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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

World AIDS Day 2009


Today is December 1st and marks yet another World AIDS Day and I have to ask myself, what have I or anyone else accomplished?

Since December 1st 2005, which marked my first World AIDS Day being diagnosed positive, I have spent the day pondering the future of the fight against HIV/AIDS for myself and the world around me. Speaking from my own experience, the true cure for this disease, that has unfortunately taken record number of lives every day and is still the leading cause of death in most parts of Africa, is outreach, prevention and education. I am hopeful as I continually read more and more articles regarding the advances in medicine and science that both preserve people's lives and looks for a permanent cure.

This year I have gone through so many changes due to my HIV-positive status. What used to be three pills a day is now five pills a day and recently evidence shows that there's a slight possibility of lymphoma. I have also recently found out that a friend has been diagnosed HIV positive. So, today I sit here pondering the reality of the future of people living with HIV/AIDS; is it going to get better; is it ever going to stop?

Men who have sex with men still make up almost half of all those infected every year. This seems outrageous; what has all the fundraising, outreach, prevention and education helped if men who have sex with men are not protecting themselves? As I often say, something's gotta give, but now I will say something's gotta change!

I know I have no right to preach about protecting oneself; after all I knew about the dangers of HIV/AIDS and about protection but didn't do enough about it to remain negative. However; this doesn't mean what I am saying isn't valid. If you are man who is at all sexually active with other men, even with protection, you should be getting tested regularly. Other diseases can be transmitted even without sexual activity that getting tested can detect. Being afraid or in denial can no longer be the answer to the problem, especially if you are a man who has sex with men and women.

I think my message is clear this World AIDS Day. Yes, it's a great day to wear a red ribbon and attend a candlelight vigil or whatever else, but more needs to be done within each person's community and, of course, with each person individually. If you have not been tested; get tested, do it today or make it a goal to do before the year is through.

I swear I wish I would have made better choices in my life and kept myself from having to go through this disease, but I thank God for what I have gone through and the ability to speak up about this issue that concerns us all. You can spend your time telling yourself it will never happen to you, but you should only say that if you are 100% sure it won't. That surety only comes with protection and testing.

I continue to hope and pray for a world without such preventable diseases as HIV/AIDS. Please join me in my prayers that outreach, education, prevention and a cure will be available to all and that more will do what they can to stop the spread of HIV and fight AIDS.

For those interested in more information about HIV/AIDS, World AIDS Day events and HIV testing sites, please follow the links below. Also below are related links and articles about HIV/AIDS.

HIV/AIDS Basics
http://jeywalking.blogspot.com/2009/08/just-so-you-know.html
My Story
http://jeywalking.blogspot.com/2008/11/not-so-lonely-road_29.html
North Star HIV/AIDS Page
http://northstarlds.org/hivaids.php
World AIDS Day
http://www.worldaidsday.org/
National HIV Testing
http://www.hivtest.org/

Your friend,
Jey

Friday, November 20, 2009

Undetectable not Invincible

Maybe scheduling doctor appointments, in which one's blood is drawn for tests, should not occur on Friday the 13th, if you're superstitious. Just a thought.

I saw my doctor today for a follow-up to my labs I did last week and the results are not what I was expecting, but then again, I am not surprised.

Everything that should be normal has dropped lower or climbed higher; the only good thing that remains is that I am undetectable. I suppose a part of me began to believe that I was almost invincible, but clearly I am not.

Since May I have been dealing with more stress than I know what to do with. Starting a new job and going back to school certainly have not eased my troubles substantially. In fact, it could be the cause of my increased fatigue, loss of energy, loss of short-term memory and loss of appetite.

Often I have reflected or discussed with my roommate that I feel like I have gotten worse since May; there are some nights that I felt like I was falling apart and dying a slow death. Everyday hasn't been like this, but there are some days I just don't know what to do, so I just sit and endure the physical and emotional pain of what's coming at me because it's my only option I know of.

After some discussion with my doctor, she suggests that an MRI may be needed in the future and that there is a possibility of having a type of lymphoma; not uncommon to those living with HIV/AIDS. Lymphoma is a cancer that starts out in the immune system and spreads. Those with immuno-deficiencies of any kind are often subject to such a disease.

Almost everyone I know in my family that has passed away has had some type of cancer, even my "twin" cousin (born on the same date) died at 22 of an inoperable brain stem tumor. As cancer runs in my family, I am not surprised to hear such news, nevertheless, it is rather scary. I really thought that being HIV positive was enough for me. The tests haven't been done yet, so there's no real immediate need to worry, but I will anyway.

I know I have done this the last couple years, but I am asking again for my family and friends to pray and fast for me in remembrance of World AIDS Day, which is on December 1st every year. I will be holding a special fast on November 29th for myself. I ask that as many as possible people fast with me between November 29th and December 6th; whenever you can manage to do it. If nothing else, please keep me in your prayers.

I told my roommate this morning, "You be the strong one for me; if you worry, I'll worry even more."

I know Christ is the ultimate healer of all things and has the power to heal broken hearts, lost dreams, sorrow and sicknesses of all kind. I rely on the power of your thoughts, prayers, fasts and His power to overcome all I am given to endure.

I love you all.

Jey

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

opposites attract


Null Hypothesis: Negative forces and Positive forces are independent.

(Research Hypothesis: There is statistically significant evidence showing there is a relationship between negative and positive forces; they are not independent.)

Two-tailed t-test, 95% confidence level, alpha=0.05, mean=unknown, degrees of freedom=1, t-critical=12.706 and N=2.

I am currently taking Quantitative Methods (Graduate level Statistics), so I felt I could start out my post with my null and research hypothesis, but after that nothing else really made sense. My apologies go to those to whom have by now stopped reading because of their hatred for stats...oh wait, that's me. (Thanks to my friend Adrienne for helping to form the above.)

Moving along...

Yes, even I began singing the familiar tune by Paula Abdul when I named this post, but I am not here to review her song or to critique it for that matter.

I came to some realizations about myself for the first time, again. Join me in my exploration of my reality.

I have taken a look at people I know now, as well as a look back at all the people I have become or drew close to and realized that the one quality that is the same, for the most part, is that they are or were positive, optimistic and upbeat in nature.

My realization is what few people have touched upon throughout my life and others have failed to say clear enough: I am a negative force; I am a negative person. I attract or am attracted to positive forces and my relationships with positive people help me to be positive, but it is my nature to be negative. That's my conclusion anyway, for now.

I don't mean negative necessarily in a bad, dark or pessimistic sense, though it does apply to parts of my life. I mean negative in the way that I see most things in life as the glass being half empty; which is not in and of itself negative in nature but a negative perspective or rather of the negative spectrum (-1 {0} +1).

Life is all about balance, negativity, its forces and all opposition must exist; there's such evidence in scripture and academic journals alike. For this, I don't mind being apart of God's plan and representing the negative spectrum or opposition to others' expressed opinions or my loved ones' lives. I enjoy being what most call the 'devil's advocate' though I should make it clear I try my best never to successfully advocate for such a being.

I guess my feelings or desires behind expressing all of this is to understand what my purpose is in this life. Maybe I am here to challenge positive forces. When one says the cup is half full, I feel the need to show evidence that, in fact, the glass is half empty. Now, neither of one is exactly correct or incorrect; it's really all about how convincing one's argument is to another. Is this my purpose, to be more convincing? I doubt it.

The huge reason behind this post is about relationships, especially between negative and positive forces. If I am negative; that's my nature and I tend only to be positive when around positive forces, how can I ever be positive? Or in other words, how can I ever see the glass half full if I was presumably made to see it half empty.

I am confused about this because objects like batteries use negative and positive forces to operate. Or, like gravity and jumping in the air. It's hard to dispute that batteries only work when negative and positive are both present. However, some may measure the height one is able to reach when they jump, while I will measure the lack of height one is able to reach. Simply put, some people add to and I take away. Does that me a bad person or am I simply here to provide a different approach or perspective?

My other dilemma is that I feel better when I am positive, but unless nurtured and supported by all around me, I tend to choose what seems to me to be my negative nature.

