The face of HIV is constantly evolving. However, one thing that hasn’t really changed much is the stigma associated with HIV. For the first installment in an ongoing series on stigma, we brought together a diverse group of HIV-positive gay men to demonstrate that HIV is nothing to be ashamed of. These men are artists, businessmen, athletes and poets, and are working to make our communities a better place. The epidemic has changed, and people can live long and healthy lives, create families and build communities. It’s a new world. Go ahead—thrive.
Corey Saucier is a queer-spirited 35-year-old Los Angeles native who has been HIV-positive for 12 years. As a passionately optimistic person, he sees his sero-conversion as the turning point in his journey towards personal evolution. As a result, he is seven years free of addiction, a deeply religious Sunday morning churchgoer, a writer and performer that was a 2012 Lambda Literary Fellow in nonfiction; and a lyrical activist for the stage who deals in themes of gender identity, queer theology and sexual politics. He is also a comic book and pop culture Gleek who laughs a lot and loves the color pink!
Writer, actor and activist Brenden Shucart grew up in San Diego and has recently returned to Los Angeles after spending more than half a decade in the San Francisco Bay Area throwing parties and angrily protesting social injustice. Brenden has been living with HIV since 2005, though he didn’t become politically active until a brief stint in the hospital combined with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposed cuts to ADAP and other essential services for people living with HIV made him realize his health and the health of his friends and community are in the hands of politicians who often have other priorities.
Daniel Berilla is 23 years old and has been HIV-positive for nearly three years. HIV threw his life into a tailspin as he had very little support from family and friends when he was first diagnosed. After some challenging years, things have turned around—he’s as healthy as can be and has many caring people in his life, including a loving boyfriend. He’s an actor, an activist and a member of the World Dodgeball Society.
Xavier Mejia, 36, tested HIV-positive in 2009. He’s been in the HIV field since 2001 as an advocate and activist—working in prevention, HIV surveillance and care. He’s one of the founders of PAYASOS L.A., a brotherhood of gay/bi Latino men who are committed to keeping and enhancing the quality of life for future generations and our communities. Currently he lives with his domestic partner, a schoolteacher, and they hope to one day have kids.
Photos by Shawn Barber, headshotsdoneright.com