversation. It was only six months after we lost my father to cancer that I sat her down and said, "Mom, I've got this thing called HIV. The doctors say I'm fine. My counts are good, I don't even have to take medicine yet." We were both really upset, but at least it was out in the open. What a relief that was.

When I told her about the meth nine months earlier, she had said, "You know your uncle went to N.A." I had never heard of it before. N.A. stands for Narcotics Anonymous. She gave me the phone number and I got hooked up with them. That's how I eventually got clean, and if I hadn't talked to my mom, I might not have found out about them. I might not be here today. I truly believe that my mother and uncle saved my life.

Talking openly about my status really helped in other parts of my life too. I play on a gay soccer team in Philadelphia. They're really good friends and one day I decided to tell my teammates that I was HIV positive. I did this with a blast e-mail to our Yahoo group. I invited them to view a blog I set up. When I told my teammates, they were amazed that I was doing so well, that I was so healthy, and that I didn't give two craps about them knowing. Some of them never mentioned it to me and others would say "What made you want to go public with your status?" some even opened up to me and said "I am HIV positive too." It was the first time I realized I wasn't alone in all this. It was amazing how well my teammates took it. People tend to think that all poz guys are these scrawny, skinny little twigs. That's not me.

Finding people who understand me has helped so much that I decided to start a website. I knew I wasn't the only one looking for support. POZIAM is a social network similar to MySpace and Facebook, just for other HIV positive people to meet each other and find a safe place to ask questions and share experiences. It's not about hooking up or finding a date. The most rewarding thing is to hear from people just like me, people who never had friends who understood them, and they discovered this on my site. Now I know how important that can be.

Like I said, it's about acceptance. I looked so hard for it for so long and it got me nowhere. Finally, being HIV positive taught me to just let it all go and be who I really am. After that, it all happened naturally. I had to accept myself before anyone else would. Now I'm in a pretty good place.

In hopes of inspiring,
Robert Breining
Founder of PozIam

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

18 months without Crystal Meth; my goodbye message to you

This blog entry was inspired by a friend of mine who recently shared his good-bye message to his addiction.


It’s been one year since I last used you. I can say that my occasional weekend love affair with you is over now.    I wish I had never met you through a stranger on that website I used to frequent; I didn’t know who you were until that night. You kidnapped me, and for 7 years from the age of 25-32 you kept coming back to haunt me sometimes many weekends in a row, sometimes months in between last seeing you, and one time as long as 6 months without you.
Depression, anxiety, disgust, disappointment, fright, and loneliness; these were all feelings you gave me. You weakened me. You diminished my spirit. You were very controlling.  You took a shy boy out of his shell and gave me superman powers, and made me very outgoing.  You and the site I met you on played on my vulnerabilities.  I WAS powerless over you.  If you could have had it your way, I’d be dead right now.  You didn’t succeed in that mission, thankfully.
However, you succeeded at a few things.  Because of my love affair with you, and my lack of judgments when using you I became HIV + and contracted Hepatitis C; though I never stuck you in me. You found another way to give me Hepatitis C; And an underlying heart condition I have worsened.  Using you again, just once, could kill me.  I will not give you the satisfaction of my death; I am not ready to die.
Other than robbing of my health, you also robbed me of intimacy. Over the 7 years that you rolled in and out of my life – I didn’t know intimacy. To this day, you have taken that from me. I question if I can ever be intimate with another human being again. Time will tell, and hopefully I will get that back from you one day. That is the lost connection I miss most.
My departure from you was bitter-sweet. I knew I couldn’t separate from you without intervention. I sought the help from CMA, NA, psychologists, psychiatrists, and even an inpatient dual diagnosis drug treatment facility. I needed to rid you from me and unclasp the grip you had on my mind.  I did what I needed to do to stay away from you.  Do I still think of you, yes?  Though, now you are just a horrible memory to me and I will NEVER pick you up again. I have the tools and self-will now to say no to you.
Like I said, our departure was bitter sweet.  I do thank you for some things. You gave me reason to quit you when I found out about my dual diagnosis.  You have given me a voice to speak about my experiences, strength, and hope living with HIV and Hepatitis C; and the ability to speak up about you and your cunning, baffling, and powerful behavior.  I defeated you in that I cured my hepatitis C.  I wasn’t going to let you win that battle. Though, now unemployed I needed to do what was healthy for me at the time. While I loved my job in NYC, you gave me the reason I needed to leave and live a healthier and more productive lifestyle.
 I have found new direction in my life, a purpose to want to live and make a difference in the World, and a new found freedom without you in my life.  I have no doubt that great things are on the horizon for me.  You brought me closer to my Family and especially to my ill Mother awaiting a lung transplant.  Every day that I am alive on this earth I will rise up, stand out, and speak up about you, HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C; you have given me a platform to do so.
You will never be given the satisfaction of seeing my die as a result of using you again.  I have defeated you. Good bye!
Kevin Maloney
Are you dealing with a drug addiction problem?  E mail me and I will help you find resources in your area to stop the madness in your life.  kevin@riseuptohiv.org