What's even weirder is that a few people in my life see me as a positive influence in their life or a positive force. I find it hard to believe because I hardly focus on any good I do, but rather all the bad I've done, or the lack of good I've performed. In fact, that's what I am doing right now with this post; focusing on the negative instead of the positive.

When discussing this with a colleague we both came to the conclusion that our society desires that which is of a positive nature in word, but not necessarily in action. Simply put, we say we want peace, but we are always at war.

What if society embraced both positive and negative people for what they bring to the table? There could be positive pride and negative pride (is that an oxymoron?) parades and days of unity where nothing is equal, but everyone works together like a battery. Maybe that is what we are all saying when we say, "I want world peace." What we're really saying is that to gain world peace, we will first need to fight for it for ages and ages, then our posterity will enjoy it later on. The truth is that we enjoy opposites in life more than we know or want to admit. We love the drama of most modern-day relationships, reality shows and movies because they always involve opposing forces. Mary J. Blige sang "No More Drama", but I don't think one can exclude such a necessity from one's life - only minimize it.

My point is, I am often criticized for being negative, when I truly feel I am just being myself and realistic. My realization is that I don't need to feel like I have to be like everyone else, when in fact, everyone else needs a person like me to keep life balanced.

So, here's the question...

If I was made to be negative and I am successful at it, is that not considered a positive?

Oh Lord!

(comments welcome here)

You have been caught Jey Walking! (in two different directions)

Saturday, November 7, 2009

the perfect fit


As I was about to go to sleep tonight I was reminded of events a little over a year ago when I was looking for a place to live in New York. Finding the perfect place is everything in New York City. It decides where you will shop, eat, hang out and how long your commute will be to and from work, school and friends. I wanted to find somewhere that would be everything I needed all in one place.

At the time I was looking, I was living in Prospect Park, Brooklyn and despite being mugged there I figured Brooklyn, the better part of it, would be perfect for my new start in the city. It was mostly quiet compared to Manhattan, it was more family oriented and lined with small shops, museums, library, gardens and a zoo, among other delights. There were plenty of places to go shopping, hang out and young singles to mingle with, but was it enough?

I looked high and low in different communities of Brooklyn to find the place for me. After I tried several options on Craigslist I almost gave up. Was I acting like a privileged white kid away from home for the first time or was I truly just searching for a place to call home like everyone else? Finally, as time was running out, I found this ideal situation - yes, even on Craigslist.

I found a gay couple who own a beautiful 18th or 19th century four-story row home. The house was a two minute walk from all the major subway lines and a major shopping center that included restaurants, Target, Old Navy and grocery stores. The couple had owned the home for 30 years and seem like a wonderful pair of older men with no hidden agenda. The home was refurbished to it's original style and decked out with antique furniture, decoration and my personal favorite, pianos, yes plural. It seemed too surreal - I mean come on, three tuned pianos in one home??? So what's the catch? There seemed to be none - it was perfect.

The deal was that I would get the entire fourth floor equipped with my own bathroom and large furnished bedroom with access to the entire house that included laundry facilities, free utilities, state of the art kitchen and cable TV and internet for $700/ month!!! I was waiting for something to snap and pop the dream bubble.

Well, they had a few offers, but seemed to like me, especially because I play the piano. I looked at another apartment in Manhattan since that's where I'd be going to school and I was likely to be around more YSAs than in Brooklyn. The rent at the Manhattan apartment was about $100 more with considerable less amenities, not to mention I would have three strange roommates. I didn't want to give this opportunity to live in Manhattan up though, it was one block from Central Park and in between two subway lines - it wasn't so bad.

The Bishopric of the ward for that boundary was putting together the roommates and getting a good deal for the apartment that would be fully renovated. Before I signed on to live there I had told the counselor that I was HIV positive, ex-communicated and gay because I didn't want to be set up with some crazy, ignorant roommates. This whole dramatic thing came out of me be open about my status that is neither here or there now, but for the purpose of the story it made me think - gee, Brooklyn is probably a better choice.

Then the day came when I had to make a choice. Given the drama that had risen from the Manhattan choice I really, really didn't want to move there and I was way more comfortable staying in Brooklyn. In Brooklyn, I felt like I could be myself and not have to answer to anyone. It seemed like living in the other apartment there would be some problems. As I was saying, I had to make a choice and it was so hard. I was about to tell Manhattan to forget it and a voice as clear as ever said, NO, move to Manhattan. I was so confused. I would have had everything I could dream of at a lower price, why must I go to Manhattan. The voice didn't answer.

So, with tears welling up in my eyes and my heart pounding I picked up the phone and called the Brooklyn guys and said I was no longer interested in the apartment and hung up. I fell down in my bed and cried - for some reason it really hurt me that I couldn't have this dream of mine. I raised my voice to God and said, I don't know why you've asked me to do this, but this is my small sacrifice upon your altar, please accept it. I will never forget how I felt in that moment. I felt at peace, I felt comforted, I felt extremely loved. Most of all I felt the sacrifice was accepted and knew blessings would come my way in Manhattan.

A year has passed and it has not been an easy road. We've had several problems in the apartment: neighbors, noise, graffiti, drug use, weird smells to name a few. Then there's the whole adjusting to new people I don't know and their unacceptable habits. Take all of that away and I was still left with financial, physical, spiritual and emotional problems of my own. Somehow, some way, I have been able to overcome all the obstacles mostly unscathed. I still don't like some of my roommates and where I live isn't a dream come true - but compared to what, Brooklyn? I don't think Brooklyn could have helped me overcome these things - I would have had less friends and less access to what I really need. My place is not a dream but it's just right. I've met some great people in my ward, my Bishopric is understanding and helpful, I'm closer to more things than I know and even my rent has gone down to $700.

I guess we all do the could of, would of , should of game because frankly it's fun to think about what might have been. In this case, I am certain that had I not listened to that voice; had I not placed my small sacrifice upon the Lord's altar - the protection and the blessings may not have come. I may not have made the close friends I have now that have helped push me forward in ways I could not have done alone.

The trials and tribulations never cease, but perspectives change. This last year in New York; all of the adventures I've journeyed upon and mishaps I've endured have been the greatest gift and guiding lesson for the future. I've learned a lot about myself; who I am, how I treat myself, how I treat others, how I treat God and how I view the world. Times ain't easy but I sure am glad that when I wake up tomorrow that I'm waking up overlooking Central Park in a city that's always changing just like me- seems like a perfect fit.

You have been caught Jey Walking!

Monday, November 2, 2009

disease vs. cure


I met with my program advisor recently to discuss my options for the spring semester in graduate school. After talking about the future he wanted to know more about the present. I have had some issues transitioning from one way of life to another. Atlanta is not New York City by any stretch of the imagination, so adjustments over the last year have been made. One issue we spoke about was my incomplete courses; these are courses of which I have not turned in remaining required assignments. This creates a problem as both the incomplete coursework and current course work need to be completed. Otherwise it becomes costly, both monetarily and GPA-wise.

I listed all the usual excuses and jibber-jabber, but clearly the look on my advisor's face said it all: WHO CARES! The world does not stop because you had a bad day, someone died or you don't understand something. One can choose to focus on the can nots, did nots, was not able tos of life; slowly sliding backwards or one can see the cans, dos, am able tos and move forward - or as my Branch President would always say, "Onward and Upward!"

After some discussion of what needed to change and what is expected of me if I plan to move forward we got on more of a personal discussion. My advisor knows about my HIV status so he knows that when I found out I was HIV-positive I felt like I was the disease. Everything became unmanageable or undo-able because I had a potentially terminal illness; I was a disease. He expressed to me that I was still in that defeatest mode while in school. When assignments felt too large to comprehend or tasks were too technical to handle; I took the defeatest path and slid backwards, but who has that helped?

