San Francisco’s Jesús Guillén, 58, is a talented musician and vocalist, a brilliant photographer (see his beautiful self portraits above and below), a spiritual healer, and a long-term survivor. Born in San Luis Potosi, in central Mexico, Guillén says, “I’m literally a jungle boy.” He grew up in a stone house in the small rural town of about 200 people and no cars.
Guillén knew he was gay as a child but felt unable to come out until he came to America in the mid-1980s. Hoping to obtain citizenship through President Ronald Reagan’s amnesty program, Guillén learned a blood test was required and being HIV-positive would get him deported. He had only just learned of his diagnosis and had told no one — until he asked a friend to take the blood test for him. He says he feels no guilt over having done so because he felt that his life depended upon it.
“Going back to my country being positive, I would die. Why would I come out [poz] when they would tell me to leave?”
After living with HIV for over 30 years, he is disabled from neuropathy (a form of nerve damage), a side effect from a HIV drug regimen. Guillén also went through a brutal battle with lymphoma and suffers from PTSD. Mental health issues are why Guillén founded his Facebook group, HIV Long-Term Survivors, a couple years ago (it’s now over 4,500 members strong).
“I like to think that we are helping with the main problems [for long term survivors] of isolation and loneliness,” he says. Guillén appeared in Last Men Standing, the 2016 award-winning documentary film about long-term survivors. He works as a consultant on aging and HIV through numerous HIV/AIDS organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area — and continues to pursue his creative passions.
Click here to check out Guillén's HIV LONG TERM SURVIVORS group on Facebook.