Monday, March 21, 2011

A friends candid good-bye letter to Crystal Meth and other addictions

This is a "Goodbye Letter to Addiction(s)" that I wrote on July 8th, 2010 while I was at Pride Institute Intensive Outpatient.  It is unedited.  I remember reading this out loud in my small group, and the relief I felt when I was done.  If you've never taken the opportunity to do this, I encourage you to do so.  Writing things out helps me to process through grief and loss...and to move on.
  
Dear addiction(s):

There's three of you that I need to say goodbye to.  Sexual compulsion...codependency...but let me start with the one that will kill me first.  Crystal meth.  I knew about you before I even tried you.  The first CMA meeting I ever attended related to a boyfriend I was with.  His ex-partner was deeply addicted and in bad shape, so we went to a meeting in support of him.  I remember a young guy there talking about wanting to be "poz'd" when he was high.  I had never heard this before - it terrified me at the time.  Who knew that just a few short years later, I would be positive, thanks to my first relapse on you...and being asked by another young guy to poz him. 

Crystal - you're cunning, baffling and powerful.  The great deceiver.  I used you for the first time in the fall of 2003 - a result of me losing hope in finding a stable, healthy relationship.  I turned to online hookup sites (an addiction I was able to say goodbye to just over a year ago by grace and through recovery) and when I was asked if I had ever smoked you before, I said no.  I forgot the foreshadowing I had been given by my Higher Power in that meeting, and didn't think twice about trying you.  I loved that you lifted my inhibitions and gave me the feelings associated with falling in love immediately....  The sex was incredible - but I just couldn't cum.  I tried and tried relentlessly, ending up in a pool of sweat for my efforts.  The guy I was with left me a note - it said "you're a kewl guy - don't try so hard to cum next time."  Nearly seven years later, on May 11th, 2010, I spent seven hours alone, porn magazines strewn across the bed, trying relentlessly to cum, ending up in a pool of sweat for my efforts.  It always ended the same way - from the first time to the last time.  The intimacy you promised, was false...immediate...and unsustainable. 

You stopped working years ago, and for the past three years in recovery, we've become more distant.  My visits with you have gone from every few weeks to every few months to as long as 8 1/2 months apart.  Somehow, I still chased that first high, forgetting what you take from me when I use, and how little you give back.  I forgot my last high, which means it wasn't the last one.  But now I have irrefutable evidence of both the payoffs and consequences to using you.  It's all there, on paper, so I can never forget where using you takes me.  I can't cheat my heart anymore.   I raise the white flag - you win.  I cannot use you successfully again.  You want to see me dead, and I'm not ready to die.  So while I honor the good moments we shared at one time, I have to say goodbye.  I surrender to my powerlessness over you, and I will do so each day for the rest of my life.  I never have to come down from you again if I don't pick you up.  I never have to feel suicidal again.  I never have to feel as alone as I did when I last used you.
But I do thank you for one thing.  Through you, I've come to recovery, to a way of life I might never have discovered without you.  Through this process, my sexual compulsion has lifted to a large degree, and I know that I will use the same tools to work through my codependency issues.  So I am a grateful recovering addict - the whole journey was worth it for the happy, joyous and free life I will lead in sobriety, one day at a time, without you. 

Jeff S.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

It's not just about HIV and ME

You see for many of us, HIV is just a piece of the many challenges life will throw at us. It’s just part of our story.  The emotional and physical significance of having HIV will shift over time to other more pressing issues occurring in your life. While HIV maybe the primary concern in your life and an underlying cause for other medical issues in your life; many of us living with HIV have much more going on.  For me HIV has been just part of my story over this past year, though it has been the MAJOR underlying factor to most everything going on in my life.