Be the cure, live the cure, you are the cure! That's essentially the message my advisor presented me. Stop deciding you're going to fail because you're "damaged" and move forward becoming better than you were before the disease. After he said this he stopped and looked at me and said, "Swallow." I was puzzled. "Swallow that pill that is so difficult for you to get down; your ego, your defeatest mode, your feelings of inadequacy; just swallow, then breathe." I realized that my face must have read, "But I don't want to, I enjoy the conflict in my life" but I knew he was right. Like I have previously written, it is time to let go; now I know what I need to let go of. This disease is not my life; not even the end of my life, merely a small part of it. In fact it takes up a minute of my life each day when I have to, wait for it, swallow my medication and a few doctor visits here and there.

It reads in 2 Nephi 2:11, "For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things." In this story there is the path and life of the disease or the path and life of the cure. I think that this can apply to all areas of my life that I am, as it reads in 2 Nephi 2:27, "free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself." Regardless of accident, God's will or disease, I choose how to deal what is given to me to deal with and accepted such terms before coming to this Earth and this life.

Simply put, I choose to live or die. After some discussion I think living life in all of its definition is the best choice.

You have caught me Jey Walking!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

to everything there is a season



Last week I decided to let go and even talked to my counselor about it at length.

For the past few days I have been quite successful at looking at my things as annoyances and space taker-uppers than fond memories and cherished belongings. This process has all been real good for me.

I also applied to be on The Amazing Race, though I am sure the odds are stacked against me and my roommate being selected to go on. So, I let go of the idea that I was going to be cast on the show and that felt good too, but I think it would be awesome if we were chosen. The idea of being in a race got me thinking...

I am facing a lot of weird feelings, emotions and thoughts that are difficult to get out of my head. I think that is the hardest thing to let go of; my feelings or thoughts. They keep me company when I am lonely, afraid, day-dreaming or sad, but I admit some of them have to go too.

It has become apparent to me that I blog to passively get support from family and friends. I thrive on feedback, comments and advice. There are certain posts that I still go back and read; those ones were for me, but I think others were more of a lure for support in the form of comments from my friends.

I realize now that I need to be more active in my friendships and relationships with others. I need to be a support to get support. I have to let go of the idea that because I need support or help that my family and friends are obligated to drop everything to serve my needs.

I am strong and intelligent person; sometimes I forget, but I do know that I am not that weak. I don't need friend or family crutches; I just need to stand up, stand tall and move forward on my own. Yes, I need my family and friends to be there for me when I fall, but I have to vocalize that injury instead of expecting others to just assume I am broken, injured and need help. Of course, I also need to vocalize such needs to my Heavenly Father and Savior Jesus Christ. Many things I struggle with, my family and friends can't really do anything about other than pray on my behalf, which is great, but I need the Atonement; I need Jesus to heal me.

Part of my letting go journey has begun and it includes standing up on my own two feet and taking this journey; this long walk down a short road, on my own with the guidance of my Savior and the Holy Ghost. It doesn't mean my family and friends can't cheer for me on the sidelines, but I can't expect anyone to carry me any longer or any further. This is my life and my journey; my walk and I have to make it alone.

I can't fulfill my mission or purpose here on Earth if I can't prove I can do it all by myself or rather that I have the desire to make choices for myself that lead me in the right direction. I have to prove to myself that I am strong, powerful, intelligent and worthy of the presence of God, my Heavenly Father.

" And {I will} prove {myself} herewith, to see if {I} will do all the things whatsoever the Lord {my} God shall command {me}." ~ Abraham 3:25

Probably one of my favorite piece of scripture ever (I love the song) sums it up:

"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace." ~ Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

You have been caught Jey Walking!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

letting go



Today it hit me.

I spent thirty years of my life trying to hold onto to memories, people, places, things and now I want to get rid of half of what I have, but I don't know how to let go.

Letting go, for me, is like purposely choosing to be abandoned. Recently, I have been searching my soul and talking out loud to those who will listen about letting go. Not just of stupid things, negative people or bad places but also letting go of fantasies, dreams of what could of been, false realities and a sense of entitlement, as one friend pointed out to me last year.

None of this belongs to me. Nothing is owed to me. Nothing is mine.

I tend to go into a situation "knowing" that all will work out in my favor and all the odds are in my court. This is a silly, immature fallacy. In the end, I get upset because I am confused to why it didn't turn out my way. One regret I carry is that I didn't take advantage of a wise grandmother, who didn't know much about anything, but knew nothing in life was free and even in the case of friends or family, it takes work to earn what you want; be it love, respect, honor, money or fame. I now wonder if my grandmother cautioned me from overextending myself and setting my expectations so high because at the time she could see I would only do the bare minimum to pass. There's a list of evidence favoring that statement.

I was a good runner with the potential to be a great runner, but I didn't work as hard. I was a good student with the potential to be a great student, but didn't work hard enough; I often lost focus of the end goal. The list goes on for 30 years. I am good at a lot of things with the potential to be great, but I have not been willing to do the work; to focus on the end goal; to push through the pain. Sure, people that know my story will tell me they're impressed because I'm not addicted to drugs, in prison or dead, but that's not good enough for me - I don't think that should be good enough for anyone.

There you have it friends, I am admitting I am not as great as I could be. Some of you might write comments that reassure me otherwise, but please, don't. This isn't a post fishing for compliments - I am writing this for me.

There's a lot wrong with me and what's wrong with me is a list of bad choices, some that haven't been resolved. Today I read an article in the September 2009 Ensign about loving those you know with same-gender attraction; I find the articles about this subject to be interesting because I often think, "how things really are," is left out. However, the author wrote this one line that I really like that I feel I could apply to myself.

It reads, "After all, it is the Savior's role, not mine, to heal her." Instead I read it this way, " After all, it is the Savior's role, not mine, to heal me." I am not sure if that's true because I always figured it was my role, as well as the Savior's, to heal me. Apparently I had this notion that I am equal to God and Christ's power. I would never say that, nor is that what I really believe. In thinking I can heal myself or resolve my problems with or without the Savior is ridiculous. Time and time again I am told in blessings, talks and scriptures that it is, "after all we can do..." ~2 Nephi 25:23

Today, it hit me.

I can do all I can do and it will never be enough to match the strength, love and purity of the Savior's. He's not looking for a perfect sculpture; a masterpiece, He's looking for clay.

One of my favorite scriptures reads, "O (Jey), cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the Lord. Behold, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are ye in mine hand, O (Jey)." ~Jeremiah 18:6

How many times does the Lord have to tell me it's not only okay to let go, it's time to let go? I have built up all this evidence why I have failed in this life because I haven't measured up to a standard I knew I couldn't attain alone. The Lord, on the other hand, as gracious as He eternally is, has volumes of books of evidence proving I am good enough for Him.

I think of Laman and Lemuel; they were not that different from myself. I am no Nephi; I am a rebel who so quickly forgets the mercy of God. I love what Nephi exclaims to his brothers, "How is it that ye are so hard in your hearts, and so blind in your minds...How is it that ye have not hearkened unto the word of the Lord? How is it that ye have forgotten that ye have seen an angel of the Lord? Yea, and how is it that ye have forgotten what great things the Lord has done for us...Yea, and how is it that ye have forgotten that the Lord is able to do all things according to His will, for the children of men, if it so be that they exercise faith in him? Wherefore, let us be faithful to him." ~1 Nephi 7:8-12

I am not a complete rebel, but I have lost some sight of how great the Lord has been to me in my mortal life and on my journey back to Him. Lucky for me, God still loves me. Isaiah wrote and Nephi recorded several times this great phrase or reminder, "but His hand is stretched out still."

I like to believe that the Lord keeps telling me to let go and grab hold of that hand that, "is stretched out still." So, maybe today's a great day for that.

Today it hit me.

It's time to let go.

You have been caught Jey Walking!

Monday, August 10, 2009

just so you know



"I'm so excited for you - but what does it mean to be undetectable?" is the question I get the most and I do not mind at all explaining what HIV/AIDS is and why being undetectable is so important.

So, please indulge me as I layout the basics of HIV/AIDS or the Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. HIV is the virus that leads to AIDS and AIDS is a diagnosis given to those with HIV that have a high viral load count, a T-Cell count under 200 and/or an opportunistic infection - an infection that only those with severely compromised immune systems generally get.

Let me state emphatically, HIV/AIDS IS NOT A GAY DISEASE.

