For years he had numbed his pain and fear with drugs, alcohol and anonymous sex. But in a flash of clarity one day, when the crystal meth was wearing off, Javier Arriola dragged himself to a clinic to get an H.I.V. test, years after he stopped using condoms.
He knew the answer before he received the results, but it was far worse than he thought: At age 29, he had full-blown AIDS.
He had planned to have a party for his 30th birthday. Instead he was thinking of hanging himself in his apartment in Hell’s Kitchen.
Javier Arriola considered suicide when he learned he had AIDS. Instead, he stopped using drugs and found new reasons to live.
For Mr. Arriola, who struggled with being molested as a child, the H.I.V. diagnosis put him at rock bottom, he said.
He continued to use drugs for several more months, but then, as his suicide plan was becoming an obsession, he called a friend who was a recovering addict. He got clean and sober, joined a 12-step group, started going to therapy and has slowly pieced his life back together.
“For me today, I’ve done a lot of work to accept myself. I don’t drink and drug, I meditate, there’s a lot of visualization of the person I want to be,” he said. “A lot of it is acceptance. I’m 32, I’m Latin, I’m gay and I have H.I.V. And I don’t feel bad about it. It’s very, very important for me to not feel shame about this.”