Alejandro Rodriguez | Indiana, IL

I’m from northern Indiana, I grew up in between East Chicago Indiana, a town 25 mins south east of Chicago and another town on the opposite side of northern Indiana named Fort Wayne. Lucky for me those are two of the most diverse areas of Indiana.

I grew up in a low income, single mother household amongst my five other siblings. Despite the financial hardships I was blessed with a supportive and loving family that I’m very thankful for. Attending an inner city public high school also afforded me friends from diverse backgrounds. I’m very thankful for my upbringing- traumas and all.

Telling my family and some close friends that I was diagnosed with truly HIV opened my eyes to the lack of education surrounding this disease. Some friends didn’t want to share drinks with me. My family thought I was going to die. I felt disgusted with myself. These conversations and feelings pushed me to become an advocate and activist for those, especially youth, living with this disease.

I further educated myself and sadly soon learned that I had to change my whole life plan. I anticipated enlisting in the navy upon my college graduation- as individuals with a four year degree are automatic officers. But I soon learned the United States military looked down upon people like me. They have laws on the books that are rooted in homophobia and outdated science. I wasnt welcomed to enlist. I wasn’t worthy of serving my country-in their eyes. This lit a fire within me to fight for the decriminalization of this disease.

I dedicate my life to those that came before me. Since my diagnosis I had the opportunity to intern on Capitol Hill where I made demands to lawmakers. I’ve spoken at national conferences. I’ve led a White House Roundtable where I talked to members of Congress and leaders on Bidens executive team. I’ve done so much work on campus- holding events to give my fellow scholars an opportunity to meet someone living with this disease. I became a Brother of a renowned fraternity that is dedicated to HIV & AIDS research and awareness. I’ve grown in my faith. 

I’ve grown in my self love, still have work to do, but have grown nonetheless. I’m more than a diagnosis. I’m more than my childhood abuse. I’m more than a hookup. I’m more than someone’s preconceived ideas of who I am. I am fearfully and wonderfully made and am worthy of love, & respect. As is everyone who lives with HIV. I wouldn’t change anything about my life. I wouldn’t save myself from this diagnosis even if I could because in actuality this diagnosis saved me. 

This is for all those that came before me. To the one’s that had to lose their life in order for me to live out my own. I admire, love, and respect each and every one of you. I hope I’m making you all proud. Rest in Peace to the old me. Rest in Power to all those that came before me. Our truamas can either work against us or for us- the choice is yours.

Alejandro Rodriguez
Indiana, IL

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