"HIV does not discriminate. It is not who you are, but what you do that determines whether you can become infected with HIV."

No thanks to the CDC in the early eighties, the common myth is that HIV/AIDS only affects gay people and those they engage in unprotected sex with. Though the gay community and those that had unprotected sex with them were and are still being infected - they are not the source nor the only ones being infected.

The other common myth is that HIV/AIDS came from apes/monkeys - there is no certain known source of HIV/AIDS and there is still extensive research into when and where it first appeared. Some reports show evidence that it has been around since the late 1800's-early 1900's.

Another myth: There must be a cure because so many people are living healthy, longer lives even with HIV/AIDS. This is false, there is no found cure. Anti-retroviral drugs or "cocktails" are strong and can fight off the effects of the disease for a long time. Thanks to the advances in medicine and science and a landmark move by two pharmaceutical companies to collaborate their work into a one pill once a day drug - many people around the world are surviving. There are so many millions, though, without these drugs that die every minute of every day mostly because of ignorance, refusal to get tested, governments who refuse to accept help or allow their infected people to have drugs, etc. Please, just remember, there is no found cure, but there is hope that we are close to getting one.

Now that I've covered all that - you may want to know what exactly it is. There are plenty of websites that describe HIV/AIDS, I will list the best ones at the end. HIV is a virus that attacks the immune system, but not like most viruses. HIV is unfortunately, really smart.

In basic terms HIV comes into the body through semen, vaginal fluid, blood and breast milk. The ways it is transmitted is through unprotected sex, sharing contaminated syringes/needles, giving birth and breast-feeding. There are rare cases where it was transmitted through oral sex or kissing that still involved either blood, semen or vaginal fluid - NOT saliva. Though saliva carries the HIV antibodies - it would take at least 8 gallons of saliva in contact continuously with at least one of the other bodily fluids to be infected. Even then, there have not been enough cases to prove that kissing leads to infection unless blood is present and that oral sex leads to infection unless blood and a contaminated bodily fluid is present. Not to be too graphic, but I can't imagine anyone wanting to kiss someone while both their mouths were bleeding, etc.

Just a reminder, HIV is not transmitted through sweat, saliva, urine, mosquitos or anything other than what was listed above. It is strictly a virus only humans can get, though there is evidence that other similar viruses have been found in our relatives; primates.

HIV, once in the body, attaches itself to T-Cells (CD-4 cells) aka white blood cells and basically retrieves DNA from the cell and imitates the cell as if itself, the virus, is a healthy white blood cell. The virus in its new disguise tricks the healthy cell into letting it inside. It enters the cell and starts making millions and billions of copies of itself that are sent out like destroyer drones. Eventually, the healthy cell is taken over by the virus and the process repeats until, without treatment, the person has no more healthy cells to protect themselves and they die.

Everyone has T-Cells; when you get a cold, T-Cells send out antibodies that save you from death and doctors can use these to diagnose you. When someone gets HIV - antibodies are sent out to help fight and that's why doctors use saliva to do preliminary HIV tests. They do blood tests to confirm whether someone who tested positive through saliva actually has the HIV virus and not some other virus; the preliminary tests are 99.9% accurate, but there are a few reasons why a false positive may show up.

Ok, so jump to someone like me who not so long ago wasn't doing so great. My T-Cell count was at 303 and my viral load was 88,668 or something like that. That's not so great. Doctors will suggest and strongly encourage that any HIV positive person with a T-cell count under 500 should begin treatment.

What is treatment? It's different for everybody. It began in a horrible way but now we have hope. The "cocktails" or anti-retrovirals are meant to do two things at the same time. One, kill the virus before or as it attaches to the T-Cell. Two, enter the contaminated T-Cell and stop the virus from making copies. So, drugs are designed to help and protect T-Cells and the body by increasing T-Cells and decreasing viral load. The idea is that an HIV/AIDS patient have more than 500 T-Cells and less the 48 copies of the virus/viral load. When someone has under 48 copies, tests can no longer detect the virus in the body and that's why we call people with an undetected viral load, UNDETECTABLE.

Just an interesting note: A person who has been diagnosed as having AIDS, but because of treatment improves to the point that their T-Cells go back over 200 and their viral load decreases...no matter if the person lives the rest of their life undetectable, they are still considered to have AIDS. Once an immune system has been so compromised, ANYTHING, can set it right back down or even to death.

Early treatments required sometimes 12 to 15 pills a day, three to six times a day. Imagine taking anywhere from 36-90 plus pills a day that each cost about $100 or more. Today, drugs are still expensive, but there are more and more organizations that make it possible for more people regardless of income to have access to these drugs. I believe it's now the law in the United States that HIV/AIDS patients cannot be refused medical help and medicinal treatment - the program is known as Medic-Aid - anyone who enters a hospital with HIV/AIDS can demand Medic-Aid to cover the costs of the support they need. Of course this program is based on low-income and each state has a set standard.

I feel I have rambled on here and there and mixed everything up. Hopefully, I have presented this information in a way that has been helpful to all that read it. I am more than happy to answer any questions about HIV/AIDS and/or my personal experiences with it via my personal e-mail.

I love you all and thank you for the thoughts, prayers and support you give me. Without it, I would not have the ability to open up and share such vital information with my family and friends. Again, I really do appreciate all that you have done on my and other HIV/AIDS patients behalf through emotional, physical and financial support.

You have been caught Jey Walking!

http://www.northstarlds.org/hivaids.php
once there, scroll down for websites for more information

You will also find an essay I wrote about my experience with HIV

Friday, August 7, 2009

counting my blessings



If some one told me the day I was diagnosed HIV positive (November 18th 2005) that in four years I would be undetectable and healthy, I would not have believed them.

Today I went back to my doctor's office to find out that I am still undetectable after only seven months of drug treatment. Not only that but my T-cell count has increased to 732!!! (That's really good news!) My goal is to hit 1,000 T-Cells by November 13th - my next test.

I'm not cured physically - but my ability to trust that the Lord really does have me and the whole world in His hands has expanded and my spirit has been impacted by the healing process.

I just want my family and friends to know how much I love them and am so appreciative of their thoughts, prayers and generosity offered on my behalf - it really has made the difference.

Thank you so much!

You have been caught Jey Walking!

Friday, July 31, 2009

i ♥ crabs



My zodiac sign, Cancer - represented by a crab/69 (yin-yang) - is arguably the best sign to have, despite the fact that we are some of the most emotional, moody and, yes, crabby people around. Lately, my irritability level has sky-rocketed to the point where all the small stuff; everyone's idiosyncrasies are driving me backwards up the wall. What am I to do? I feel like strangling people, even strangers for things that, even, I do. I just want to scream at my friends and random people for annoying me so much. It's so bad that I find myself yelling in a room all by myself like I am bipolar with a slight Tourette's disorder. I know I am not crazy, but I feel it coming on.

I went to see a counselor and I was telling him about how irritated at the world and myself I was. I was telling stories about home, school and personal life. I felt like I was just venting a bunch of non-related things to him. The counselor stopped me and asked me if I saw the theme throughout every story. I did not. Through the rest of our session I uncovered that at the root of all my angst, in fact, not just recent issues, but a lifelong problem, is that I feel people don't respect or understand my circumstances, my limits, my journey or what I've been through. So, I begin to resent them over time until it is resolved. I found this to be interesting. A light went on in my head and knowing this or uncovering this, made so much sense to me, but I didn't know why.

Here's an example. At school I may be given an assignment that is difficult or hard to understand. Instead of asking for help from the teacher, classmates or a tutor, I begin to shutdown and resent the teacher, the class and even school because I begin to see them as enemies all trying to humiliate or embarrass me. I know this is absolutely not true at all, but over the years, time and time again, I put up my defense whenever I feel attacked, disrespected or humiliated. The problem is, I am not really being attacked, just being challenged. School can be tough, like an over-cooked steak, learning new things and meeting the demands of the course are meant to challenge students for the purpose of making them stronger, smarter and more disciplined. My mind hasn't see it that way though, until now.

