When Moises Gonzalez was in his last year in high school in 2005, his knowledge on HIV was only minimal. It was thanks to his decision to do social work and reach out to AID FOR AIDS iVenezuela that he had the opportunity to experience something that would change his life.
“My first thought when I contacted AID FOR AIDS was that I was going to have to deal with patients who were about to die, and I would have to work in a mask,” recalls Moises, with a slightly sheepish grin. “I knew almost nothing about HIV, but pretty soon I came to realize that the reality of the disease is very different than the myth. I saw that people living with HIV, if they lead a healthy lifestyle and adhere to their medications, can lead lives like everybody else. That really opened my eyes.”
From his days as a student trainee in the “Cuanto Sabes de VIH y Sida?” (How Much Do You Know About HIV/AIDS?) program, the 23 year-old Venezuelan also learned about the power of information to save the lives of young people throughout Latin America. After graduating the high school program with a solid HIV education, Moises moved easily into the role of “multiplier agent” taking his new knowledge and communicating it to his friends, classmates, family and community.
He proved to be so effective, first as a Cuanto Sabes? multiplier agent and then, as “facilitator” of the program, that he was promoted again to Assistant of the Director of the program. Nowadays, he travels across Latin America, the Caribbean and the U.S., working with educators and helping to strengthen the program and expand its scope. Thanks to young leaders like Moises, AFAI’s “Cuanto Sabes?” program has reached over a million adolescents in eight LatinAmerican and Caribbean nations, and has had a major role in reducing the spread of HIV in the region.
“It has also changed my personal life,” says Moises. “The fact that this program prevents HIV transmission and saves lives is something that gives me a tremendous feeling every day. And it has improved my skills in other areas. I can communicate all my ideas more clearly, make better life decisions and I’m more aware now of the human side of things…basically, I’ve learned how important life is and the tragedy of wasting it on things that aren’t productive.”
Asked about their most unforgettable experiences with AFAI, told us of a trip to the U.S. he made in 2009 attending a conference on HIV/AIDS in the United Nations. “I had the opportunity to speak in front of 300 people from different countries about AFAI my work.” Also we talked about HIV conferences who performed on the streets of Venezuela, “we closed a street and in that place and I improvise a conference was impressive the way people responded, I realized that people want to learn, To learn more about HIV”.But perhaps his best recollection, says Moises, was standing in front of 3,000 teenagers at a youth conference in the Dominican Republic to send the message on HIV prevention and healthy living.
“Every replication is important, every time to pass on life-saving information, you’ve done something valuable,” he says. “But when you have the chance to do it in front of thousands of your peers, that’s a very special thing.”
Moises, who had initially considered pursuing a career in medicine, is currently studying Modern Languages (English and German) at the Central University of Venezuela, with a focus on translation and interpretation. Despite his academic load, Moises remains committed to its work with AFAI and promises to give all of himself to continue this important work in education to more young people about the realities of HIV and the importance of prevention.
“Moises joined our team as part of AID FOR AIDS’ HIV Prevention Program ”Cuánto sabes de VIH y Sida?.” This educational program Is a reality thanks to the valuable support of the Elton John AIDS Foundation and many local entities in the countries where it operates.”