March 13, 2014 was the worst day of Angel Joseph Miranda’s life. It was the day he found out he was HIV positive.
Angel, who goes by A.J. is only 24. He grew up in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago, graduated from Illinois State University with a degree in communications and recently moved to Chicago’s Boystown neighborhood.
In March, 2015, a few weeks before his move to Boystown, Miranda revealed he was HIV positive in a two-minute video posted to his Facebook page.
“I’m living with HIV,” Miranda announced.
More than 10,000 people have seen the video, and Miranda hopes it will inspire the viewers and others to get themselves tested.
Miranda acknowledges it was his promiscuous and carefree attitude toward sex that led him to the one encounter that changed his life.
At the time Miranda was using a popular gay-dating app to meet other men. He found a match but when he met the man at his home, Miranda decided it was not something he wanted to pursue and attempted to leave.
“He had been drinking and when I attempted to leave he kept trying to kiss me and touch me,” Miranda said. “I asked him to stop and he wouldn’t.”
Miranda said the man (who he will not identify) pushed him over to the bed and despite Miranda asking him to stop, he didn’t. The man did not use a condom.
While Miranda acknowledges he went to the man’s place with the intention of hooking up and says the man never hurt him, he said he did ask the man to stop.
Miranda said up to that night he had always used condoms but since the man had not used protection, he knew he had to get tested.
[pullquote]“I made the best decision I could have possibly made for myself and that was to get tested,” Miranda said, “I didn’t even think HIV was a possibility.”[/pullquote]
When the doctor called to tell him his results were in, he was asked to come into the office. Miranda knew that wasn’t a good sign.
Panicking, he called the one person who was most shocked when he came out as gay.
“I called my mom before and she told me it would be ok and that she would pray for me,” Miranda said.
He can still remember the exact moment his doctor told him he was HIV positive. The world stopped for a minute, the air was stale and his brain begged for time to register what he just learned.
“I literally told the doctor to stop talking, please, so I can process this,” Miranda said.
With the support of his family, Miranda gathered himself and began treatment. He immediately began taking medication — one pill a day, every day. He says the hardest part about the treatment is remembering to take pill at the same time each day.
After a year battling to gain his confidence back, he now stands with pride and with a voice, which is why he decided to make the video.
“Through getting tested I was able to find out my status and was able to take the steps to become healthy,” Miranda said.
“I want to change the stigma.”
Not everyone was ready for Miranda to take on that mission. Even his parents, who always supported him, were hesitant in letting him post the video to Facebook, scared of what people would say.
“I was arguing with my mom as I was hitting the post button,” Miranda said.
With his announcement public, Miranda is not shy about his diagnosis and every time he meets new people and finds himself talking about their lives, he makes sure to tell them he has HIV with hopes to encourage and inspire them to get tested.
“People do want to hide it,” Miranda said.
“It’s not the death sentence; it made me understand more about what I wanted out of life.”