“你好. I originate from Hong Kong and I am a first-generation settler immigrant to Turtle Island/Canada. I have lived with HIV since 2003 at the age of 25.”
“Growing up in Hong Kong and the US, I did not know what homophobia was, and I was bullied at a young age for being different. When my family relocated to Canada when I was 20, I was forced to take a break in my post-secondary education. That was when I started exploring life as a gay man and as a newcomer. I was often rejected by other gay men and internalized the sexual racism I faced on a daily basis. Although I was educated about safer sex, my wish to connect with other men prevented me from negotiating or practicing safer sex. The summer before I was diagnosed with HIV, I was introduced to crystal meth and what is known as party-and-play (PNP) or chemsex.
After testing HIV+ in January 2003, I fell in a deep depression which kept me house-bound for half a year. I also began to use substances to cope with my HIV status. I felt ashamed about my status and did not access services regularly. My substance use intensified to injection drug use in subsequent years. As I completed a substance treatment program at CAMH’s Rainbow Services in 2010, I also learned I tested positive for Hepatitis C.
“I remembered I thought my life had ended when I was first diagnosed, and there was no hope or future for me. Today, I look at testing HIV+ and living with HIV as experiences that have enabled me to become who I am.”
During my year of interferon treatment for Hepatitis C, I returned to school as I wished to use my lived experiences as a person living with HIV/HCV and substance use to assist others. I started volunteering at ACAS and engaged in leadership and capacity initiatives with the Committee for Accessible AIDS Treatment and the Ontario AIDS Network. In 2010, I started working at ACAS, a place I consider my second home. During this time, I also completed a social services worker diploma from George Brown College, and a Bachelor's and Master's degree in social work from Ryerson University.”
“As a queer Asian man who was bullied and a target of racism and xenophobia, I found ACAS as a place where I am accepted for being who I am: a first-generation Asian immigrant living with HIV, a person who used/injected drugs, and a mental health consumer.”