OUT ABOUT HIV
in Mexico City
By Bradford McIntyre
I have been living with
HIV for 20 years and for a decade
now, I have been OUT publicly about my being infected with HIV.
My work creating awareness globally has provided for many people,
a face living with HIV and has helped to bring hope to people
infected that they too can live!
For the past 9 months, I have been a regular
contributor of HIV and AIDS articles in Enkidu Magazine, Web Edition
in Mexico City,
which has published over a dozen of my HIV/AIDS articles and provided
a page for all my articles. In April 2004, I received a letter from
Dr. Lars Ivar Owesen-Lein Borge, General Director/Science Editor
and Lic. Agustin Villalpando Sanchez, News Editor/Outreach Coordinator-Enkidu
Magazine, inviting their regular contributors/correspondents from
continents all over the world, to attend their 2nd Anniversary of
Enkidu Magazine. If I could get to Mexico, Enkidu would very much
like to have me attend the anniversary and to have me speak while
in Mexico, possibly at one of the outreach festivities held bi-weekly
in Mexico City.
Initially, I conveyed my sincere appreciation for
the invitation but expressed I would not be able to afford to attend
given my limited income. However, an invitation was extended for
me to stay with Lars and Agustin so that I would not have the expense
of accommodation. Some of my friends who know all I have been doing
creating HIV and AIDS awareness encouraged me to go and offered
financial assistance. This made the trip possible!
I talked with my doctor to see if he felt I could
make the trip and what if anything was necessary? After blood test
results showing my immune system was strong, a B12 injection for
my neuropathy, extra medications in case I should have any problem
with the food or water, he gave me his O.K. I spent several weeks
busily working out and putting on some extra body weight and muscle
for the trip.
I was also very happy that I did not have to worry about
access into Mexico because I am HIV+. This is a
problem which plagues many people, forcing them to lie
to border guards and stop or hide their medications when entering
the United States. I have not been able to submit abstracts for
conferences or accept invitations to present or speak at HIV/AIDS
events in the United States, simply because I refuse to lie and
hide my medications. I am OUT ABOUT HIV and there needs to be access
for individuals wanting to enter other countries such as the United
States, for reasons which may include receiving specific medical
attention, attending conferences or providing HIV education and
awareness. I thank and commend the Mexican government for allowing
HIV+ people access into your country! All that was recommended was
a letter from my physician stating my medications (not necessary
to mention what they are for) were crucial to my health. I can't
tell you how good the feeling was to enter Mexico without the fear
of ridicule and being turned away. This is the case for those stopped
and found out, entering the United States. This is a cause I will
work to promote change, not for myself but for the freedom of every
person living with HIV!
My sincere thanks to Jose F. Colon and Agustin
Villalpando Sanchez for their supportive comments in Jose F. Colon's
recent article in Enkidu Magazine: "PATRIA OBRA Y SOLIDARIDAD EN
"In addition, we must indicate and denounce the
public policy sustained by the United States, regarding its unjust
and antihuman immigration laws that do not allow that an activist
of the quality of Mr. Bradford McIntyre, correspondent of Enkidu in
Canada, to enter the United States of America because he is openly
According to what Agustin Villalpando Sanchez said: (and I quote as "ad verbatim"
as possible): "What moral force does the government of the United
States have to speak about freedom and democracy when it criminalizes
people simply because they are carrying a disease?" Bradford is
saying, in his veracity of heart, that he prefers not to visit that
nation if it entails hiding his positive status, a fight that he
has undertaken by a decade or more. His ethics and morals do not
allow him to fall in this trap. For this reason, we applaud the
valor and commitment of our companion Canadian correspondent".
When I told my friend Larry of my trip to Mexico
just two days prior to my leaving, he went to the library and took
out a book about Mexico for me to read and learn before I left,
of the people, the history, culture, sights and more, in Mexico.
The very first sentence inside Insight Guides - Mexico City is:
"Mexico City is a city of Miracles".
