This week, guest videographer and editor Jesse James Rice and I are accompanying the more than 3000 riders and volunteers of the AIDS LifeCycle and collecting their stories. If you’re not familiar with ALC, it’s the world’s largest annual HIV/AIDS fundraiser where riders bike from San Francisco to Los Angeles over the course of 7 days. I won’t be riding a bike, but will be riding with the Press Corps, a group of reporters, photojournalists, bloggers, etc., to help document this amazing and emotional journey.
This year’s ALC is the biggest yet, bringing in more than $13 million to the prevention of and education about HIV/AIDS. It’s the 10 year anniversary of the ride and also the 30th anniversary of the first documented case of HIV in the U.S. We’re partnering with our friends over at Towleroad and will be uploading daily Video Stories there as well as right here on IFD. Be sure to “like” IFD on Facebook and follow us on Twitter as I’ll be uploading pics and updates along the way.
“Hey Mom, I’ve got to tell you something right now and I can’t wait any longer, Mom. Just promise me please. Two years ago I tested positive for HIV.”
My name is Kenny, I’m 23 years old, I’m from Front Royal, Virginia. I was diagnosed on June 9th, 2009 as HIV positive.
“I couldn’t finish this bike ride until I told you.”
I was constantly crying. I was constantly mad. There was never a happy moment for me in the first couple of months and after a while I started loathing myself, and loathing people around me. I started losing friends left and right because they didn’t want to be around me.
“Mom! I was scared, I didn’t know what to do. And I wanted to wait a little while, until I was educated, you know, I was really knowledgeable on this disease before I told anybody.”
The disease was either going to be the death of me or it was going to be the life of me. And so, around that time when I, of course, came across AIDS LifeCycle, remembering back to the beginning of all of the self destruction, emotionally and physically that I did to myself. I’ve gone through a powerful transformation, you know, as far as being more open about it. At first, of course, I wasn’t open about it. I didn’t want to talk about it, but now I share my story with strangers who have never even met me.
“I finally came to accept it. I’m comfortable with it now. I’m not ashamed of it anymore. And the hardest part was telling you. That was the hardest part about having this.”
AIDS LifeCycle allowed me to cope with that and finally allowed me to accept HIV just being a part of me.
“But just know that I’m doing just fine, I’m on my medication, and I see a doctor twice a year.”
The main thing I want people in my family to know is, no matter where you are, this disease is going to hit home to you eventually.
“I’ll call you back later on today when I get in to camp and talk to you more about it, okay? Alright, love you. Alright, bye.”
Ironically, I’m proud to be HIV positive, this is basically what I want to spend the rest of my life doing, is spreading more awareness, getting out there, and sharing my story with other people. Every day is a constant reminder to just enjoy and appreciate life, and love yourself regardless of your situations.