His vibrant name could be a fitting moniker for a foreign sports car. “Here’s your snoopy reporter, Ruby Comer, cruising the streets in my ‘Jairo Flores D’l Carpio’!” Now that’s luxury.
Jairo (pronounced Jay-ro or Jai for short) was a generous supporter of local AIDS organizations in his hometown of Lima, Peru. Now living in the City of Angels for two years, this twenty-four year old is a model, photographer, and actor. In fact, Jairo is currently working on a character living with HIV from the musical, El Rincon de Las Virgenes. As he studies his character, Jairo has found his personal experience to be priceless.
Jairo learned about the epidemic in school while studying contemporary social issues. He also learned at the time that a friend had become infected. The impact was profound.
We met at an LA Fitness spin class a couple of weeks ago. Dripping sweat from our brows, we quickly hit it off. We agreed to meet on Sunday and hike Runyon Canyon in the Hollywood Hills, after his shift ends.
Plastered with 80+ SPF sunscreen and carrying a multicolored parasol from Spain (the sun cannot touch this lily-white skin!), we meet on Vista Street. The weather is just right for our trek, sunny and not too warm. Up the steady incline we amble along as we shoot the breeze.
Ruby Comer: All right my friend. I have three quick questions: What’s something
you don’t like about yourself?
Jairo Flores D’l Carpio: My vanity.
How old were you when you first kissed a boy?
When I was twenty.
What’s your favorite film?
A Walk to Remember.
What book are you currently reading?
Melanie Los Ojos del Amor by Wilian A. Arias.
See how easy it is to get to know someone…fast? This is one of my little journalistic trademarks. Tell me where the “D’l” comes from.
Well, my surname is Del Caprio, but there were problems when it was registered at my birth.
Ah, ha. How did your parents come about picking your full name?
My mom chose it. Jairo is a biblical name. She picked it because it was uncommon.
Say, Jai, tell me about your friend who is HIV-positive. [We climb up some steep cliffs.]
She told me one night when I was distressed over having problems with my partner. I opened up to her and asked for advice. She confided in me, too.
What was your reaction to the news?
Surprise! I realized that her situation was much more serious than what I was going through. I hugged her very tightly. I told her I was there for her, assured her that she was a fighter, and that God would never abandon her.
[Jai stops. The sun glistens on his handsome face as he reveals more.] It touched the innermost part of my being, Ruby. It also made me sad—sad, because people are still stigmatized for carrying the virus.
After all these years you’d think the stigma would dissipate, wouldn’t you?! How old is she, Jai, and does she live here in LA?
She’s twenty-six and lives in Peru. Thankfully, her family supports her and her strength comes from her young son.
Awwww. I wish her all the very best. What calls to mind when you think about this disease?
Even though it is no longer a taboo subject, I confess that it frightens me. The disease labels you and it can rob you of your physical and emotional stability.
Some people still don’t realize that. Are you single?
Yes. I’m not looking for “the” man. He doesn’t exist. When I find a partner, I would like us to share each other’s joys, victories, and tears.
I agree with you wholeheartedly. My sorority sisters would always say after they return from a date, “He’s the one.” Puleez! How do you handle the dating scene about bringing up STIs with the other person?
When I have a date, I always try to learn about his HIV status. I am cautious and conscientious about my lifestyle, always carrying personal protection. [He turns around and darts me a serious look, with his deep chestnut peepers.] You know, if people were educated about how to take care of their health, we could wipe this virus out.
Good good advice, Jai. Have you ever had unprotected sex?
Yes I have.
Are you taking PrEP?
As you know gay guys in your generation have one of the highest infection rates. [He shakes his head in misery.] Can you address that?
In our time we are fortunate to have so many tools to inform us about HIV and AIDS.
We need to use them to learn more about the epidemic. Many guys of my generation have the information but they lack self-love.
Oh yes, Jai, that’s a major point. A very major aspect! (We both take a brief breather.) Where were you first tested?
In Peru and I was eighteen years old.
What was the adventure like for you?
I was scared! [Two people race by us with their Labradors in tow, trying to keep up.] Several days prior I had had intercourse for the first time and the next day I developed a fever. Of course, I expected the worst. So when I took the test I was filled with fear. It was catastrophic, Ruby. Fortunately [he takes a deep strained breath], everything was fine. Afterward, I realized what really scared me was my lack of information about the disease. Now I’m tested every six months.
As you know, many times within the Latin community there’s that “macho” attitude. Unfortunately that mindset can cause them to make choices that put them at risk. Can you address this?
We need to promote sex education, especially those in the heterosexual community, many of whom perceive AIDS as a gay health issue.
Yes, indeed! There’s strong denial in many populations.
These men—and women—need to protect themselves and their partners.
[We finally come to the pièce de résistance, which is a park bench perched high atop the Hollywood Hills. Our tired butts rest. The view of Los Angeles is awesome. Jai concludes with a sigh]…these guys must…be…responsible, Ruby. Wear a condom!
Ruby Comer is an independent journalist from the Midwest who is happy to call Hollywood her home away from home. Reach her by e-mail at [email protected].