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Outspoken: Dani

Outspoken: Dani


For a long time I've been active in the cause of fighting HIV. I've also battled with an addiction to crystal. These things have brought me to where I am today.

In high school I was part of the first gay-straight alliance in the Tacoma, Wash., school district. This brought me a lot of negative attention. I was beat up daily. Ultimately I dropped out of school and picked up drugs. I was high most of the time, hanging out with dealers, trading sex for drugs. I always asked them to use condoms, but when you're high, who knows what's going on?

A little over a year ago, at 21, I signed up for an HIV vaccine trial. I'd been tested three times in just a couple of months, and they all came back negative. So I was shocked at my second appointment when I was told I couldn't be used because my blood test came back positive. I freaked out. I was crying so hard, I couldn't see my own hand in front of me. When I got home my mom could see how upset I was. I told her what I had found out. She said how sorry she was and asked me for a hug, but I wouldn't let her. I couldn't believe I had let this happen and thought if I couldn't love myself enough to prevent this, then how could she possibly want to hug me? I felt so ugly. This was the worst moment, I'm sure, that I'll ever have to face.

Except for some commitment phobias, I haven't changed much. Other people, though, have changed, and they tend to be extreme in their reactions. My social life has become a minefield of hit-and-miss reactions. Some stop talking to me, while others seem to want to know me more. I'm not sure which is worse.

Some good has come out of all this. I've been fortunate to have the chance to be a part of a cross-country caravan with the Campaign 2 End AIDS and to get more involved with outreach in my own community. It has also brought me closer to my parents and friends. I have an amazing support network that is as strong as could be. It's sad that this isn't true for everyone. I often hear gay youths say they'd rather just go ahead and get HIV instead of living in the fear of, Is today the day it will happen? In some ways I feel that fighting the stigma that comes with being positive is a mission chosen for me, and I can't think of a fight I'd rather be part of. Let's end AIDS now.

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff & Wayne Brady

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