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Monday, November 28, 2011

How I plan to reflect on World AIDS Day (and the day after)

I can't believe that we are upon 30 years of reflection as we look back on how the AIDS Crisis has infected and affected many across the globe. I am filled with tears of joy because I am approaching my 10 year anniversary of life since I was diagnosed back in 2002.

As I reflect back on these past 10 years, I am eternally grateful and thankful for those who have joined the fight against HIV/AIDS including all the scientists, researchers, activists, support agencies, independent film makers who tell our story, online support networks and those living with and affected by HIV / AIDS. I would not be the strong, healthy person I am today if it were not for all of these entities working collectively together.

So I thought I would take this time to share with you how I will be reflecting on these past 30 years on World AIDS Day (and the day after); and for those of you that may be in New York City (and those of you who emailed me asking what I would be up to) some of my plans are open to the public and might be of interest to you as you begin to make plans.

On Thursday, December 1st,  I will likely wake up in a bundle of nerves because I will be presenting, in the morning, my new national speaking program, Blunt-Talk: How I LiVe to the student body (400 students!) at a prestigious New York City high school. My message will be strong and filled with hope; sharing the intimate details of what happened to me back in 2002 and how I have been dealing with living with HIV / AIDS since. I have performed and spoke on stages for thousands, and I admit that even to this day I still get nervous just before stepping on stage. Wish me luck!!

Rohan Spong & Mimi Stern-Wolfe
Following my speaking engagement, I felt it was important for me to learn and be part of something historical. I have decided to attend, what I believe will be one of the most epic World AIDS Day independent film premieres here in New York City, All The Way Through Evening, Directed by the internationally acclaimed Rohan Spong (previous work includes T is for Teacher, reviewed as one of the best films of 2009 in Australia.)  Check out the trailer below and for the complete synopsis of this film and to purchase tickets, please visit the film's website. If you do attend (which I hope you will), please look out for me and do come say hi

ALL THE WAY THROUGH EVENING - Trailer from rohan spong on Vimeo.

Many of my followers have inquired, asking if I will be speaking / performing publicly. The answer is YES!! On the day after World AIDS Day, December 2nd, I will present my Blunt-Talk speaking program at the Staten Island LGBT Center as well as perform several pieces of magic from my recent off-Broadway show, Purity.  This event is FREE!! And if you do attend, bring some friends along so I can read their minds!!

For those of you in Manhattan, um it's a hop skip and jump off the Ferry! I have posted a flier here with all the details.

It would mean a great deal if you would all help spread the word about these events I am attending, and I do hope many of you will come out to support.

World AIDS Day for me will be about speaking, listening, giving back and sharing the magic of my life while others share the magic of their lives with me! I am looking forward to reflecting. . . with all of you.

Love and hugs!!

I am Daniel and I am living pozitively.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Positive vibes of life for this Thanksgiving holiday.

I am not sure about anyone else, but the holidays used to be a horrid downer for me, specifically Thanksgiving. The year I was diagnosed (2002) with HIV, I was pretty much estranged (disowned) from my family and I have not spent one holiday with them since. That’s nine years of missing my Grandma’s stuffing recipe, homemade pumpkin pies, a massive turkey special ordered from the old-time butcher down the street and time spent with my entire family.

Quite honestly, it’s depressing; I could say I am okay inside, but I am not. It hurts.  I know I am not alone just by talking to a friend this morning who I know is going to spend this holiday alone.  I am saddened by this. No one should be alone on this holiday. It took me a long time to tell people that I would be alone on this holiday. It was painful to see others with their families because inside I am missing the ‘family-bond’ love I know I will never experience again.

It took years to heal this pain. It wasn’t until very recent that I began to embrace all the new love that was coming into my life; realizing that the love being shown to me was not out of pity (as my HIV mental anguish would have me thinking), it was (and still is) pure love; acceptance that my friends really do love me . . . for me.

Today, I am very grateful that I have a new-found family of amazing friends who have graciously extended their warm hearts and invited me to into their homes to be part of Thanksgiving dinner. Ok seriously, there were an overwhelming number of invites by friends . . . and the gratitude I feel for such love cannot be expressed with simple words. . . but these simple words I am about to say, I say with the most sincere love that my heart can express. . . THANK YOU FRIENDS FOR YOUR UNCONDITIONAL LOVE.

If you know of someone who might be alone or not sure if he/ she will be alone tomorrow, please reach out and give a little of yourself . . . everyone deserves to be loved. It took me a long time to realize I was worth my life living with HIV.

Today I am thankful for each breath I take when I wake in the morning. I am thankful that I have discovered the strength within my soul to live a life free of HIV mental anguish; I am thankful for the medications I take every day - helping me to enjoy a long, prosperous life while giving me a second chance to fulfill my dreams; I am thankful for all of my friends who listen to me (especially when I am soooo self absorbed! Ha!); I am thankful for those friends that are there no matter what; I am thankful for the courage to share my story; I am thankful for the talents of magic and escape which I am continuing to pursue; I am thankful for everything and anything simple in my life today; I am thankful for the struggles which make me stronger; I am thankful for the opportunity to fight ignorance and heal the world’s perception of those living with HIV / AIDS.

