Taking my HIV meds one Instagram post at a time

@TakeMyMeds began on December 1, 2016—World AIDS Day. Initially I did it because I was still having trouble with adherence to my HIV meds, and I’m almost nine years in the game. Now I can go back and see if I’ve posted a pic that day or not, instead of recounting all the pills in my bottle.

The history of HIV activism has heavily motivated and inspired me to be open about my HIV status. It took me some time to realize that what I was doing was not only advocacy for medication adherence, but activism as well. My existence and visibility is resistance to any social, economic, or systemic barriers to accessing care and supportive services, and to those who still perpetuate stigma.

I often speak about my own challenges with health insurance and pharmaceutical companies, the gaps folks can fall into, and how I’ve successfully advocated for myself to get my meds on time when I am told it’s not possible. I also love to reference the AIDS service organizations that have helped me along my way. Being transparent with my followers about forgetting a dose is important, because that’s real life, and providing tips and tricks to help remember every day.

I “take my meds” and pics/videos at different public places that are HIV relevant. I will post up at an event where I am publicly speaking about my status, at a protest, singing with my chorus, or at work during street outreach using #PozInPublic.

Folks from all over have reached out saying they wish they could be as open as I am. I remind them that we all have our own journey and that it took me years to get where I am, but until they do, I can be the vessel for their silenced voices. I want to create a space for poz visibility to flourish without shame, stigma, or fear.

As a Queer Person of Color Living with HIV/AIDS, or QPOCLWHA as you’ll see me use often, it is imperative that I also incorporate my narrative as a first generation Chicanx, Mexican-American. I have found ways to insert HIV awareness into recognizable references within my culture. It is also a stereotype that Latinx folk do not access care, talk about sex, or are not very sex positive, so I wanted to show that that perception is dying down with the times. I’ve even gotten a few of my family members in some pics with me.

I’ve taken all I’ve learned from the history of HIV/AIDS, the activists that fought, the folks who had no choice but to be openly poz, whether by visual cues or to plead for care, and I hope I am projecting forward the advances of visibility and pride in our community. In the end, it’s the long-term survivors I hope I make proud, and give hope for the generations of today. Taking my HIV meds is a constant reminder that HIV lives within my body, and that really used to bother me. Now I’ve found a way to make it exciting for me every day. Now go on, Follow My Swallow. 

Follow Carlos Moreno on Instagram, @TakeMyMeds.