I knew I was meant to go!
I flew from Vancouver, Canada to Mexico City for
8 days, from June 21st until June 28th 2004. It was a busy time
for me in Mexico City, promoting HIV and AIDS awareness through
speaking engagements, press conferences and interviews.
On June 22nd, I spoke at an outreach activity at
EL TALLER, called LOS MARTES DEL EL TALLER, (Tuesdays of the Factory).
The hosts, Augusto Molina, Agustin Villalpando Sanchez, Beto Gonze,
Roberto "Ozzy" Fernandez and Gabriel Briceno were members of the
group, Grupo de Osos de Mexico (Group of Bears of Mexico). There,
I spoke about HIV infection not necessarily being a death sentence
but more like that of a chronic illness. I related that there is
much a person can do to stay healthy and alive, with or without
HIV medications such as: proper nutrition, exercise, vitamins, a
positive attitude and support of others! I explained that unprotected
sex puts individuals at risk of not only contracting HIV but of
being infected with multiple strains of HIV, other STDs (sexually
transmitted diseases) and resistance to all the drugs the infected
individual has taken.
There is a need for governments
to provide health care and medications to everyone infected with
HIV and for more efficient testing to halt the current problem with
so many who have tested receiving false positives! There
also needs to be world standards set for the appropriate timing
to start HIV/AIDS treatments. We know that introducing HIV medications
can be harmful to healthy people and many who are infected have
a strong immune system with none or very little viral load, which
means they may be able to forgo treatment at that time! However,
throughout the world there still exists today among many in the
medical profession, the practice of prescribing HIV meds just because
a person has tested positive! It is imperative that all individuals
in need of anti-retroviral treatment receive it and equally important
that the proper tests be done to establish the need.
On June 24th, I was included along with Mario Arteaga,
president of COMAC A.C., Sergio Villarreal, Horacio Franco and Minerva
Grijalvo in an informative press conference organized by COMAC and
Enkidu Magazine [www.enkidumagazine.com]. This was held to inform
the Mexican Press about the XXVI Marcha del Orgullo LGBTT (Lesbian,
Gay, Bisexual, Transvestites and Transgendered) of the City of Mexico
and to talk about the goals and objectives of the parade as well
as other GLBT issues. Sergio Villarreal read a letter to the press
from the gay community, organizations, businesses and individuals
with the intention being one where the press would be objective
and not just look for the sensational and provocative in the parade.
The parade represents the entire diversity of Mexico, which is the
motto of the parade. "We are all equal because we are different!"
(Somos iguales, porque somos diferentes) We all have our own individuality
and we are everywhere; sexual orientation is one aspect of ourselves!
Minerva Grijalvo, a mother and a member of Madres
Asertivas Padres Amorosos (MAPA), (Assertive Mothers Loving Parents
of Gays) said, "Traditionally in Mexico gays have been marginalized
and perceived as a threat to traditional family values. What Mexico
needs is an including concept of family!" Horacio Franco spoke about
the importance of the parade, coming out of the closet, breaking
down the stigma and stopping the discrimination.
I conveyed that individuals living
with HIV, gay or not are faced with discrimination. Unfortunately,
many who are both gay and HIV+ are afraid to disclose in either
case. It is my hope that by talking about being gay and talking
about being HIV+ that we can all move away from the fear and discrimination.
In April 2004, the Canadian government passed legislation extending
hate-crime protection to homosexuals making discrimination based
on sexual orientation illegal in Canada. There are GLBT individuals
and groups worldwide who are working tirelessly so this can/will
be true in every corner of the world. Our efforts do not only affect
the rights of the GLBT community but they affect and protect the
rights of all individuals.
In the early evening, I was interviewed for an article
about my living with HIV for 20 years, to be included in Atracciones
para Hombres Magazine and Enkidu Magazine written by correspondent
Miguel Alonso Hernandez Victoria.