Thank you followers and friends for standing by me all this time. We have a lot of life to live and I looking forward to living it with all of you!

Happy Thanksgiving - Love, hugs and life!

I am Daniel and I am living pozitively. Thank you for following my blog!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Dear Oops Ouch. . .

I think it's pretty cool that following my most recent post, which triggered some pretty crappy emotions inside me (and by the way thank you for all the incredible support and unconditional love many of you shown by leaving comments here and on my facebook and other group pages), some followers have taken the time to send me emails asking questions, wanting to know more about my past and how I have pulled through some of the tougher times. Maybe my little journey of life and hope through this blog is making a difference.

I received an email . . . and from the looks of the email address, this follower might be from Denmark. Rather than just reply mono-eee-mono, I thought it would be cool to share the email with all of you and answer this person's questions out-right in this post.

After typing out a long-winded text-filled reply, I decided to print out my response and cam it hoping to add a bit more intimacy to my little journey of hope. I am proud to be the person I am today, and have no problem looking the world in the eye - and saying so. . .

Ok here is the email that was sent to me. . .
From: Oops Ouch
Sent: Tuesday, November 15, 2011 3:56 AM
Subject: Hi Daniel, this about your blog

Hi Daniel,

I came across your blog while surfing the internet. I have some questions, which intrigue me, if you are able to share some of your stories with me (I even sent you an email as anonymouse comment today)...

I DO understand that substance dependancy is so strong, that when you use crystal meth it completely takes over your mind.

Tell me:

    1)      do you still feel like going back to using crystal meth? What's the feeling like, to be away from the drug? Is the craving bad?

    2)      Have you sold your body for sex to procure money for the substance dependancy? Tell me everything. I am so interested in knowing more... What do you mean night of horror and destruction that you had that night using crystal meth? What followed that?

    3)      Have you had sex with someone for money and in the process, transmitted HIV? In which case, I still dont understand why they'd even pay for sex in the first case or atleast not test with you together at a clinic in the first place!

I am actively following your blog! :)

Warm greetings from a care giver for someone HIV poz

And my reply. . .

The interview by Bob Leahy can be found by clicking here.

I am Daniel and I am living pozitively. Thank you for following my blog.

Monday, November 14, 2011

How many times do I need to say sorry?

Apparently there are people who still believe I am not worth living a life of dignity because they were hurt in my path of self destruction when I learned that my HIV diagnosis had become the unspoken discrimination abruptly ending a dream I worked so hard to build and live.

Today, I received an email from an anonymous email account.  The email is one sentence long, "I hope your HIV kills you for all the bad you have done, I could careless if your life has changed for the better."

My stomach dropped to the floor.

Are there people out there who really do not want to see me make a difference as I boldly open up my entire life (all the good and all the bad) as I share my story about how I have overcome many dark adversities and found the hope and strength to move beyond the time when I allowed my HIV to be the center of destroying everything around me; particularly destruction that was powered by uncontrollable substance abuse?

I admit, I did some pretty crappy things and would need more than all my fingers and toes to count the number of people that were really hurt by my actions because I gave up on life. I won't go into the war stories; nor do I choose to reflect on them as these memories are painful enough. I have taken the last many years of my life to rebuild my inner-hope and strength; and with that have done some amazing things while working with global organizations, government entities and much more. I have learned to forgive myself and I do just that each day by making the choice to live a life that is filled with a new-found love for who I am as a person today.

To this person who emailed me and who I guess I have hurt along my journey, "I am deeply sorry." While you may never forgive me and even go out of your way to try and beat me down, I won't let your words to allow me to take steps backwards. I am doing great things today. . .

I will make (am making) a difference in the world today.  I will reclaim my place in this world with dignity and will try my best to fight the stigma associated with living with HIV / AIDS by continuing to reclaim my dream of becoming one of the world's greatest escape artists since the Houdini era and by continuing to speak out boldly to inspire and give hope to others.

I am proud of who I am today. That is what matters most. Am I alone? Can anyone else relate? I need some love and support on this.

I am Daniel and I am living pozitively. Thank you for following my blog.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

QUILT: A musical celebration and reflection on 30 years

As we near the 30th year Anniversary since the AIDS Crisis here in America (and the 25th Anniversary of The Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt), I stumbled across an event that is going to take place right here in NYC on November 28, 2011 (days just before World AIDS Day), and I wanted to make sure everyone knew about this once in a life time opportunity; a chance for you to be part of something that will reflect on and commemorate these historic milestones in the fight against AIDS while benefiting the efforts of six amazing non-profits.

QUILT is a musical celebration - a Star-studded Stage Performance including “The Book of Mormon,” “Rent” and “Rock of Ages” cast favorites, and while I could go on and on about this event, I would sincerely appreciate if you would take the time to go to the event website and see for yourself just how impressive and how important this event is going to be. (Please take a moment to play the video below).

QUILT from Blazetrak on Vimeo.

So here is my plea. . . I am asking you, my followers . . . my friends; to please consider attending (you can purchase tickets directly online). Also please take a moment and help get the word out about this event. Share this blog post on your Facebook, Tweet about it, where ever and however you can get the word out I would be forever grateful.

