have been diagnosed with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)in September 2000, made the life of Daniel Garza would change radically. A rejection that began in his own home, it also led him to plunge into excessive drug and alcohol consumption, since he had already given up everything, including his own life.
Son of a conservative family, where taboos and secrets proliferated, Daniel became the shame of all those who made up that place, which was supposed to be his refuge, his home. The stigma and non-acceptance was where he first began, where he felt that the letters HIV were marked on his forehead, and where he confesses that he judged himself.
“My diagnosis was AIDS (human immunodeficiency syndrome), because my cells were so low and the virus was so high, that was the original diagnosis. As the son of a conservative religious family, who did not talk about sex or sexuality, having a diagnosis like AIDS, at first it was difficult for them to understand. It took a couple of years for my parents to really understand what HIV was and that with the pill it was not going to take me away, but that they were pills that I would take for life”This man from Mexico and a California resident told El Nuevo Día, who accepted how difficult it could be to have a romantic partner when he found out about the illness that afflicted him.
His sister was the first to take steps to learn a little more about what HIV is and to get to know him more not only as his brother, but as a person who lived with said virus. The relationship between them became a different one and, of course, with a different theme, so Daniel narrates that there was a lot that had to be learned, as well as unlearned, in order to little by little leave aside the precepts established cultural, religious and social level, who tried to prevent new things from being learned in relation to their sexuality and their new diagnosis.
“From the moment I found out that I am HIV positive, in my mind I gave myself permission to continue on that path of drugs and alcohol because I did not see a future in my life. In 2007, I entered meditation and my world changed, I found my religion again, I found my spirituality, I found myself and I saw advocacy and activism through another lens,” said the actor and comedian.
When everything was already well under way, in 2015 an anal cancer knocked on her door. However, today with a “stoma” (an artificial opening in the body to allow the passage of urine and feces) and a “little bag” he affirms that he is a survivor and that he continues to carry out what has become his mission.
“These are things that were difficult because you don’t expect them. You don’t know how your body is going to react. And after so many years living and fighting to be healthy with HIV. Sometimes those things seem like elusive mountains, but here we are,” he enthused.
Since that HIV diagnosis, 22 years have passed, in which he accepts that, although he brought bitter pills, he has also brought many positive things, such as advocating and breaking down stigmas, as well as being an activist, ambassador for campaigns, traveled to promote and stir conversations for all people living with HIV, and urge others to do the same.
“The positive thing is that they are 22 years of experience, that perhaps I have not spent them in a classroom studying it, but I have spent it in offices, working, making presentations, speaking in schools and telling my story. Living nights where I took my pills and cried, where you wake up and sometimes your head hurts. You feel bad when you meet a new guy who wants to date and finds out (that you have HIV) and they don’t talk to you anymore. I mean, a whole Mexican soap opera has been my life, but I really wouldn’t change it for anything, because I’ve made my diagnosis a personal life and a professional life, and I wouldn’t change anything right now.” assured.
As a spokesperson, she continues to touch the lives of people who are going through the same situation. And that when Daniel goes on stage to tell his story and talk about how he lives with him HIV, it is clear that it cannot change everything suddenly, but what is clear is that it sows at least one seed.
“One of the most beautiful things about being an ambassador, advocating, being an activist, being a spokesperson for a campaign such as Positive Fearless and being part of ‘Braves Talks’, with which I sometimes say to myself, ‘you’re going to do your job, go talk, you’ve got your notes, you’re ready. Perfect. Action! You speak, you say your prayer, you finish, they applaud you, you thank and say, ‘I’m done, I’m leaving’. When you get off, someone you’ve never met comes up to you, grabs your hand and says ‘what you just said changed my life’. And they don’t let go of your hand and you see in the face and in the eyes that light of hope, and the return to faith. When I return to my room, I confirm that this is why I do what I do, ”she stressed.
One of his favorite practices is to give away hearts of pebbles in each conference he offers. Not only does this give him the opportunity to share something that Daniel really likes, but it also gives him the opportunity to meet people he would never have met. “When you give them that little stone, that little heart, they tell you about something I said, even if it was a joke, that filled them with hope. That is where it is worth the 22 years that I have been in this career”he added.
So did he in the United States Convention on HIV/AIDS (USHA, in English), held from October 8 to 11 at the Puerto Rico Convention Centerwhere he was one of the six ambassadors of the program “Positively Fearless”, with whom he was part of the “Braves Talks”, with which he urges to have conversations full of courage.
“I know that by saying have the brave talks, I can’t change everything in a moment, but if we can just sow a seed, we’re already on the right track. Having those courageous talks are sometimes about sex, sexuality, diversity, identity and living positively, but also about living without fear, taking opportunities and those risks that will help you move forward in your life. I don’t want to brag and put myself ahead, but at the beginning there were people who helped me take those first steps. That is why I am where I am today. One of my favorite phrases is, ‘if you think I can, I know I can’. There were a lot of people who, even when I was 110 pounds and I was in bed, and they were giving me away, there was always someone who told me: ‘you can stand out, you’re not just HIV, you’re not just cancer. You are much more than that. I innocently believed it and here I am today, ”she encouraged.