For me in this past year since being diagnosed  with HIV and Hepatitis C I had other  “life altering moments” (as I like to call them).  Upon being diagnosed I went away to an inpatient drug rehabilitation program to not only address an occasional weekend drug problem, but to come to grips with my dual diagnosis of (HIV/HCV).  I have overcome my drug problem, my HIV Viral load is undetectable and my CD4 count upon successful completion of hepatitis C treatment is continually rising.  I have had a sustained viral load since week 5 into treatment, and on my 26 week post treatment follow up my doctor has no doubt that I will have eradicated the hepatitis c virus.  Now I must take much better care of my heart as my Cardio Vascular Disease is a more pressing issue than anything else.
Also, in this past year I had to give up my job in NYC and moved in with my Dad and his girlfriend, then into my own apartment.   Slowly I am re-building a new life for myself, and I have confidence that all will be well with me. Those are my issues, and I realize compared to many, my issues are miniscule.
I think about my Mother who is on 5 liters of oxygen, is mobile, but must inch along her way as to not become breathless.  I think about her upcoming lung transplant, and hope that she makes it to surgery.  I worry that she will fall ill and have come so close to a better quality of life. I’m saddened by the loss of a friend’s mother who recently passed away, she had severe dementia and then they found cancer. I am also feel sadness for a Facebook friend whose partner recently passed away.
I look back on this past year, and am concerned and saddened by all the bullied LGBT youth who have taken their lives at such a young age.  I think about their parents and the heartache they must feel having lost a child. I think about the lesbian’s couple home that was burned down in Tennessee with the word “queers” written on their home – in an apparent hate crime. I am worried about the ADAP crisis occurring in the United States, people unable to get lifesaving medications; and who may die because of this.
Globally I think about the 32 million others living with HIV/AIDS. I think about the man who set himself on fire in Egypt and began what would become a revolution across the Middle East.  I think of the Martyrs who died wanting a better life for themselves, their families, and their fellow countrymen.  I cannot begin to fathom the fear in the souls of these people living in these countries where these uprisings are occurring.  I think about the persecution of gays in countries whereby being gay is punishable by death.  I think about the 3 men who were publically hung to death in Iran because they were gay. 
My attentions are now focused on the people of Japan. The un-imaginable pain and anguish they are going through.  First a major Earthquake, then a Tsunami, and a Nuclear crisis and the climbing death toll; my heart go out to the people of Japan.
My HIV and other problems become seemingly miniscule is the grand picture, and I am thankful for the simple things that many upon the earth can only dream about; a full refrigerator, clean running water, a soft warm bed, and a long hot shower.
So, while HIV will always be a part of me, and I must remain cognisant of it.  I must also remember it’s not just about HIV and ME.
To my friends around the World. Take care, and be well. Till next time.

Kevin Maloney

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Connexion.org; an LGBT social networking website

Sadly Connexion.org has shut down as of September 14th, 2011.  If you are looking for HIV positive support I suggest http://www.poziam.com/ 



I reached out to connexion.org and an admin of the site replied to me with the below information. Personally. I have been a member of connexion.org for a long time now and compared to MH, A4A and numerous other sites I find this site to be top notch. They do not allow nude photo's, and they have a verification process whereby you can have your picture certified or "authenticated". They have instant message and video capabilities built into the site as well. You can post questions on their message boards and participate in one of their groups. You can also import your blog, and favorite music. You can taylor your profile to your liking. This site is the LGBT facebook of the internet. They have various groups you can join and one such group is a HIV positive support group.

If you are looking for quick sex then stick with MH, or A4A. If you are looking for quality conversation, and dating then I would prefer connexion.org. Though I cannot discount that no matter which site you meet from, as connexion say's "anything is possible when two people meet"

Message from connexion.org

Tim Gill, founder of Quark, Inc. and the Gill Foundation (advocates for LGBT equality) started Connexion in 2003. Connexion.org is a LGBT social networking site with over 175,000 active members worldwide. Members of Connexion.org enjoy access to a variety of features that help bring the gay community together. These include: daily news feeds, community message boards, calendars, instant messaging, email, party and social invites, and updates on philanthropic and LGBT community events. While not specifically a dating site, Connexion believes that anything is possible when two people chat. Membership is free.