On June 26th, I took part in the XXVI Marcha Del
Orgullo LGBT De La Ciudad De Mexico (the 26th March of GLBT Pride
in Mexico City) festivities. Starting at the Angel de la Independencia
(Angel of Independence) where from the steps of the monument, I
held my sign high (Spanish on one side and English on the other)
for all to see.
FUERA SOBRE VIH
VIH Por 20 años
OUT ABOUT HIV
HIV+ for 20 years
From there, the parade began the four-mile route
to its final destination in the Zocalo. I knew I was not going to
be able to walk the entire four-mile parade route. I was very moved
and grateful that I had received an invitation from Minerva Grijalvo
and the other members of Madres Asertivas Padres Amorosos (MAPA),
(Assertive Mothers Loving Parents of gays) to ride on the first
float with them. This allowed me to walk some of the route while
other times riding on the float. It was an emotional experience
to be included and embraced by everyone on the float and to participate
in the parade!
Once in the Zocalo, we were directed onto the
stage in front of an estimated 130,000 people,
where several mothers of Madres Asertivas Padres Amorosos addressed
the crowd. Then, with microphone in hand I said, "Saludos desde
Canada" (Greetings from Canada) and talked
with the aid of a translator, about creating HIV awareness globally.
The loud jubilant cheers that followed will be etched in my mind
and heart always! Throughout the day, I walked amongst the massive
crowd waving my sign and stopping to talk about HIV and AIDS with
hundreds of people. Thousands of photographs were taken!
I was filled completely with great joy and often
moved to tears as I watched and listened to the many speeches and
exceptional performances on stage. The music and spectacular voices
that echoed in the Zocalo, of Pedro Kominic, Eugenia Leon, Regina
Orozco and the harmonic notes mastered by Horacio Franco on flute,
not only caused the crowds to cheer louder and louder, but caused
such a stir in me as to remind me of why I was there! My thoughts
were of how I came to be in Mexico City, in the Zocalo and carried
my sign proclaiming that I was HIV+ and living with HIV for 20 years.
I remembered that time after time in the past I was given death
sentences and fought one illness after another! I was amazed at
the miracle of it all!
I would not be here if not for all the many
people in my life! The years of fear,
loss and isolation caused by the stigma attached to HIV and keeping
HIV a secret are all gone! They are replaced
with the LOVE for life, the will of spirit and the determination
of mind to live my Truth! In that, I am free! With this freedom,
I recognized that we are all here to LOVE and care for one another.
We are all connected! Years of isolation were merely a faint memory
while standing in the crowded Zocalo!
For those we loved and lost to AIDS, we will remember
the Love we shared! Those of us who remain are even more determined
that others do not experience what we endured! Perhaps, the most
important judgment is to determine if a person is receiving LOVE
or lacking LOVE. If it is lack of LOVE, then give LOVE!
On June 28th, my last day in Mexico
City I was a panelist at the Sexualidad Masculina: Nuevas Perspectivas Conference,
with Alonso Hernandez, Yuri Herzberg Tovar and
Jose F. Colon (from Puerto Rico). What is masculinity? Why is it
so important? Questions were raised about the role masculinity plays
in our sexual lives. It was very evident that the importance of
the role or even pressure one feels to be masculine has a significant
impact on how a man is perceived and/or accepted and how he perceives
himself. Worldwide cultural influences inhibit people from disclosing
their sexuality. From the standpoint
of disease transmission, it is imperative that ALL people practice
SAFE SEX = DISEASE PREVENTION!
In closing, I would like to thank everyone who made
my trip to Mexico possible and I would like to thank everyone in
Mexico City for making my time there so very special! I LOVE YOU
Mexico City IS a city of Miracles!
Whether YOU are affected by or infected with HIV,
we must cross those boundaries of fear and discrimination. It is
time to join OUR hearts, in the realization that we are all here
to LOVE one another!
Love is the way!
I am Positively Positive!
copyright © Bradford McIntyre
Related Article: OUT & PROUD-Vancouver Pride Parade, 2004