Joseph Gray - Addict turned Activist

January 21, 2017

This Sunday January 22nd at 2pm EST Robert and Aaron will be speaking with Joseph Gray live on POZ  I AM Radio. Listen to the interview here


Joseph Gray is a 24 year old who lives in California. Joseph is a recovering addict turned activist who has been so open and honest in his activism  that we just had to ask him to come onto the show and share his story.


Here is a little about Joseph in his own words.


Good Morning everyone, I truly believe that unless I share from my heart I cannot reach the heart of another. Honest sharing allows others to identify and not feel alone in their struggles. After all, someone did that for me when I was in my darkness moments.


I lived in the system as a child from the age of 2 and a half till I was about 13; my grandmother adopted me however I still needed to go to group home as a day student for my early education till I was about 15. Over those years of my life living in the system. I move to various homes and facilities. I learned a lot of misinformation from misinformed people. I grew up learning to survive, lie, cheat, and manipulate others. I was more feminine than other boys my age, so I was treated differently. I got bullied a lot and not just by kids. I begun to believe this misinformation. I would become very depressed, very much angry at the world from a young age. This is not to say I didn't have good memories. I cherish those memories I do remember that are loving, caring and kind in nature.


This portion of my story would lay the foundation for my negative views about myself, my body image, negative attention seeking behaviors, and changing the way I felt on the inside with outside sources. I was not self aware of my core issues yet. I started using at about 16 or 17, although I didn’t find my drug of choice till later on. I turned 18 it was on and cracking, I started escorting, and signed my first and only adult contract. These choices came easy to me.


I will never forget the day I was diagnosed with an HIV positive status. I went to ER very sick weeks prior, they didn't know what was wrong. So I waited and got tested again. They called me into the community health clinic, where the dr said we are going to start you on meds but no one had yet told me the news. I was was indeed positive; It hit me like a truck. I remember breaking down, in her office that day. Not because I wasn't shock given my history. At the time my knowledge of HIV and AIDS was little to non. I felt like my life was over. Fearing how I would overcome the stigma? How would this affect my career? How would this affect my life? These are some of the questions that ran through my mind.


I said f*#k it and My using would progressively get worse and I hit many bottoms. I did the geographical changes but nothing changed. I took myself with me where ever I moved. At the end of the road I knew if I continued only death would await me. I moved back home to Sacramento where I pick up substances once more. I was homeless, hopeless, and desperate. I realized I was trying to commit suicide on a installment plan. I didn't want to live and I saw no way out.  Between Staying with friends trying to make things work or sleeping in my car.  I got in touch with a Counselor I took her suggestions and I put myself into a 90day Emergency homeless shelter for persons living with HIV or AIDS diagnoses. I finally put myself into therapy, substance counseling, and became apart of a youth living with HIV/AIDS program there at CARES Community Health. I found my path to recovery.  My clean date is 04-10-15. I have not found it necessary to put any mind altering substances in my body since that day.


Thanks to the internal work I have done and continue to do. Today I get walk my truth unapologetically ! Since getting clean, I have gotten the opportunity to share my story on different platforms.  Such as Washington DC at AIDSWatch 2016 early this year. Advocating for important HIV and AIDS funding in our capital with government officials and their staff. This funding helped me gain the tools necessary to save my life.  I just recently got back from Miami, FL not to long ago, from the United States conference on AIDS.  Where I participated in the 2016 NMAC youth scholar program and got to share my experience, strength and new found hope with my follow scholars and persons working in the HIV field. There is much work still to be done. when asked to speak I try not to say no.


At one point in time I believed an end is absolute, meaning death. Today I know that an end is often a beginning, and a beginning can be the means to an end. HIV and my recovery have taught me this, my life didn't end that day with a diagnosis, is was just beginning a new chapter. Once I put down the substances, I picked up life. I am grateful that I get to live a life that is worth living.


My name is Joey, I am 24 years old, and HIV lives with me.


Listen to Joseph's interview LIVE or after the fact here.

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