Cameron Chase / ,

Being diagnosed HIV+ was the best and worst thing to ever happen to me. That is to say, nobody wants to live with disease, but I felt that after my diagnosis, my life was able to do a U-turn and get a second chance; a road to recovery.  Growing up queer in the Church, I was taught that not only was being gay a sin, but AIDS was God’s punishment for being so. Being of mixed Chinese-Malaysian and Scottish Heritage, my mother and I were the only non-white parishioners. With that,  you’ve got a perfect storm of self loathing and mental anguish.  Despite all the years of religious trauma, I eventually came into my own as a proud, queer, bi-racial individual. 

I was very privileged to be educated on HIV before I became positive. However, upon my diagnosis, I immediately swept all my feelings to the side and continued on with my life. Unfortunately, there was that little voice in my head saying “this is your punishment” for being who you are. Months later, I would have a crippling episode, similar to a nervous breakdown, where everything boiled to the surface and I shut down. It was then I decided to seek help and go into therapy. Little did I know that my therapist would not only help me deal with my new reality, but also help me unpack a lifetime of issues and trauma. Suddenly, in March 2020, Covid-19 reared its ugly head and the world plunged into chaos. In a strange twist of fate, being isolated opened the floodgates to healing my body and my mind. I became the most authentic version of myself and now embrace life head on – perhaps for the first time. With the parallels between Covid-19 and the ongoing AIDS pandemic of the last 30 years, I had to pull up my sleeves and try and protect my community. Being immunocompromised during the time where we didn’t know much of the science regarding Covid, was a pretty stressful time. However, trying to educate people on transmission, medication and living in public life during a pandemic became my new normal. I was able to feel a level of empathy towards those displaced in life by the world shutting down. It was an incredibly sobering and unifying moment. A lot of people in my life were scared of this pandemic and it really gave them a fresh perspective of what it has been like for people living with HIV/AIDS the last 40 years. This new view will hopefully speed up the research and a cure will be discovered during my lifetime. In a way, Covid-19 reignited my passion and desire to be a voice for the HIV/AIDs community. Two things can be true at once, Covid-19 was terrible but it also had a positive impact on my life, both during the pandemic and now.

Before my diagnosis, I was lost and on a self destructive path. I was prioritizing partying, not taking care of my body and putting the bare minimum into my career. After working with my therapist to deal with the shame and trauma, I felt like I had been given a new lease on life. I do not know where I would be if I didn’t become HIV+. Now my career is flourishing, as are my personal relationships. In addition, I’m the healthiest I have ever been, both mentally and physically. It takes work and commitment, but the tools I have to combat the darkness have been game changers. I am no longer held back by the fear of failure and have embraced my new role as an agent of change. I am working towards building my voice and my platform to help people struggling with mental illness and HIV stigma, especially those within the AAPI/BIPOC community. I am aware how much more education and outreach my communities need in order to break the stigma of HIV and I am not afraid to fight for that. I am exactly who I was meant to be: a queer, HIV+, Bi-racial human being.”

Share this story:Share on FacebookTweet about this on Twittershare on TumblrEmail to someone