In the case of annoying roommates or people, rarely, are any of them actually trying to attack me or humiliate me, but, in fact, they are challenging me because that's what we humans do. We are constantly seeing what buttons we can push and establishing boundaries or breaking them down with each other. We do this more often with people we know, care about and love. Maybe that's why the adage goes, "You only hurt the ones you love."

Now I have the opportunity for myself to accept the challenges, assert myself, but, with less irritability. I can live by the motto, I can do hard things and "let virtue garnish [my] thoughts unceasingly, that [my]confidence may wax strong in the presence of God." For I know that "in His strength [I] can do all things." Thanks for listening (reading).

You have been caught Jey Walking! (and staying calm)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

o ye of little faith, peace, be still


Recently I played my own arranged medley of hymns as a special musical number for sacrament meeting. This, in and of itself, is not strange, in fact, I have done such a thing in every ward I've been in since 2003.

What is strange is that I had only arranged the medley the night before because, unlike previous times, I had nothing to practice on. I recently sold my portable piano to pay my rent and I have regretted that ever since. Did DaVinci sell his art supplies or Mozart his harpsichord? I doubt it - but oh well.

Anyway, because of my lack of practice I was unsure I should perform. These second thoughts grew as I learned the theme of my music did not really fit the theme of the talks being given. Eventually, I thought,
O ye of little faith
- this is God's gift to you to play, now it's your gift to God to play for Him - peace, be still. I gave in and settled on the final thought that I would just play anyway because the music was fresh in mind.

I played a pioneer medley that included:

"The Spirit of God"
"Jesus, Lover of My Soul"
"Come, Come, Ye Saints"
Nearer, My God, To Thee"
Lead, Kindly Light"
and "Come Thou Fount of Ev'ry Blessing"

It was an interesting piece that was meant to tell the story of the pioneer trek from Nauvoo to the Salt Lake Valley. I wanted to use hymns from their era that they probably sang along the way as prayers to God for mercy and praise.

As it turned out, I am so glad I played the medley that day because my friend was in the congregation who is the friend of a friend of the brother of one of the Twelve Apostles. That brother just happened to need a pianist at the last minute for a dinner party he was putting on that his brother, the Apostle, would be attending.

Somehow, someway my name was given to the brother and I agreed to play even though I don't read music nor am I great at playing classical, contemporary or jazz improv piano which was part of what he wanted. I am best at arranging hymn medleys and composing my own music - it took me until the day of the party to feel at least 75% confidant I would do alright.

The day came and I got dressed in my best suit, shirt and tie. I was picked up in a lovely and luxurious Mercedes-Benz car service which only made me fearful I would not meet his expectations since he was paying me - but I pressed on. I printed out my list of music I could play. Here's the list, besides some jazz improv I played, in no particular order:

"Memory"
"Love Changes Everything"
"A Whole New World"
"Over The Rainbow/Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star"
"Edelweiss"
"The Rose"
"I Dreamed A Dream"
"Chariots Of Fire"
"Ode To Joy/Jurassic Park Theme"

"For The Beauty Of The Earth/Simple Gifts/
All Creature Of Our God And King"
"Jesus, Lover Of My Soul/Nearer, My God, To Thee/
Jesus The Very Thought Of Thee'
"Let Zion In Her Beauty Rise/Praise To The Lord, The Almighty"
"If I Could Hie To Kolob"
"O My Father/How Great Thou Art/Amazing Grace"
"The Spirit Of God/How Firm A Foundation"
"O Savior, Thou Who Wearest A Crown"
"God Speed The Right/Onward Christian Soldiers/Press Forward Saints"
"Because I Have Been Given Much/Lord, I Would Follow Thee/
A Poor, Wayfaring Man of Grief"
"Consider The Lilies/Come Thou Fount/Lead, Kindly Light"
"Abide With Me/Abide With Me 'Tis Eventide"

and my own composition, "Orion's Song"

It was a wonderful two hours of music that included the great company and compliments of the Apostle, his lovely wife, his brother's family, his guests and Zeke the dog who loves to jump up and say hi.

I share this with you because the few days before I played in church I asked God how I would pay August's rent without a job. I trusted God enough to ask in the first place because He's gotten me through this entire year; He has provided a way for me to survive as long as I have asked for His help - though knowing Him - He would eventually help me anyway because he loves me so much. Despite all the evidence of a great and generous god, I have a doubtful heart.

This piano gig thing came the night after I played in church and probably only because I played in church since I am not a professional pianist. The amazing thing is that it more than provided for my rent this coming month. This is further evidence that God is aware of my circumstance and is more than willing to lead me kindly to the light that is His love. All I have to pay is my faith, trust in Him and simple obedience to simple things He asks of me.

The next day I went on an overnight road trip to Atlanta. On the way down we hit a huge and ferocious thunderstorm that I truly thought would injure or kill us. I had prayed for safety when we started the trek, but when the storm hit so hard I was afraid that God didn't hear my prayer. I prayed to myself to the point of tears that God would make the rain stop and get us out of the storm safely. Within 30 seconds the storm had lifted up and within a minute or two we were completely safe - the rest of our roadtrip was made without any scares or safety problems.

Now I am reminded of the scripture story about the disciples in the boat with Christ during a huge storm.

"And when he was entered into a ship, his disciples followed him. And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep. And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish. And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?
Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. But the men marvelled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!" ~ Matthew 8:23-27

I have always loved the lyrics written by Mary Ann Baker to the hymn, "Master, The Tempest Is Raging." Karen Lynn Davidson writes in her book, Our Latter-Day Hymns: The Stories and The Messages, "This hymn first printed in 1874, asks us to play several roles as we sing it. In the first verse, our words are those of a fearful disciple in that boat on the Sea of Galilee; our panic rises as a growing tempest threatens to capsize us at any moment. In the second verse, the fear and despair are just as great, but these are figurative storms, "torrents of sin and of anguish." The third verse recognizes the peace that comes after Jesus has calmed the storm, whether it is a storm on Galilee or a storm within the heart. The same chorus follows each verse, and here we speak words of faith in the Savior's ability to calm the storm. The hymn's central phrase and message, "Peace, be still," is repeated four times in this chorus."

In some other words from Mary Ann Baker, "The Master's own voice stilled the tempest in my unsanctified heart and brought it to the calm of a deeper faith and a more perfect trust."

Last night I was told that the holiest war that one will ever fight is within the heart. I believe the greatest storm one will ever weather is found within the heart, as well. The heart is an amazing organ that plays many roles in one's life. One of my greatest missions in life is to let the spirit, peace and love dwell there, even in the midst of great storms.

In both the case of the need for rent money and the calming of a literal storm - I have learned in my heart the simple phrase,
"O ye of little faith, peace, be still."

You have been caught Jey Walking! (trusting in the Lord to lead the way)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

life at 30


It's seems like it's been forever since I last posted. I know I put writing off because i was expecting some great news, but now I feel it is best just to write it and let it be done.

July 2nd 2009 I left an entire decade of my TERRIBLE TWENTIES behind me - let's think back on my life and history between 1999-2009...then again, let's not or at least not right now. YES, I am proud and ecstatic to be 30 years old. I feel like Sally O'Malley from Saturday Night Live - I'm 30 and loving life! My roommate and friend treated me to a Broadway show, Mary Poppins, which was spectacular.

The next day I went to Coney Island for the first time and despite getting down poured on shortly after we arrived - the unique ferris wheel, freak sideshow, cotton candy and fireworks made ALL the difference.

The Fourth of July was spent with friends walking around Battery Park and walking along the Hudson then joining a New Years Eve in Times Square-like crowd to watch a wonderful celebration of Henry Hudson, the Hudson River, New York City and of course, AMERICA!

Sunday was a very beautiful and relaxing day of sunshine - I even enjoyed leading the Elder's Quorum in "Battle Hymn of the Republic" a capella. Overall, I have so much to be thankful for and I am so happy to be alive and 30!

Speaking of life, what's with all the deaths? It's weird that it seems I keep hearing about people dying all of a sudden - obviously people die everyday - but I can't tell if something is different and/or the media has nothing else to do but report people's deaths. Regardless I am shocked at the death of Michael Jackson, though anyone with such an eccentric lifestyle might be shortening their life.