I am in no way associated with this event directly. I am simply taking this moment to let YOU know that this event will commemorate a historic timeline that has paved the way for people like me who are now able to stand taller with a little more dignity, and live longer, healthier lives.  It is a time for reflection and the more people that attend, the greater the impact we will all have in this fight against HIV / AIDS.

I am Daniel and I am living pozitively.  Thank you for following my blog.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A strong week of living: where did the time go?

I feel like I barely stopped once to truly reflect on any individual moment that I experienced.  I looked at the date on my phone this morning and thought to myself, “Oh crap it’s Thursday . . . a week since my last post!!” Where did the time go? I guess when life gets so busy (at least for me) one day seems to melt into the next and before you know it. . . WAM . . . all this time has passed by and not once did I stop to really reflect on any one individual moment right when it’s happening.

Let me get you up to speed on what’s been going on.

Today, I am able to breathe much, much easier.  In a previous post, I had addressed the horror of working with New York’s Human Resources Administration staff, and their HASA Program and how I was near homelessness as a result of their misinforming me of specific housing payment program requirements, until after-the-fact.  But get this, there is more to the story than I had thought; it wasn’t only my rental payments that were denied; it just so happens one of the program workers who denied these payments had also closed my entire HASA case including medical coverage for no reason.  WTF??!!

I was scared shitless when this all took place the other week. I mean, how was I supposed to get my landlord to work with HASA?  I was afraid of her learning about my HIV status, I did not want her to know that I had fallen ill and now had no income and had exhausted all of my emergency funds. Well, I had no choice; either I break the lease, get evicted and homeless, or I buck it up, take my chances and tell her the details as to why payments were denied, hoping she would understand and work with me and the HASA agency. Thankfully she was very understanding and amended the lease to meet HASA requirements. The rental payment paperwork was processed (once again) earlier this week – shweeeew!

All of this stress could have simply been avoided if the HRA workers, who were assigned to my HASA case-file actually gave a crap about their job. Unfortunately, these workers were rude and careless; adding much unneeded worry and stress to my already compromised immune system. So, the second time around, I demanded to speak with a supervisor to get answers and to get mistakes fixed.  I let the supervisor know that I was NOT getting the level of dignified support that any human being should be given under my circumstances. My case-file was reinstated and the blatant, careless mistakes (which should never have been made in the first place) were fixed immediately. These agencies are here to help people like us during times of hardship. I should not have to feel like I am “the scum of the earth” or any less than the next just because I live with HIV / AIDS. It sucks that I got really sick, it sucks even more I have to put my hand out and grovel for help. It is really embarrassing. I am proud of myself for not giving up.

Now that is off my chest, let me share with you a lot of good things that have happened this past week.  I did my first LIVE interview this past Sunday (October 30) with POZ I AM Talk Radio. Hosts, Robert Breining and Jeromy Dunn truly made the experience a very safe, fun and liberating one. These guys are truly inspiring and I applaud them for all of their efforts! I am thankful that the POZ I AM social network is there to support people like myself.  I highly recommend that if you (or anyone you know) is living with HIV / AIDS, you should definitely join their social network for support as well as tune in every Sunday night at 9 PM EST for their live talk show, featuring a new speaker each week. If you were unable to listen to my interview live, don’t fret, you can listen to the interview anytime online. (Robert & Jeromy – THANKS!!!)  

More almost (very close) feel good news I got this week is when I went back to my Doctor’s to check up on blood work to see if my viral load finally went undetectable. . . and the results. . . NOT YET! (but close). Still no need to change my meds and blood work will be done in another month to continue to track the progress of the meds. All I can do is hope for the best . . . but I still worry, all the time, that my viral load simply won’t reach undetectable. Why are they working so slowly on me??!! It is frustrating; I am powerless. I have to put all of my faith into the science of these HIV meds and hope they continue to work their magic.

Seven days a week strong is the steady promise I made to myself as I continue working towards achieving that “ripped body” I have always wanted. Let me tell you that with everything else that was going on this past week, my workouts have not been as focused and I am not sure if it’s from low energy or what. I have slacked on my diet and have totally cheated on the amount of cardio I should be committed to.  I have to figure out a way to balance the turns in life so they do not distract me from giving 100% to all the goals I have set for myself and passionately committed to achieving; though, sometimes easier said than done.   I need help with this fitness goal though . . . can anyone suggest a cardio routine that is proof-positive to lean out and get that ripped look?  I have tried several and I am not seeing results. . . I would appreciate any comments and suggestions.

So I forge ahead, after another week that was filled with moments of struggle, moments of success and moments of simply being content. . . no matter how I look at them, they all add up, as moments of gratitude. I do my best to not take these moments for granted (even the struggles – because they make me stronger). I just need to work on slowing down, staying in the ‘now’ -  and truly appreciating and embracing each moment as they take place right then and there; staying in touch with every breathe of my wonderful life.

I am Daniel and I am living pozitively.  Thank you for following my blog. Continue to be part of my journey on a daily basis and become my friend on facebook it's a lot of fun!