Activist Alain Pinzon has become a symbol of the fight to ensure access to medication and freedom from discrimination of people living with HIV/AIDS in Mexico, where that autoimmune disease claimed 4,573 lives last year.
"I've had and continue to have problems with my diagnosis. That's why I created the support group (VIHve Libre). I created the support group because of my problems and because someone told me one day, 'surely you're not the only one having these difficulties,'" Pinzon told Efe in an interview on World AIDS Day.
The activist recalled receiving the devastating news in 2010 that he had tested positive for HIV.
Fearful of being stigmatized and socially rejected, he fell into a deep depression, stopped taking his antiretroviral drugs and found himself on the brink of death.
"I remained completely silent until 2015, which is when I developed some AIDS-defining illnesses and my family found out. They found out when I became hospitalized, and that led to a change for me and for them," Pinzon said.
After falling into a coma and recovering, he decided to resume his medication regimen and embark on a process of self-forgiveness and self-acceptance.
Having worked as an LGBTQ+ activist in the past, he decided to take up that banner again but also broaden those efforts to include issues relevant to the HIV/AIDS community.
Stephanie Correa, a clinical psychologist and sex-ed instructor at the organization DKT Mexico, said stigma and discrimination surrounding the disease remain persistent.
"There's a moral dimension that accompanies (HIV) since it's a sexually transmitted infection," she added.
That is reflected in the fact that three of every 10 people with HIV/AIDS have abstained from using health services during the Covid-19 pandemic due to fear of discrimination, according to figures from Mexico's Health Secretariat.