It's sad to also lose Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett and Billy Mays among others even if I didn't know them personally. As I speak of death I always remember now my grandmother and best friend Norma Jean I lost two years ago and my cousin Michael who was born the same day and year as me, who we lost eight years ago at 22 years old. Life is so precious and I am thankful to have another day, another year.

Okay, I'll give in - let's run through the highlights and lowlights of the last decade of MYstory.

1999
Got my first Driver's License and cell phone - great combination
I moved to Lawrenceville, GA
(my first time ever flying in an airplane and lived outside of Southern California)

2000
Turned 21 and moved back to California
George W. Bush was elected President

2001
Went back to community college to work on getting a degree
9/11 attacks

2002
Hit by a car while riding my bike, OUCH!
Not really sure what else happened this year :D
America went to war in Iraq and Afghanistan, I think?

2003
Finished two years of liberal arts studies at City College
Moved to Washington, DC to work for City Year

2004
Turned 25 - Silver Anniversary!
Finished City Year program
Moved to Atlanta, Georgia
George W. Bush re-elected President?

2005 The Rough Year
Started my Advertising program at AiA
Mom returns home from prison
I am excommunicated from the LDS Church
I am diagnosed HIV positive

2006
Mom rebaptized into the church and living a healthier life

2007
Raised a turtle, Jorge El Tortuga Diabolico and some hermit crabs
My brother Michael and Mattie Carmack got married
(8 of 10 siblings were there, not to mention both my grandmother and mother)
My grandmother dies
Bought my first car, 1998 Dodge Neon Sport aka "Jack"
Attended my 10 year High School Reunion
Got a design internship working for the GA Secretary of State

2008
Lost our dear prophet, President Hinckley
Thomas S. Monson becomes new Prophet and President of the LDS Church
Graduated from The Art Institute of Atlanta
Got accepted into a Nonprofit Management program at Milano The New School for Management and Urban Policy in New York City.
Worked for the the awesome Spruill Center for the Arts
Sold my first car, "Jack"
Moved to New York City & started school
Barrack Obama elected 1st Black President
Started "cocktail" treatment

2009 so far
Became Undetectable!
Raised $1,031 for the NYC AIDS Walk
TURNED 30!

I am sure I have missed things here and there, but the important thing is that I have my family, great friends, my health and the knowledge of the gospel of Jesus Christ - these things I am grateful to have had throughout my thirty years!

You have been caught Jey Walking! (with a walker, so old now)

Monday, May 25, 2009

please?


Why is it that everytime I have a strong feeling or eye opening experience there is a song that has been written that says it exactly how I feel.

The last few days I have been thinking selfishly for my future. I don't want to lose things, I don't want to sacrifice, I want everything to work in my favor and I just want life to be great. Too much to ask?

So today someone pointed out this song from awhile back

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE LET ME GET WHAT I WANT
by The Smiths

Good times for a change
See, the luck Ive had
Can make a good man
Turn bad

So please please please
Let me, let me, let me
Let me get what I want
This time

Havent had a dream in a long time
See, the life Ive had
Can make a good man bad

So for once in my life
Let me get what I want
Lord knows, it would be the first time
Lord knows, it would be the first time

###

Let me clarify one part I would change - it is certainly NOT the first time I have gotten what I want and the Lord knows that all too well. I am thankful for what I have - I just don't want to give it up :D

You have been caught Jey Walking! (isn't that what you want?)

Monday, May 11, 2009

balm of gilead


Simply put, yesterday seemed like a disaster - in fact it felt the way most Monday mornings feel.

I have never loved waking up early on Monday mornings. I even wrote a poem in high school titled, "I Hate Mondays" - but that's for later. Last Monday when I wrote my post "My Letter to the One" and today are the rare exceptions. Like McDonald's new little ditty, I can say, "I'm Lovin' It!" but alas, I digress... YESTERDAY!

As the Elder's Quorum Music Coordinator I have been leading music during the priesthood hour of church. Our men proved that they can sing well a capella because we have no piano in our meeting room. So, I was asked to form an Elder's Quorum choir that would perform a capella in sacrament meeting.

I don't read music, I only play it. I can sing but I have to hear the notes to do so. I am usually frustrated because I am not a choir director. Half the time I lead, I am off by a few beats. I just stand there to serve as the guy who starts everyone else off on the wrong note and then continues to lead everyone singing off-beat, but who else will do it?

Yesterday we were all to meet early to run through our parts - especially because we were going to sing a capella. Maybe 1/3 of our guys were there, which in our ward is ten. Well, a few reluctant singers and a frustrated director who doesn't know what to do, doesn't make for great music. We ran out of time to practice and I ran out of patience - I left the building to let off some hot steam.

I don't like to feel anxious or humiliated because of my inability to do what people expect me to do. I was so angry and almost felt disrespected and betrayed - I just wanted to give up.

I decided that I didn't want to give up on these guys even if I felt I was being failed. I would be a hypocrite if I failed those who at least showed up and tried their best. After all, these men aren't trained singers just like I'm no trained choir director. We ended singing the hymn, "I Need Thee Every Hour" even if I failed to utter such a prayer out loud - I know others prayed for me and us on our behalf. Though it wasn't a capella - it was beautiful.

Unfortunately, this didn't stop me from being frustrated and bitter the rest of the day. There are so many things on my mind right now. When I wrote that it might be hard to express my joy about being undetectable I was really saying, "Great! I'm undetectable, but what about all my other problems?" Needless to say my attitude hasn't been so pleasant lately, regardless of the good news that I've received; news that many like me wish they too would receive. I am blessed; I have it good, even if I don't deserve it.

After church I decided to go to Ward Choir practice, even though I really just wanted to sulk. The hymn we are preparing to perform is a beautiful rendition of, "Did You Think to Pray?" I really enjoyed singing that yesterday and surprisingly I really have my part down pretty well. Then I went home and eventually fell asleep after watching a six hour movie whose theme had a lot to do with healing and the Fountain of Bethesda among other things.

This morning I woke up and began to start my day. The usual Monday morning routine includes showering with anxiety, putting on some guilt and despair and heating up some leftover anger to eat. I guess this morning started differently. I took out my medication, a slice of bread and some water - sort of like my own sacrament between me and the Lord. As I sat down to take my meds, eat, drink and prepare to be merry - I noticed something I noticed at least five months ago.

Truvada is one of the medicines I take and it comes in the form of a large blue pill. On one side is imprinted a word, in fact the name of the manufacturing science lab, Gilead. For some reason this got me singing, "Did You Think to Pray?" and specifically the third verse:

"When sore trials came upon you
Did you think to pray?
When your soul was filled with sorrow,
Balm of Gilead did you borrow
At the gates of day?

Oh, how praying rests the weary!
Prayer will change the night to day.
So, when life gets dark and dreary,
Don't forget to pray."


It struck me like a bug strikes a Mac truck's windshield! Here I was looking down at this word Gilead on a pill that has prolonged my life singing, "Did You Think to Pray?" I was holding my own Balm of Gilead and it's more than just a pill - it's God, His endless blessings, my life, everything! If anyone in the world needed to borrow the Balm of Gilead at the gates of day - more so on Monday mornings - it has to include me. As part of my daily ranting, raving and pleadings to the myself and to anyone listening I say, "I Need Thee Every Hour" but "Did I Think to Pray?" What a wake up call.

Speaking of wake up calls - it's maybe no coincidence then that Gilead literally means heap of testimony or mass of witness. So, Balm of Gilead could really be translated to mean - healing witness.

I can testify to you that the Balm of Gilead is not only a healing resin for our temporal wounds. It also includes revelatory witness and testimony of the very Atonement of Jesus Christ that allows us to be healed spiritually.

"For as the body without the spirit is dead..."
~ James 2:26


To answer the age-old question from Jeremiah 8:22, "Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there?" I gladly reply - YES - we can find the Balm of Gilead in prayer, in humility, in patience and in healing our body and our spirits through cleansing and sanctification.

