SCSU grad shares his story to raise HIV awareness at SAGE event
Aaron Berkowitz – News Writer
The university’s SAGE Center hosted an open dialogue in the student center’s ballroom, where former student Kyle Rodriguez, shared his experience after being diagnosed with the HIV virus to help raise awareness for the disease.
“I have to take meds everyday but luckily the strain of HIV that I have only requires me to take a one time a day pill. Some people I know have to take it three times a day,” said Rodriguez. “The first week of taking it I had side effects, I would get an upset stomach, but now it’s like taking a vitamin. The medicine really works.”
He said this was his first time publicly sharing his story since he was diagnosed in 2013 and he’s fortunate to have his set of close friends and mother as his support system.
“My mother was the first person that I called when I got the results back from the doctor,” said Rodriguez. “She told me ‘It’s okay baby, we’re going to get through this together.’”
He described the timeline of when he was diagnosed until present day as a learning experience because he still finds himself learning how to live with HIV.
“I’m still dealing with it because I am now at greater risks for getting certain illnesses and it’s something that I have to always consider,” said Rodriguez.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s website said 24 states have laws that require anyone who knowingly has HIV to disclose their status to sexual partners and 14 states require disclosure to needle-sharing partners. 25 states criminalize one or more behaviors that pose a low or negligible risk for HIV transmission.
Rodriguez said he never found out who infected him and he hasn’t reached out to his past sexual partners yet, despite many states and cities having partner-notification laws — meaning that, if tested positive for HIV, there may be a legal obligation to tell all sexual partners, according to aids.gov.
However, since being diagnosed Rodriguez has begun to disclose his HIV status with his partners to make sure they are aware. He said he’s received a negative response on an occasion, but he is currently dating someone who didn’t judge him for having the disease. Instead, Rodriguez is judged by his character.
“It’s something that bothered me at first and it was really embarrassing because it made me realize that I was really that promiscuous, but I’m kind of glad that I didn’t know because I probably would have flipped out and done something,” said Rodriguez.
According to aids.gov, an estimated 14 percent of those people who are infected with the virus don’t know they have it. The site mentions that most health centers will assist in contacting past sexual partners. They will contact partners at risk of being infected with HIV to attempt to prevent further spreading of the disease; the name of the person who tested positive in the first place will remain anonymous.
Lauren Todd, graduate intern in the SAGE center, said her staff is teaming up with Aids Project New Haven to hold confidential HIV testing in Southern’s academic Quad from 12-3 p.m. on April 15. The process for getting results will take roughly 20 minutes and the staff is offering pre/post counseling for those who are tested.
“This issue is especially important to be aware of being that we’re on a college campus,” said Todd.
The CDC’s website said people from ages 13-24 account for an estimated 26 percent of all new infections of HIV in the US.
Gay and Lesbian Advocates Defenders website said it is very important for anyone with the disease to inform past and present sexual partners about their HIV status.
Rodriguez said his HIV status doesn’t define who he is as a person or what he will accomplish in life and he hopes to form a support group where others who have the disease and are around his age can discuss their commonalities.
“The more energy you put into a problem, the bigger it gets,” said Rodriguez. “I just want to show people that just because you test positive doesn’t mean that your life is over. You can still accomplish great things. Stereotypes about people who come from a low-income household say that I am supposed to be either dead or in jail and I am neither of those.”