Danielle Pereira, São Paulo
For Moisés Maciel da Silva, that birthday would not be like the others. 18 years arrived bringing not only a official documentation of adulthood in Brazil, but a new configuration in the order of things. Along with the celebrations, Moisés also received an HIV positive test result.
The news struck the young man as a blow, and it took time and his mother's support for him to rise again. " Kick the ball in front of you" was a term she used alot. I was in a bad place, sad and afraid because until then, I did not know that living with HIV was possible," Moisés remembered.
Between confirmatory tests, enrolling in the health center and beginning treatment, it took four months, during which Moisés was kicking the 'ball forward'. Moisés took a driver's license the week he started antiretroviral medication and soon applied to work at the Jovem SUS, a project managed by São Paulo City Hall that aims to increase demand for and access to the health centers in the city. "It was there that I understood it was possible to live with HIV because I was living."
From then on, the young man began to carve out a path in health care. The desire to attend medical school, which had already been there before receiving an HIV diagnosis, would be consolidated into a plan for the future. And from his experience as a Young SUS, Moisés would become involved with Viva Melhor Sabendo Jovem, an initiative that offers free HIV testing coupled with specialized care focusing on the young and LGBT populations.
Every Friday and Saturday afternoon, Moisés leaves the East Zone, where he lives with his family, and heads to the Center of São Paulo. There, in Largo do Arouche, inside a mobile unit, he and his project colleagues carry out the exams on the volunteers, answer questions and provide counseling
"In Arouche, according to the statistics, there are many young gays, trans girls, trans boys, transvestites, sex workers ... It is a hot spot. Viva Melhor Sabendo Jovem is a project that provides peer-to-peer testing of young people who speak the same language without being technical. It's a very special project for me, because we can give the test, can counsel the person, pass on information by speaking the same language, from young person to young person ... And that's very good. "
For Moisés, exchanging experiences with other young people - listening to them and understanding them - enabled Moisés to live with HIV and was a source of strength.
"Today, besides knowing that it is possible to live with HIV, I feel that I am in control. I feel like I'm in charge of my life."
Such control, according to Moisés, would not be possible without the support he received from his 'friend-mother', his father and brothers, friends and partners in the projects in which he participates.
"At a stage where we feel alone and in a bad place, we need someone to talk to about the anguish and fears. I know because I was afraid. Until I started the project, I wondered: how much longer? "
"How much life do you have?" was the first question that Matthew Araujo ('Mateus') asked when Moisés disclosed his HIV status. Moisés had called his friend to participate in Viva Melhor Sabendo Jovem because he believed it would be interesting for Mateus to better understand the different dynamics of the LGBT community. And today, Moisés continues to believe that the two could grow together in this joint journey.
Now 19, while reflecting on his life course over the past year, Moisés makes plans for the future with both feet on the ground. His list of goals includes studying medicine, learning French and Italian (which he does in his spare time), living outside Brazil and continuing to help people.
"This willingness to help others is something that moves me. There are several ways to help people. I want to be able to help them improve their health," Moisés says resolutely., Moisés also dreams of helping his family financially, which now lives on the income of from his mother's job as a housekeeper and his father's work as a butcher's clerk.
Alive and strengthened, Moisés finds inspiration to direct the course of his life in "the courage and determination of people in need and who are part of this daily struggle ." And with this approach to life, the young person continues to construct and draw "this picture of Moisés": of a person still in formation.
"I'm in the process of building. Each day, this picture of Moses is built. For now, I can say that Moisés is Moisés, and Moisés is a person beyond any label. Above all, a person. "
About Young People Live Better Knowing
Viva Melhor Sabendo Jovem is a health strategy that aims to increase the access of adolescents and young people ages 15-24 to HIV testing. In addition to testing, the initiative has as a priority the retention of HIV-positive young people in the health system and enhanced access to prevention information.
This important HIV prevention tool was implemented within the Urban Centers Platform (PCU), whose objective is to guarantee the rights of children living in the most vulnerable regions of major cities.
In São Paulo, the Viva Melhor Sabendo Jovem pilot project took place between 2015 and 2016 and was carried out by the Municipal STD and AIDS Program of the Municipal Health Secretariat, with the support of UNICEF and a technical partnership of the NGO Viração. During this period, 811 HIV tests were performed. Thirty-two people were diagnosed with HIV positive and 97 per cent of them agreed to be referred to the health services and monitored for treatment. Now the project has become public policy in the city, with its activities continuing in the same place and reaching the same people in need.
Danielle Pereira, São Paulo, November 2016.