"I just got POSITIVELY AWARE in the mail today and was at first apprehensive to read [the NOV+DEC 2018 issue] as it was themed around faith. I’d had a horrible experience with the evangelical church when I came out and became an atheist. However, you balanced the positive coverage of faith experiences with the not-so-positive, which really made me appreciate PA all the more!"

—Barry Weiss  Los Angeles, California
Mysterious ways

“Amazing Grace or Highway to Hell?” (NOV+DEC 2018) started by saying, “When you think of HIV/AIDS and God or religion, the following images may come to mind: ‘God Hates Fags’ lining the streets at the local AIDS walk.” This type of hatred is exactly what I experienced recently when I decided to share my HIV status with a family member. Ten years since my diagnosis, I felt ready to come out of the closet for the second time and share my HIV status. 

I contacted Michelle SImek, who wrote the article, to share this negative experience. As a result of her interview with me, I told her that I had decided to start contacting family and friends to share my HIV status before her article would appear in PA. Although most of my family’s reactions were positive and supportive, one family member reacted negatively. 

This family member told me that it was my fault for becoming infected. They said that I had chosen this “gay lifestyle” and, so I was suffering the consequences. Additionally, they said that my diagnosis was a sign that the end of times was coming—Armageddon—and that I was going to die. 

Fast forward to earlier this week: An elder from a congregation on the East Coast contacted me, reminding me of God’s love and to assure me that I was not alone. He added that he had read Michelle’s article, and prayed to God about it; ultimately, he felt compelled to call me directly to demonstrate his support. Additionally, he will be mailing some reading materials for me to go over where, he assured me, I will find some support. These are the same reading materials where he found hope and support after receiving negative feedback from his family after sharing his sexual orientation. 

God works in mysterious ways, and I have found the love and support that I need to keep going. Thank you.  

—Josué E. Hernández 

Brea, California 

Sharing Our Experiences

As a long term HIV/AIDS survivor, I found Michelle Simek’s article, “Amazing Grace or Highway to Hell?” not only well written, and informative, but refreshing as well. It was wonderful to see faces and hear stories as diverse as HIV/AIDS itself. I also loved the common thread of spirituality that seemed to run throughout her article; regardless of whether one is atheist, Baptist, Catholic, Jewish, Lutheran, or Methodist, without some sort of spiritual practice, none of us would’ve survived. It also reminded me of how connected we all are by this disease. HIV/AIDS does not discriminate. It doesn’t matter if you’re male or female; gay or straight; black, brown or white; young or old; doctor or housewife; or rich or poor. It affects all of us, as humans, and draws us closer to one another. Sharing our experiences with others, and hearing their stories in return, is a part of the healing process for all of us. Bravo to Ms. Simek and POSITIVELY AWARE for this wonderfully inspirational article!

—Pamela Yelsky 

Los Angeles, California