"O Lord my God, I cried unto thee, and thou hast healed me...I cried unto thee, O Lord; and unto the Lord I made supplication...Hear, O Lord, and have mercy upon me: Lord, be thou my helper. Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing...and girded me with gladness; to the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever."
~Psalm 30


There is one physician in Gilead who can heal all things sick, mend all things torn, fix all things broken and make all things whole again. It is He, our Savior Jesus Christ. He called me to prayer this morning and I was reminded that there is hope - there is love - there is God.

"...weeping may endure the night, but joy cometh in the morning."
~Psalm 30:5


You have been caught Jey Walking! (sometimes kneeling to pray, too)

Thursday, May 7, 2009

UNDETECTABLE!

Just wanted to let you all know I am UNDETECTABLE!

I am not sure how much I can write now because I am just so excited, relieved and emotional.

I just ask that if you are able to support me by making a contribution at the upcoming AIDS Walk New York: http://www.aidswalk.net/newyork/ or to Callen-Lorde Community Health Center at: www.callen-lorde.org

Thanks so much for hanging in here with me!

love jey

You have been caught Jey Walking!

Monday, May 4, 2009

my letter to the one


If there is one thing, maybe one theme, I could express my feelings about to my dear brothers, sisters and friends who may feel the darkness all around them because they too have confusing feelings, desires and attractions toward the same sex/gender that they are not sure of - it would be this-

No matter where, who, or what you are
No matter how you were raised or the lack thereof
No matter your religious background or color of your skin
No matter what your personality or character is like
No matter what your favorites in life are
No matter what the content of your dreams may be

Someone - somewhere has walked down a similar road
You are not the only one
I am your brother and friend!

I feel compelled to express my feelings for my Heavenly Father and Savior Jesus Christ. I thank them for allowing me the privilege and honor of living this life with all the trials and experiences I have been through and have yet to travail. One of these trials is being gay - not to say that being so makes me or anyone else bad or evil - but it's certainly not easy - that's for sure! Though, I know that there is one who has suffered more than I.

"If thou art called to pass through tribulation...If thou art accused with all manner of false accusations; if thine enemies fall upon thee...if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, the very jaws of hell gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son (daughter), that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good."

"The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than He?"

"Therefore, hold thy way...fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever."
~ Doctrine & Covenants 122


I am honored to have sacrificed dreams that could have been to feel the pain and anxiety of being different; being gay - the self-loathing, rejection, sorrow, loss, loneliness, exclusion, depression or suicidal thoughts -YES- even the desire for death as so many like me have come to feel and the one too many that have unfortunately succeeded in those desires. I am honored because not only has it brought me closer to my God - it has helped me in being a better friend - a better person to others.

I will not judge those who desire to have what they believe to be their basic rights. I won't lie - I have had desires to settle down with my "dream man" because sometimes - it feels natural, happy and right.

I am not one who judges others who leave their church and/or their families to choose, so often, a destructive lifestyle of drugs, alcohol and promiscuity - how can I? I have been down that road to hell and back, slipping back down and crawling out of the darkness again and again - a continual cycle over the last 12 years.

Neither do I judge those who choose to hide or dismiss their feelings or desires to serve God and their families and go about their day to day because for them - that is their highest priority.

I would not condemn my brothers and sisters who share this battle with me; I will fight along side them. It's hard because we all want different things - but one way or another we have shared so much of the pain and anxiety that is being gay.

Funny that gay used to be a word that meant happy or carefree. For many it still does regardless of context or usage. The reality is that so many of us are hurting inside, feeling lost and afraid of what might be. Many of us don't know which side to choose. The last thing we need is to be judged, slandered or cast aside. I know all I want and need are hugs, friends, support, encouragement, a sense of protection and safety and love - love and kindness from family, friends and my Heavenly Father and Savior Jesus Christ.

In the recent years I have come to know more and more - some of the most talented, skilled, supportive, friendly and loving men and women in the world - they just happen to be gay. I have also come to know so many who don't feel they are loved and supported - they are not sure they can trust the world around them not to condemn them for feelings and desires that, not only feel natural and right, but are more often than not - uncontrollable and seem to come from nowhere or deep inside.

So - this message is to the one; to those who are in the darkness of their so called "closets" because of the fear that wells inside of you. I am here. I am your brother. I am your friend. I will love you the best I can. I will support you with all that I know and have. I will walk with you along this rocky, twisted path. I will share this trial with you so you know you are not the only one. I will help carry the load - so that when you are weak you don't have to fall into a pit of despair and even if you do - I will be there to help you out.

I am honored to have been blessed with my life - I have learned to feel with the deepest part of my heart, mind and soul. I have often walked with my Savior to learn from Him how best to sacrifice, serve and love. I hope you will walk with me.

love your brother and friend, Jey

You have been caught Jey Walking! (You can hold my hand if you want too)

PS. Also see,
LDS.org - Ensign Article - None Were with Him

Sunday, May 3, 2009

detectable solicitation


I am so excited to find out on May 7th - 4 pm what my latest HIV viral load count is and especially if it is going to be "UNDETECTED"!

I also really excited for May 17th! ( http://www.aidswalk.net/newyork/ )

I went to the gym for the first in awhile and am feeling great - I feel healthier than I was when I was diagnosed in 2005. I owe a lot to the people at GMHC and Callen-Lorde Community Health Center here in New York. Without the services they have provided for me.

Since last August they have provided me with two pairs of glasses so I can see, a new crown for my tooth (been missing for several years now - never had the money to replace it) - blood tests - STD tests - vaccines - and of course, the most important - my drugs that have eradicated almost all of the HIV in my body.

GMHC and Callen-Lorde Community Health Center (www.callen-lorde.org)have obviously done so much - they have given me more life to live. Being the broke grad student that I am - I can't afford to pay them back - but I made a contribution anyway. This year I am turning 30 and it's all thanks to God, GMHC and Callen-Lorde Community Health Center.

I am asking each of you - despite the economic times that we are in - to donate $30 in my name to this year's AIDS Walk New York.( http://www.aidswalk.net/newyork/ ) and/or If each of you contributed this amount it would add up fast and really make a difference.

You can also make a donation to Callen-Lorde at their website www.callen-lorde.org

Please give $30 today ( http://www.aidswalk.net/newyork/ ) or (www.callen-lorde.org) to show your support to me and to those who are doing everything they can to provide meaningful, life-changing services to people like me. I really appreciate all the support, thoughts, prayers and donations received already.

Follow the link below to either walk with me, donate or both. It's safe, secure and easy-even I did it!

http://www.aidswalk.net/newyork/
(go to : Sponsor a Walker)

or

www.callen-lorde.org

Thanks a billion! (or just $30!)

love Jey

PS. I should be having an "undetectable" party soon and you're invited to come celebrate!

You have been caught Jey Walking!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

shameless plug



I appreciate all the love and support I have received from my friends and family since 2005, when I was diagnosed with HIV.

Last December 21st, I began taking medication to eradicate as much of the virus in my body as I could. I am happy to say that my doctor and I feel confidant that on this 4 month mark - my next test result should come up undetectable!

I owe it all to the great support and healthcare I have received through GMHC and Callen-Lorde Community Health Center. But here's the reality - my doctor's visits, blood tests, lab work, vaccinations and medication add up. I take $600 in pills a day alone and the lab tests range between $200-900 every 6 weeks.

I am one of the fortunate ones, I receive these services and have my life prolonged by certain programs and services that don't make me pay the full cost. There are so many others that don't have that option. While no one is turned away due to inability to pay - these organizations can only help others through donations like yours.

I know times are tough-the economy isn't so great, but in these times it's organizations like these who help people live that get their budgets cut in half and desperately need your help.

Please join me in donating to this cause. I am happy to be turning 30 this year so I donated $30. I hope that you can join me and so many others who believe that a little bit can go a long way.

Like I said, I appreciate all the love and support I receive - my wish is others like me receive the same.

You can go to this link to make your secure, tax-deductible donation online today:

http://www.aidswalk.net/newyork/

www.callen-lorde.org

Thank you so much,

love jey

You have been caught Jey Walking!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

enlightened lessons


I was anxious all day yesterday - wondering who was going to try to pull an April Fool's Day joke or prank on me. It turned out that I was taught an interesting lesson that I hope will shape the rest of my life and journey therein.