With regard to HIV, Connexion took an innovative and unique approach to enabling users to self identify as HIV-positive. While most sites allow users to select negative or positive, Connexion felt that forcing users to choose leads to deception from people not ready to disclose their HIV status and a false sense of security that the person you are chatting with is actually negative. Instead, Connexion gave users the option to disclose that they are HIV positive if they choose to, but didn't give an option to state that you are negative. This was seen as a way to allow newly positive people to not have to lie about their status until they were ready to disclose it, without asking them to lie about being negative

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Global HIV Story Board Project

The Global HIV Story Board Project
HIV is not only a gay disease, it is a HUMAN disease and it is GLOBAL pandemic, and your stories whether in writing or on video not only help to take away the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS, they remind us that HIV/AIDS is still exists.  Your courageous stories I have read or heard over the past year have been powerfully uplifting, inspirational, informational, and empowering. Your stories at times have moved me to tears, have made me laugh, and have called me to action and given purpose to keep going.  I chose not to give in to HIV and Hepatitis C, but to rise up above it; and a countless number of your stories from across the World helped me do just that.
I learned of my HIV status on March 3rd 2010, and a month later with follow up labs was told that I had also contracted Hepatitis C (non IV drug user).  To cope I sought the help of psychologists, and psychiatrists, friends, and family. Unless your are living with HIV it is hard for people to relate fully to what you are going through.
What has really gotten me through the year is hearing your stories via video on YouTube and other websites and reading numerous blog entries of YOUR experiences, YOUR strength, and YOUR hope living with HIV/AIDS.  
Over the past couple months I have reached out to many people and asked them if they would share their story.  I’ve been met with an overwhelming response to those who wish to share their story living with HIV/AIDS.  For many telling ones story can be very therapeutic and liberating. Telling your story to someone newly diagnosed is invaluable.  I thank you in advance for your stories, for your courage and deciding to take a stand and rise up to HIV. I look forward to corresponding with folks from all over the World.
The Details:
For those who wish to tell their story via video who do not have video capabilities I have bought an inexpensive yet viable FLIP video camera that I can mail anywhere in the World, excluding the Countries below.  While many from these Countries may want to tell their story I will not facilitate your persecution by sending you a camera to record your story. However, if you want to break your silence in one of these countries feel free to e mail me your video or story, and we can discuss disclosure options.
Via writing or video your story will be posted on my blog at http://www.riseuptohiv.blogspot.com/  If via video it will be posted to .blogspot.comhttp://www.youtube.com/RiseUpToHIV 
It will be promoted through my personal Facebook page located at http://www.facebook.com/riseuptohiv and further through my Facebook fan page RiseUpToHIV AND on Twitter
Requirements:
If writing your story, it must be at minimum 500 words, and include 3-5 pictures depending on the length of your writing.  If telling your story via video it please keep it 10 minutes or under.  I am seeking stories from across the gamut, from all over the World to include Men and Women, straight and gay, young and old.
If you are the Founder/CEO of a grassroots organization and making a difference in your community or any other extraordinary individual making a positive impact in your community with regard to HIV/AIDS then I also welcome a video or writing submissions from you.

What to talk about?
There is really no format, but as a guideline talk about your experiences, your strength and your hope living with HIV, and see below further talking points if you need some guidance.

Some possible talking points:
Start with your name, your diagnosis date, where you are from.
Why are you making this video or writing out your story?
Talk about your life pre-diagnosis up to your diagnosis date
Talk about the day you found out you were positive
What direction did your life take when you found out you were positive?
How you told your friends and family
Talk about the meds you take
Talk about your hopes and dreams for the future
What would you tell someone newly diagnosed?
What positive messages have your heard
Cry, Laugh, Sing, Smile, talk from the heart

How to submit:
E mail your video or writing submission to kevin@riseuptohiv.org  If requesting the Flip Cam, please e mail me your address.
Disclosure
Once your video goes live I can delete it from my websites, but I cannot control who may copy or share it.  So, essentially once submitted your story may be on the internet forever, and be able to be viewed by anyone.   By submitting your story or video you understand this and release me of any liability.
While we know that HIV is a HUMAN disease, it is my responsibility to point out where homosexuality is illegal and where disclosing your HIV status, may also carry legal consequences.
Know your rights regarding Homosexuality and HIV in your Country

Volunteer Opportunities:
Video Editor
Graphic Artist
Proof Reader

If you would like to partner with me, or become a sponsor on this project please e mail me at kevin@riseuptohiv.org

This project is brought to you by Kevin Maloney; Founder and CEO of RiseUpToHIV

“Voices in unity strengthening community”- KM


Saturday, March 12, 2011

A poem titled "Red Rise"; Empowering, Inspirational and Uplifiting

I asked my friend James Anthony to write a poem from the perpective of someone who is HIV negative. His poem is powerful, empowering, meaningful, and inspirational.

