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Amazing HIV+ Gay Men: Matthew Zavala

Amazing HIV+ Gay Men: Matthew Zavala

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Matthew Zavala works at Los Angeles's Children’s Hospital’s HIV Risk Reduction Program helping (in particular, but not exclusively) young gay and bisexual men and transgender youth of color, who are disproportionately impacted by HIV and AIDS.

Like a lot of other 25-year-old gay Latino guys, Matthew Zavala loves video games and, since he doesn’t have a car, he walks everywhere — even in Los Angeles, where he works at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles in their HIV Risk Reduction Program helping (in particular, but not exclusively) young gay and bisexual men and transgender youth of color, who are disproportionately impacted by HIV and AIDS.

He’s become a role model of sorts among the kids in a sexual health group he facilitates with a coworker, but he wears the badge humbly. “They see the role I have been given and the responsibility that was laid down by the job, which makes me feel like a role model,” he explains. “However, I don’t see myself as one…I just enjoy my job and I care for the guys I come across. I want to see them grow, and at times they are the role model not just for me but for the other guys that come into the group as well.”

Still, Zavala has become a leader as an out gay HIV-positive guy on the hospital campus, though as a true literalist he redefines what that means: “We say ‘out’ as to mean out of the closet. What closet? I was never in a closet. So here is my attempt to define what is out. Out is like stepping away from the normal. You know, out of the ordinary, not so normal. It’s being outside the box, different. Or outside the circle, not enclosed. It’s about opening that which is closed and letting out the truth, the facts, and what is observable. I am gay, that is the truth; I like men and that is a fact — sometimes not so noticeable, depending on which community is looking at me — but my gay identity is observable through my behavior.”

Though he’s trying hard to push for change in how HIV is viewed among LGBT people, he worries that it’s still not enough. While some are becoming “less judgmental and stigmatizing,” he sees posts on gay apps like Grindr and Scruff full of fear and ignorance. “I have been questioned as to why I am seeking a partner or why I am having sex,” he says. “That is due to personal moralistic views of the world. It is sad that despite the fact that we are surrounded with diseases and infections of all sorts, in the minds of many people, HIV is the worst thing someone can get.”

Read our full list of the 20 Amazing HIV-Positive Gay Men here.

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