LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Know your status and get tested, that is what an HIV awareness advocate in recovery is encouraging everyone to do.
December 1 is World Aids Day, a day to honor the vital contributions made around the world to the HIV response and those who have died from it.
Seven years ago, Lee New tested positive for HIV. He tells me when he received the news he was scared for his life. He was afraid to disappoint his family but when he told them it was the complete opposite.
“It doesn’t define me by any means, but it is a part of who I am, and I feel like I have the responsibility to share that with people,” New said.
When he found out he was positive for HIV he was at the peak of his drug addiction. He says he felt like he no longer had a purpose in this world.
“I spiraled really low, and I just gave up on everything because I lost the desire to live,” New said. “I was worried about disappointing my family, disappointing my mother who had passed away.”
For New, it wasn’t the first time he was impacted by HIV. New’s mother got HIV in the early 90s. He says at the age of 10, people at his school would find out his mother had AIDS and they didn’t want to talk to him. They wouldn’t get close because they were afraid he had the virus too and that he would spread it to them. 20 years later there is still a stigma, but now there are conversations about treatment and prevention.
“We have this thing that we need to learn how to manage so that it doesn’t kill us and the other part of it is that we need to learn how to live well, we want to find a way to navigate our lives, to talk about these things,” New said.
New says it is critical to understand that being informed can save your life. He says people need to go and get tested and know what their status is so they can act accordingly.
He says there are increased risks among certain types of behaviors such as having unprotected sex, but if you take the appropriate preventative measures you can avoid getting exposed.
“I was afraid of the answer, as soon as I got the answer there was the support there for me, there was an action for me to take,” said New.
New says many in our community have given him an overwhelming amount of support.
He has not let this virus define who he is but he has taken the measures to improve his quality of life. He has stayed healthy, has a great job, and has created a strong bond with his family.
“I almost gave all of that up and chose drugs over them, because I am an addict, but if I maintain that, if I stay sober, and if I take my pill, I can do anything, I can conquer the world,” New said.
If you or someone you know has been struggling with HIV and are in need of help new wants you to know you are not alone. The Center here in Las Vegas has a wide variety of resources and support groups that are ready to help.