In Anthony's words; 22 from South Carolina

Being that I grew up with a mother who worked with HIV/AIDS patients, I have seen what it is like for those who live with it on a daily basis and what he/she has to go through to make ends meet and make life meet. I take honor and pride in supporting those who are living with Red Rise because they possess more love in their little pinky finger than many others. They know how to live life!!!

This piece that I have written is of real importance to me, because I know what it is like to be scared and alone. Though I do not have HIV, I do not know what kind of scare that is, but I have had an HIV scare and it was honestly the most horrific time of my life; and longest two weeks of a wait for me. I understand the feeling of wanting to ends one life because of sadness, depression and the feeling that no one understands, but in the end of it all (though it is easier said than done) ending one's life is never for the best. Some people who have HIV believe that they will never be able to lead a long, healthy life and some believe that they will never meet that one person to love.

Life is hard and we all know this. Life can be a pain in the ass and we all know this, but in the extent of it all, we are all a blessing regardless of what we are living with or going through. I hope that Red Rise will help bring a "peace" of mind to those who are living with HIV/AIDS and those who are not living with it. We are all the same and we all have the same colored heart that beats with love; let's use that love to support one another. Don't give up because it is hard! I can't  say much about that, because I am one that gets depressed from time to time, but if we work together in harmony and love, we can all learn from one another. Remember Red Rise shall pass and will flow away like a rapid river; as it should.

RED RISE

Forget about the way it came to be
Forget that it brought amongst death
Let it sink with no worry
Shine through the midst of hell
Love it till the day you’re reborn
Every chance equals a mistake
Red Rise on the dime
But the love never ceases
Bringing one and all together
Dance, Dance, Dance
In time when one can unite
No fear, no disgrace, just sweet tastes of prosperity
Bring the beat around
Turn it inside out and kiss the sweet joy
Red Rise got no power over you
Red Rise just flows in and out
Standing tall, hand in hand
Clasped arms encircled, waiting for that day to rise
That day to rise with no fear, all equal in one
Reflection stares back in the mirror
Why are we doing this to ourselves?
We continue to lose on the edge
We leave ourselves inside without any take of the mind
Nightmares are beginning to run like ovulated beings
Panic modes and deceit are freeing themselves into the reality of notion and point
Red Rise is on a constant spur of taking lives with no crash
But when that crash ceases Red Rise will be faced with eternal hell
Where is the family when needed?
Where are the friends you always hoped for?
The feeling of unworthiness seems to takes it course for more than a day
Feelings of a hero coming to save you from your torture seem to lessen
But one day you shall rise up to the occasion and become the hero
The hero that has defeated the red from rising and conquering
Red Rise will forever cease in the depths of hell and make no pass way for another
Dance, Dance, Dance
Rejoice with tears and laughter
The love from those who understand will follow through
Stand up and rise for that occasion of acceptance
Live through the eyes of beauty
For beauty in the eyes tell all
Sing, Sing, Sing
Let your words speak freely through your tongue
Kill, Kill, Kill
Red Rise will surpass this dangerous adventure
The feeling and being of a new life will step forth and bring forth more than a twirl
Sweats, hate, torture, all that can be imagined from Red Rise will halt, pause, and surrender
 Red Rise no more my pretty child
Red Rise no more my pretty being
Red Rise no more my pretty girl
Red Rise no more my pretty boy
May the wishes of blessings bless your head
And may the life you once knew be surrendered
For you child are no mistake
You are a beautiful creature created by a GOD of statue and portion
You are no blessing  in disguise
You are a pure bliss of love
You are a striving companion of love
You are not a factor of Red Rise
Red Rise will flow away freely
Red Rise shall pass
Go my beautiful child 
Dream, Dream, Dream
Dance, Dance, Dance
Sing, Sing, Sing
Red Rise shall be no more


You can e mail Anthony at jamesanthonychapman@yahoo.com and you can see more of his work at www.jamesalicious.wordpress.com

Friday, March 11, 2011

The story of Dab the AIDS Bear


Me and my DAB the AIDS Bear
The following is from http://www.dabtheaidsbearproject.com

 Back in 1981 when I had friends starting to die from AIDS, the hospitals wouldn't allow visitors into the patient's room until 1983 and much later in other cities. GRID (what HIV was originally called) was considered reason to quarantine people with this new illness because they were afraid of this new disease and were not sure how the virus was passed. Because of this, people were usually close to death and had at least one opportunistic infection when they were diagnosed and hospitalized.

