Gerardo Duran— A Fortunate Man

  • August 29, 2011
  • News

Eight years ago, 37 year-old Gerardo Duran was living the good life in Santiago, Chile. His career was going well, he was in a loving and stable romantic relationship, and he was feeling pretty secure about his future.  But those carefree days came to an abrupt end in December 2003, when he tested positive for HIV at a local health screening.
“It was a very hard time for me,” recalls Gerardo. “I went into shock when I got the news. I knew nothing about HIV, except that I was afraid and confused.”
Gerardo’s medical condition grew much worse. Hospitalized with pneumonia and a severely weakened immune system, doctors told him he needed to begin antiretroviral (ARV) therapy immediately, or risk death. However, in Chile at that time, there was a long waiting list for ARV treatment.  Gerardo simply did not have the time to wait.
Fortunately, one of his good friends in Chile knew someone at AID FOR AIDS International, and assisted Gerardo in making an application to our AIDS Treatment Access Program. Shortly thereafter, he began receiving free recycled ARV medication, HIV counseling and medication monitoring through the program.  After recovering from pneumonia and starting his ARV therapy, Gerardo responded extremely well to the medicine showing little sign of side effects.
Moreover, he had the strong support of his partner, Jorge, who is HIV-negative, and his friends and family. “George was, and still is, my main support,” Gerardo says. “He is very knowledgeable about HIV and is always by my side, accompanying me to all my medical appointments.”
Almost as important as the ARV therapy and counseling he received through AFAI, Gerardo began interacting with other people living with HIV or AIDS (PLWHA). “The meetings I went to with the AID FOR AIDS team in Chile were a great source of information, and a place to connect with others in my situation who were perfectly fine. In their faces, I saw hope, which encouraged me to go on and live my normal life.”
Gerardo’s normal life, meanwhile, expanded to incorporate a new role as volunteer with the Access To Treatment program. Using his own experience with HIV to impart information and emotional support to others was the best kind of therapy. “Newly-diagnosed people need to have access to information, to dispel all the myths and misinformation that are out there,” he explains. “It’s important that the information people get is clear and understandable. Volunteering with AID FOR AIDS gave me an enormous sense of fulfillment.”
Six years after beginning treatment through ATAP, Gerardo is back to living a good, quiet life – working, loving and giving back to his community.  In July 2011, he ceased being a beneficiary of AID FOR AIDS, as he is now getting the life-saving medication through the health system in Chile.
But moving on does not mean forgetting, and Gerardo remains eternally grateful to AFAI for giving him the means of survival and encouraging him to take control of his health care.
“Sometimes in life, you have setbacks,” concludes Gerardo. “Negative things happen to you. But if you have people you love, and who love you, and the desire to go on living, you can make it through. Right now, I consider myself a fortunate man.”