Young man rebuilds his life after learning that it is possible to live with HIV

For Moisés Maciel da Silva, this birthday will be different.

© UNICEF Brasil/2018/D. Pereira
UNICEF Brasil/2018/L. Marques
09 July 2018

That would be a different birthday for Moisés Maciel da Silva. By the time he turned 18, not only did his life changed as he achieved age of majority, but, along with the birthday celebrations, Moisés also received a positive result for HIV. The news dealt him a blow and only after some time and great support from his loving mother that the young man would raise and start rebuilding himself: “Heads up, she would say constantly. I was sad and scared, because back then I had no idea that living with HIV was possible”, he says.

Four months later, after confirmatory testing and assistance in the public health services, the young boy would start the antiretroviral medication and keep moving forward. At that point, we would also take his driver’s license and apply to an internship in a project run by the city government called Young SUS, aiming to assist population in the public health care system. “That was when I realized that living with HIV was possible. Because I was there. Alive!”, he says.

From that moment on, Moisés began to sketch his next steps towards the public health care assistance. The old wish of studying medicine was getting stronger every day. In addition, from his experience as a young apprentice in Young SUS, Moisés got involved with the project Young Live Better Knowing, a joint initiative undertaken by UNICEF, the city of São Paulo and the NGO Viração, focusing on providing free tests for HIV as a preventive measure.

Every Friday and Saturday night, Moisés heads downtown to a popular LGBT site where he and his colleagues are ready to perform HIV tests and provide care and assistance to whomever seeks information about STDs and HIV.

“Young Live Better Knowing is a very important project to me, because there I can test people, inform and guide them using the same language, from a young man to another young person. That’s the thing!”, he cheers.

The exchange of expertizes with other youngsters and everything he had learned through this process enabled Moisés to better live with HIV and strengthened him: “Besides knowing it’s possible to live with HIV, now I feel I’m in control. I fell I’m in charge of my life”. According to Moisés, this kind of self-control would not be possible without the support he received from his beloved mother, family and friends.

"At a time we feel lonely; we need someone to talk to, to tell our troubles and fears. I was afraid and until the project started I was always wondering: 'How much time do I have left?'".

And “how much time do you still have?” was the first question Moisés heard from Mateus Araújo when he told about his condition. Moises had invited Mateus to join Young Live Better Knowing for believing it would be an interesting experience for his friend to get in touch with different dynamics of the LGBT community. Today, Moisés celebrates a journey they have undertaken along with each other plus the possibility to grow together.

“I’m under construction. Every day I paint a bit of that Moisés portrait. For now, all I can say is that Moisés is Moisés. I am a person beyond any label. Above all, I’m a person”.

At age 19, while he retraces the path that drove him there, Moisés makes plans. When he is not studying to take the admission test to the University, Moisés is “clearing his head” learning Italian and French or dreaming of living aboard and continuing to help people.

“This desire I have to help people is something that moves me. There are several ways to help people. I want to help people thought health care”, he says stoutly.

Moisés also dreams of financially supporting his family and improving their income. His mother is a housekeeper and his father works as a butcher.

Moisés says he finds inspiration in people’s courage and good will to face the challenges. With that in mind, the young man persists in drawing that “Moisés picture” of a person under construction.

Young Live Better Knowing - is an important HIV prevention strategy implemented within the Platform for Urban Centres (PCU), which main purpose is to guarantee the rights of boys and girls living in the most vulnerable areas within the major urban centers.

In São Paulo, Young Live Better Knowing is a joint initiative undertaken by UNICEF, the city of São Paulo and the NGO Viração. The idea is to provide adolescents and young adults with free testing for HIV as a preventive measure, having the screening performed by peers.

In the first edition, the project held 811 tests. Thirty-two people were diagnosed HIV positive and 97% of them agreed to proceed to the health care services and start the treatment. After this pilot project, the initiative became a public policy in São Paulo.