You could see even seasoned health care professional recoil in fear and not wanting to touch the patients. Even close friends were hesitant or scared to visit their friends in the hospital. Several friends and my first partner were dying without the comfort of human touch as they suffered during their final hours.

So I started buying Gund teddy bears and giving them to friends so they would not have to feel so alone, abandoned and afraid. That is how Dab the AIDS Bear was created.

I would personalize the bear to something I knew about them. From personal experience, nothing is worse than being in the hospital and being scared when you think you are going to die.

When people were admitted to the hospital then, they rarely made it outside of the hospital alive again. Even in the later 80s when the first HIV medications started becoming available, the medications only bought someone several months. Some longer, some shorter and most had debilitating side effects and greatly diminished quality of life. But there were no other options then to keep yourself alive. AIDS before 1996 for most was a death sentence.

When the red HIV/AIDS awareness ribbon became the symbol for HIV and AIDS, I started adding the new ribbon to the bears when I would give them as gifts to my friends dying due to this horrible virus. The universal appeal of bears brings smiles to even the sickest child or adult and are a symbol of strength and comfort for all ages. So it was my way on holding them since I could not be with them in person.

Dab the AIDS Bear received his name by my god daughter, Candace, who was one of the first children born with HIV in the United States. She was also born deformed due to Alcohol Fetal Syndrome so her mouth was not shaped normally. When she tried to call me Dad, it always sounded like Dab. My partner and friends thought it was so cute so they all started calling me Dab and the bears I gave to friends started being called Dab the AIDS Bear. Unfortunately, Candace passed in 1989 at age 5 because we did not have life saving HIV medications then and she also had many other health problems.

In 1998, I designed another HIV awareness bear and massed produced it. The Dab the AIDS Bear was wholesaled in various specialty retail stores across the country. The reason I came out with another bear at that time was the funds to the AIDS organizations were being cut and services such as massage, acupuncture, aromatherapy, and nutrition counseling among others were canceled because of the government budget cuts to the Ryan White Act. Treatments that helped people with HIV/AIDS deal with the side effects from the medications and the illness itself were no longer available through public assistance programs.

Dab the AIDS Bear has met many young people under 25 that are already positive as we travel across the country doing our Teddy Bear Touchdowns for children with HIV and AIDS around the world along with my appearances at events, conferences, AIDS Walks, AIDS rides, health fairs etc. doing HIV/AIDS awareness, education and prevention. These young people represent all races, all economic backgrounds, all religious beliefs, all sexual orientations because NO ONE is immune. It's not like the virus is going to ask you questions before infecting you.

EVERY MAN WOMAN AND CHILD IN AMERICA CAN CATCH HIV!

Dab the AIDS Bear has also met with many 50+ citizens who are now finding out they are HIV positive through my work with AARP as an advocate and spokesperson. Many did not get tested and find out until their immune systems are depleted and they have one or more opportunistic infections. Too many are DYING because they didn't know their status in time so they could begin HIV treatment.

GET TESTED GET TESTED GET TESTED GET TESTED GET TESTED

According to doctor, if you are sexually active, you should be tested EVERY SIX MONTHS.

Dab the AIDS Bear is also an advocate for financially challenged Americans with HIV and AIDS who are placed on AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) waiting lists. He has held over 8000 American men, women and children as they lost their war with AIDS. An American man, woman or child should never have to die because they can not afford the life saving HIV medications. Too many Americans died before 1996 when HARTT treatment and protease inhibitors were released making it possible for most to live with this virus.

When did it become OK for Americans to die due to ignorance, lack of caring, or lack of government funding? We thought our great country, the leader of the free world, would be the first to make sure its own citizens would not be subjected to such a horrible fate. That we as Americans would be the one to show we take care of our own. Well they are being shown and they need your help.

Dab the AIDS Bear travels around the globe as it nears it's 30th birthday continuing to spread a 29 year message of hope. You can find Dab the AIDS Bears at AIDS Walks, AIDS cycles, health fairs, public events, conferences, etc.

Stay tuned for appearances of Dab the AIDS Bear in your area. We have our Ambassadors of Hope traveling the globe with Dab the AIDS Bear and taking pictures. So you never know when we might be coming to your city or event.

So walk up, say hello and have your picture taken with Dab the AIDS Bear and help prevent new HIV infections while helping those already infected.

Wishing you health, hope and happiness.

big bear hug,

Daddy Dab and Dab the AIDS Bear

You can get your Dab the AIDS Bear by clicking the link below and making the minimum requested donation which includes shipping and handling.

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