Beto Soberanis was very good at keeping secrets. Hiding parts of himself was something Soberanis thought he had to do. “It took 13 years to say that I’m HIV-positive,” Soberanis tells Plus. “I was afraid that I was going to be rejected, seen as a classic statistic, and that my family would be disappointed.”
Soberanis explains that fear not only held him back from opening up about his condition, but about other major parts of his identity—including his status as a person living in the U.S. without documentation. Through his work as a case manager for HIV-positive youth, the 33-year-old athlete and advocate from Chicago finally found the strength to overcome his own fears.
“Utilizing my power to speak up was not only helping our clients, but was also helping me come out of the shadows,” he says now. “Almost no one knew I was living in this county without a legal status.”
When he began working at the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, Soberanis wrote an article publicly sharing his migration story for the first time. “I’m really proud I spoke up and let folks know they weren’t alone. However, what I am really most proud of is to be able to speak up about all of my identities: HIV-positive, immigrant, DREAMer, Latino, and gay.”
Another life-changing realization happened in 2015, when Soberanis signed up for his first marathon with Team to End AIDS. “Since that experience, I learned so much about myself and what I’m capable of.” Soberanis says he “fell in love with endurance sports” and is currently training for his first Ironman competition in July of 2018.
Now project manager for AFC’s Salud y Orgullo Mexicano program, which links newly immigrated Mexican-American men living with HIV to medical care, this activist-turned-athlete says he hopes sharing his story will inspire others to be out and proud about who they are.
“I’m not a minority, because there is nothing minor about me,” quips Soberanis. “I am proud of who I am.”