In 1994, I was in high school with the rest of my life ahead of me and a strong sense of invincibility. Everyone in my “gang” was going to be my best friend for life, and we were going to live forever. That all changed the day my dear friend Julio was diagnosed as HIV positive. Determined to not see his diagnosis as an end date, we rallied around him, volunteering at AIDS Project Los Angeles, even getting certificates in HIV education classes. I learned how to protect myself, how to care for Julio and most importantly, how HIV is not spread (i.e. through touching). In spite of all we learned about living with the disease, Julio was dead within 4 years. He was barely 21 years years old. I’ll never forget the time I spent with him at LA General Hospital or the arguments my friends and I would get into with the staff, which got us kicked out a couple of times. Some of the nurses were under the impression that they didn’t have to tend to Julio’s needs because he had AIDS. On one occasion, a nurse wanted me to glove up and wear a mask while visiting Julio for my protection. As if I was going to “catch the AIDS” from hugging him. Moments like those took a piece out of my heart and made want to travel the world, hugging AIDS patients in every city because I knew then, as I know now, that all human beings need the power of human touch to thrive. No one should be treated like they are dirty or unworthy when they are sick; especially not by the healthcare system meant to protect them.
I am beyond honored to be able to take part in this project. I hope everyone will take the time to see 5B because it’s imperative now more than ever. We can’t forget and we can’t regress. And silence still equals death.
Please enjoy my spoiler free interview with Sasha Cuttler and Mary Magee from this wonderful documentary:
Check out the trailer for the film: