positive force logo
Vince Chalwe Rudy Keisuke Michael Derrick

I was diagnosed with HIV in 2009. At the time, I was working for an HIV agency in Arizona. So I was always very involved with HIV-related stuff, but always on the opposite end of it—counseling people, helping people—and then when it happened to me I couldn’t believe it.

I didn’t want to admit it to anybody, or even myself, so I became reclusive. I wasn’t ready to be on the receiving end of services since I was always the one giving the services or participating in AIDS service organizations.

I was always the spokesperson for safe sex, I was always the one pushing condoms on my friends, I was always raising money for HIV awareness, and then when it happened to me I was almost embarrassed. I didn’t feel comfortable telling people.

I was trying to escape Arizona because there was a lack of HIV services there. I was looking for places I could go to for support. So I began researching online, and one of the first things that popped up was Positive Force’s PLUS Seminar. So I decided to move to San Francisco. As soon as I got here, I went straight to the staff at Positive Force. I got excited about participating in PLUS, but I wasn’t quite ready, so I took a step back. I waited about three months and there was another PLUS happening, so I ended up going.

That weekend changed my life. I learned so much—stuff that I didn’t know. I learned about the biology of HIV, how it works in the body, what my specific medication is doing, and how to advocate for myself. Gaining that knowledge felt empowering. The people I met that weekend are now some of my closest friends, and having that community is awesome.

If you’re thinking about going to PLUS, just do it. Even if you’re scared, go. Everyone is so nice that works there, and you make so many friends. You wake up the next day feeling like a different person. By the end of the weekend, you don’t want it to end.

I moved to San Francisco for one thing—to find a community that would help me come to terms with my HIV status. That’s what I found through Positive Force. I can always call on my friends I met through the program, especially when I’m having a tough day, and they get me. They understand what I’m going through.

Are you ready to meet other poz guys in person?

Join the men of Positive Force at one of our upcoming events!

Vince Chalwe Rudy Keisuke Michael Derrick