In my Theory & Practice of Nonprofit Management course we are discussing how Boards should be formed for an organization. In this discussion we ask several questions of ourselves in which we are creating a criteria for those who should fill seats on the Board we would be hypothetically forming.

In this discussion my professor said something to me that was profound, as he often does with his quick wit and intellectual humor. In speaking about forming a Board, or rather an organization he states that organizations should ask themselves two questions:

"Am I what I say I am?"
"Am I doing what I say I do?

In Abraham 3:22, found in the Pearl of Great Price, it reads that the Lord showed Abraham "the intelligences that were organized before the world was..." Of course, we are those intelligences; I am an organization of intelligence of God.

With this in mind, I felt the need to ask myself these questions again:

As an organization of intelligence of God, am I what I say I am?
As an organization of intelligence of God, am I doing what I say I do?

I am not sure what I said to my friends, family or God Himself before this life - but I did desire to come here and made the choice to follow Christ's plan before this life. As a follower of Christ before and in this life, am I what I say I am? As one who has, before and in this life, made covenants with God to do certain things and live a certain way - am I doing what I say I do?

After class, these feelings escaped my mind as soon as I left the classroom. Holding onto a singular thought in New York City can be a difficult task when approached with solicitors, advertising and the rich aromatic mix of cigarette smoke, urine, homeless people and felafel carts...I digress - see it happens like that.

Unknown to me this lesson from class would be repeated while watching a documentary last night about yoga in America called "Enlighten Up!" A wonderful documentary directed by Kate Churchill explores the yoga movement in the west, its roots from the east, all while challenging a novice skeptic to find enlightenment through yoga.

At one point in the movie the novice skeptic asks a yoga master/guru in India how one achieves enlightenment. His response was one that really hit home in my heart. The guru replied that one must get rid of all that one is not and as one does this one will be who one is and when one is truly who they are, that is enlightenment. In other circles, it is called authenticity.

Over the last few hours I have had these thoughts and feelings rolling around within me. I have felt impressed to ask myself - is there any part of my life that I am living that is not me? Am I authentically myself or am I a collection of deceptive lies, half-truths and conflict?

I really don't know where to go with these thoughts right now. I am glad I am having these thoughts that stimulate my mind and enhance the journey that I am on. At this point all I can say is I am glad no one April Fooled me.

You have been caught Jey Walking!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

on my way; almost there


Today I went to the doctor's office and was expecting to hear that I am now an "undetectable" (below 48 viral load) HIV positive man.

I am really happy to announce that my T-cells have gone up from 444 to 500 (465+ is great - so I am doing well)

Although I am not undetectable, my viral load has dropped from 476 to 119 (a 75% decrease - obviously I am making dramatic progress)

THANKS FOR FOR YOUR CONTINUED FASTING, PRAYERS & SUPPORT!

* The next text result date will be 5/8 and my doctor, like myself, assumes I will be well under the 48 mark by then.

love your friend,
Jey

You have been caught Jey Walking! (NOW...Walk it out!)

Monday, March 9, 2009

one of those days


Have you ever had a Sunday at church where everything seem to be directed at you and the Spirit was comfortably present? I don't have a lot of Sundays like that and certainly haven't had a numerous of recent weekdays like it either.

Yesterday was our ward conference - the first since I've moved here. We are a small ward with about 25-40 regularly attending elders and 50+ sisters; our conference was simple but the power of it was grand.

First our awesome Bishop spoke to us about second chances and the "good news" of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The bulk of his talk revolved around the following story and the painting above that it depicts.

The Gospel of John (John 5) relates the touching tale of a man, ill for 38 years, waiting at the pool of Bethesda for a miracle of healing.

Jesus, seeing him in this wretched condition, asked him, "Wilt thou be made whole?" The man told Jesus that he had no one to place him in the water at the time the healings were to take place. Jesus responded, "Rise, take up thy bed, and walk."

The man was healed immediately, his body changed by the words of the Savior.

When he was asked to rise - no questions asked,
no complaints, no doubt - he rose!
When he was asked to walk - no questions asked,
no complaints, no doubt - he walked!
When he was asked to obey - no questions asked,
no complaints, no doubt - he obeyed!
When he was asked to have faith - no questions asked,
no complaints, no doubt - he was faithful!
When he was told he was made whole and to go and sin no more
no questions asked, no complaints, no doubt
he went on his way thankful to Jesus!

This isn't a new lesson or revelation! I know Jesus Christ is the my Redeemer and Savior - but this story, the painting and the talk from my Bishop combined provided me with further light regarding the Atonement and my relationship to Christ and my Heavenly Father.

It's funny because my friend recently told me that after years of looking for answers he finally got them after he stopped asking questions and just listened. It didn't make sense to me at the time because I analyze and ask questions everyday - it's my nature and my personality to do so - but as I am writing this - it came to me, of course after hearing the talk that I am failing to listen to God and to the Spirit, but instead am constantly cutting them off with my incessant questions and curiosity - which, as my friend says, are only met with questions. You thought Jesus only answered questions with questions in the Bible - think again :D

After the talk the choir, which I am in, sang a beautiful version of "Abide With Me" and then the Stake President spoke about our "dreams" list and how Satan tries to minimizes our dreams and goals. As the Stake President said, if he causes us to believe there is no opportunity, even if there is, if we believe him, he has won!

I found recently that the gospel is more simple than I believed growing up. In Doctrine & Covenants 93:1 says it one verse: "Verily, thus saith the Lord: it shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am"

Anyway - I am just thankful for days like these - it really was just one of those days.

You have been caught Jey Walking!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

phoenix rising


yesterday was burned by phoenix’s fire

yet in the ash embers of hope remain

new dreams give birth in despair

shrouded in darkness i mourn what was

to remember what will be no more

then like the phoenix i will rise

with renewed passion glowing as fire

ash will give way to flame

like the phoenix i will soar again

( based on Amy Sondova's "Phoenix Ashes" )

you have been caught Jey Walking!

Friday, February 20, 2009

endless night


I saw "The Lion King" tonight on Broadway. First, let me say how amazing it really is. I've heard the hype and now I can say that it has not only lived up to its reputation, but is also very worth going and seeing for yourself.

Of course I got teary-eyed during "Circle of Life" - the introduction is beautifully done and I just love the song anyway. But I was more shocked and moved to tears when Simba sang "Endless Night" I found it to be so symbolic of the many thoughts and prayers of my heart that have been sent into the heavens.

Lately, things have gotten a little crazy in my New York City life and I have asked myself how am I going to find my way back - my way home. Like Simba sings, I also know the sun will rise on the night of my depression or heartache.

Here's a snippet and the lyrics for your pleasure:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f7AeTFYsBg


Where has the starlight gone?
Dark is the day
How can I find my way home?

Home is an empty dream
Lost to the night
Father, I feel so alone

You promised you'd be there
Whenever I needed you
Whenever I call your name
You're not anywhere

I'm trying to hold on
Just waiting to hear your voice
One word, just a word will do
To end this nightmare

When will the dawning break
Oh endless night
Sleepless I dream of the day

When you were by my side
Guiding my path
Father, I can't find the way

You promised you'd be there
Whenever I needed you
Whenever I call your name
You're not anywhere

I'm trying to hold on
Just waiting to hear your voice
One word, just a word will do
To end this nightmare

I know that the night must end
And that the sun will rise
And that the sun will rise

I know that the clouds must clear
And that the sun will shine
And that the sun will shine

I know that the night must end
And that the sun will rise
And that the sun will rise
I know that the clouds must clear
And that the sun will shine
And that the sun will shine
(Repeat to end)

I know
Yes, I know
The sun will rise
Yes, I know
I know
The clouds must clear

I know that the night must end
I know that the sun will rise
And I'll hear your voice deep inside

I know that the night must end
And that the clouds must clear
The sun
The sun will rise
The sun
The sun will rise

You have been caught Jey Walking! (Hakuna Mata!)