Just*in Time: January 2014

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Hello Justin,

Photo by Don Harris  © Don Harris Photographics, LLC. All rights reserved
Photo by Don Harris © Don Harris Photographics, LLC. All rights reserved

My name is Enrique and I live in Mexico and I am HIV-positive. I first saw your blog and YouTube videos around two years ago, or maybe more. That’s when I first got diagnosed and I started looking things up on the Internet and I was led to your YouTube blog. Well, I have a question for you if you don’t mind me asking.

I am currently on [a combination of antiretrovirals], and all has been okay until recently my kidneys have been pulsing, though pretty mildly. I’m already trying to change a lot of things for that and I will consult my doctor to see if they need to change my meds.

What I really wanted to ask you concerns my family. I have two daughters in the United States of America. They are seventeen and sixteen; they are American citizens and so is my sister. My mom and brother also live in San Antonio, Texas. I’m waiting to see if immigration reform gets passed this year, and, if it does, there is a high chance that I may be able to go home. If not, then I will be forced to cross the border illegally to get back with my family. I have been away from them for ten years and I cannot take it anymore. I’m at the point of having suicidal thoughts and being depressed, but I’m still hanging in there.

Now to my question: If I were to cross illegally or even legally, what are my options to get HIV meds at no cost or low cost. Like, let’s say I was completely illegal; is there any nonprofit agency that would help me get meds? That is one of my main concerns.

Well I hope you are doing well friend and I hope to hear back from you…god bless.

—Enrique

Hola, Enrique. ¿Cómo estás? First, let me say thank you so much for reaching out to me. I’ve never been to Mexico and I had to do some research before responding. Let me just do an intro to our readers first.

According to the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), about 0.3 percent of adults in Mexico are HIV-positive. Although that percentile is considered low, it hasn’t decreased in over a decade.

According to UNAIDS (2010), Mexico stats are as follows:

• Population: 110.6 million
• People living with HIV: 220,000
• People receiving ARTs: 64,500

Even though 0.3 percent of adults in Mexico is considered a low number, HIV rates in rural areas continue to climb. According to a July 17, 2007 New York Times article, “Mexican Migrants Carry H.I.V. Home,” one of the main causes for the rise of HIV in rural areas of Mexico are migrant workers. A lot of migrant workers from Mexico come into the United States for a long period of time. The reason why this happens is because migrant workers can earn more money working in the United States rather than strictly in Mexico; that way they can earn more money for their families. When the migrant workers are in the United States for a long period of time they sometimes become infected with HIV; then, when the migrant workers go back to Mexico, they are bringing HIV back to their homes.

Now, Enrique, I’m not saying or asking how you contracted HIV; the most important thing is that you are receiving treatment. I’m very glad that you are seeing a doctor about your issues with your kidneys; you might want to consider drinking more water as well. I remember when my doctor saw my kidney report and he suggested that I drink more and more water; it really helped my kidney functions.

Enrique, listen, I cannot legally tell you to cross the border or not to cross the border. But I can tell you this—your suicidal thoughts need to be addressed. I know that you have mentioned that you are seeking help physically, but you need to seek help mentally as well.

When you get to the United States, I would look into the Affordable Health Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Here is a Web site that can further assist you: www.healthcare.gov. To all my readers, whether you are insured or uninsured, illegal or legal: Nobody should suffer while living with HIV/AIDS.

Justin B. Terry-Smith has been fighting the good fight since 1999. He’s garnered recognition and awards for his work, but he’s more concerned about looking for new ways to transform society for the better than resting on his laurels. He started up in gay rights and HIV activism in 2005, published an HIV-themed children’s book, I Have A Secret (Creative House Press) in 2011, and created his own award-winning video blog called, “Justin’s HIV Journal”: justinshivjournal.blogspot.com. Now, with this column, Justin has found a way to give voice to the issues that people write to him about. Visit his main Web site at www.justinbsmith.com. He welcomes your questions at [email protected].