An interview by Robert Galinsky
I had the joy of speaking with Antonio Troia, who is one of the 38 million people across the world living with HIV, and his mother Carol, and their bravery and honesty in the face of this disease is astounding. Below are excerpts from our interview. Full length interview can be found on westviewnews.org.
Antonio: My parents are Roman Catholic, I do identify as Catholic, so growing up in that household it was always different for me because I knew I was different than the normal person and I was never introduced to gay culture.
Galinsky: What was that feeling like, that made you feel like you were different, prior to having the knowledge that there’s a gay world?
Antonio: I just didn’t fit in, in anything that I did. I was an athlete and I played basketball, football and soccer and I enjoyed it all, but even though I did enjoy playing sports, and I love sports even now, it just wasn’t me or my community. So when I went to college, I went a little crazy and started adventuring and figuring myself out. I lived at school, I joined a fraternity, I started drinking, I started partying and having a good time, and I did find a brotherhood with those guys, but I was still hiding that piece of my life. I’m going to be 28 next month, I’m a restaurant general manager and my career is going great, living and working in Virginia. Moving to Virginia opened the door for me to be open as we are right outside of DC, which has a huge gay culture. I found my nook there.
Galinsky: How did you discover you have HIV?
Antonio: I went for my routine checkup for, my blood work, because as a gay man you really should always go every three months if you’re a sexually active. So, I was religious about that. I was 23 when I found out.
Galinsky: So you’ve been living with HIV for about five years now and parents aside, what was the first thing that went through your mind when you got that surprising diagnosis?
Antonio: I really didn’t have much exposure to HIV other than your pop culture references like RENT and in movies and immediately I felt the stigma of “you aren’t going to survive.” I was scared. At first, I thought I was going to call my parents and tell them, “your son is going to die.” I was 23, so I was still under my mom’s insurance and I knew they would start seeing that I’m going for blood work a lot more than I normally do. I knew it would be a double whammy because I was not out to her yet as a gay man and now, I’m an HIV positive gay man. And she is who inspires me, my mom. She was in grad school when I was in high school, getting her master’s degree and I’m thinking, how the heck can you do this? Have two kids make dinner every night, but she did it. The first thing she said when I told her is, did you get it because you’re gay? I knew it wasn’t a negative thing. I knew it was just a question.
Carol: After Antonio shared with me his test results and came out to me, I asked myself, what did I do wrong? What did I do wrong that this happened to my kid? Because in high school, Antonio actually went and spoke to other high schoolers and taught them about sex, education and prevention. So, I never had that worry. I thought he would practice what he was teaching. So, it was very hard to hear that, because I just felt my son’s life is now limited.
For more of this interview please go to the website!