Living with HIV/AIDS: A Survivor’s Story

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Josmar Escobar shared his story with the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community on December 19.

Recently, the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community’s Health and Human Services Suicide Prevention and Intervention Program hosted an online Microsoft Teams gathering to help eliminate the stigma against HIV/AIDS. 

“December 1 was World Aids Day,” began Community Health Educator Vurlene Notsinneh-Bowekaty as she detailed her department’s event last month, which she facilitated, along with Melanie Nosie, at the Round House Café. “I would like to thank you for attending the events and webinars we’ve featured throughout the year,” she said to the online attendees as she introduced guest speaker Josmar Escobar for the last webinar of 2023.

Escobar bared his soul to the attendees as he detailed how he learned to reverse the course of his life for the better while still being HIV positive. 

“I was 22 when I found out I was HIV positive,” said Escobar. “I got a tip from my friend that my ex was with someone else while I was away. I took a test and found out I had HIV. I freaked out,” admitted Escobar. He eventually broke up with his significant other and shared with the class that his ex’s behavior could have resulted in jail time. “I could’ve put him in jail, but I’m not going to. I [just] wished to be left alone. I thought my world was done,” he said. 

During this time, Escobar had a suspicious approach toward any medication, especially medications that can treat HIV. “I was very [closed off] about taking medicine. I had never needed medicine in my life. So, I denied it.”

He added, “Then my stomach started hurting. My stools were black and not solid. It made me feel like something was really wrong and off. That’s what made me go to the doctor.” At a crossroads, Escobar had to look deep within himself. “I asked myself, ‘Do I want to live, just survive, or live my best life?’ I chose to live my best life,” he stated. 

His doctor prescribed the medication Odefsey, a medication that is used to treat HIV in people who have never taken HIV medications before. It is not a cure for HIV or AIDS. 

“I have to take it every day; that’s what makes me undetectable. (Undetectable means the amount of HIV virus is undetectable with a blood test.) The medicine works. It makes me feel like I’m living a full and happy life,” said Escobar. 

Now happily married, Escobar serves as an ambassador for Positively You, an organization that is trying to eradicate HIV by 2030. “I was out of work for a while and didn’t know what to do or how to get my medicine. I didn’t have AHCCCS insurance. My doctor recommended me to [Positively You] and they provided me with free medical services, including dental [care].”

Realizing his inner strength and newfound passion for life, Escobar is proud to share his story with others who may be in a similar situation. 

“The biggest obstacle was myself. I was holding myself back. I was in my own head,” he admitted. 

Currently, Escobar is featured on a billboard in downtown Phoenix for Positively You, an accomplishment he is proud of. “If ever you’re in Phoenix, you can go see me and say hi,” he said with a smile. 

More information on resources for HIV/AIDS is available at the Positively You website, https://positivelyyouaz.com.

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