Photo Credit: Dwayne Carl Enterprises
Dwayne Carl’s book ” Out of My Second Closet: I Have AIDS-GET OVA It, ” is a compelling, firsthand account of his journey from diagnosis, through fighting stigma and misunderstanding associated with having AIDS. Carl, a former corporate executive, encourages other HIV/AIDS survivors to come out of the closet and help raise much need funds. His inspirational story offers hope, understanding and something that everyone can learn from.
PRIDEINDEX (PI): In ”Out of My Second Closet: I Have AIDS—Get OVA It!” you are very candid regarding your status, why?
DWAYNE CARL (DC): Carl: Disclosing my status is a hard-line stance that keeps me grounded and protected. It has also had the effect of keeping me single. It might be a temptation to wait until the fourth or fifth date to disclose one’s status, but for me that would be selfish and deceptive and I refuse to create a false sense of security for a guy who may be fearful of this disease. I refuse to be a victim and instead choose to take a positive approach to the way things are and focus on the things I enjoy doing. I now have a tattoo on my arm that tells people my status. I am in solidarity of others all OVA the world participating in this incredible movement.
PI: When did you first learn that you were positive?
DC: When I received my diagnosis it wasn’t a HIV positive diagnosis, it was AIDS. Most people even today do not realize the distinct difference between receiving and HIV positive diagnosis or an AIDS diagnosis. I had a t-cell count of 8 and a viral load of over two hundred thousand and seven opportunistic infections ravaging my body. I was suffering from pneumocystis pneumonia (PCP), Kaposi Sarcoma (KS), mycobacterial avium (MAC), gastrointestinal infection, thrush, neuropathy, and wasting all at the same time. I hadn’t been tested for HIV/AIDS in fourteen years. Terrified of stigma and not wanting to know, I was walking around in denial and fear. Fear almost killed me.
PI: If you could reach back in time and have a conversation with yourself at that very moment when you found out you had AIDS what would you say?
DC: “Why didn’t you get tested for HIV/AIDS sooner? You could have saved yourself from experiencing this hell!”
PI: What advice would you offer to youth and others going through similar circumstances?
DC: This is what I would say to all HIV/AIDS thrivers. It is a Love Letter to “us”, I was inspired to write one early morning in 2011,
Dear HIV/AIDS Survivor,
Well, look at us. A fraternity that no one wants to join. If only I could, my desire would be to embrace you personally, let you exhale and in that moment remove this horrendous diagnosis from your body and set you free. I commend you on your courage and your fight to cope during the trials and tribulations which this disease has wrought upon your life. I understand your internal conflict and the anxieties of dealing with the side effects of medications and not feeling well in general. I understand the dread of constant testing which is now your lifestyle. I understand your turmoil over disclosure to your family and friends and possible lovers. I know about those tears you shed out loud and in silence because I have shed them as well. I understand your fear of dying. I know that while outwardly you may show signs of life, inwardly you feel dead; perhaps not because you can’t handle the physical fact of your diagnosis, but because you fear a social death if you are found out. Stigma and prejudice are chronic societal diseases that affect you in a highly personal way. We live in a society that is often cruel. We are judged on the heels of society’s lack of knowledge and understanding about our diagnosis.
However, don’t be a victim. Stand strong. Take back the power that is rightfully yours. Realize your self-worth. Allow that brilliance inside of you to shine, because you are valuable and special. You have something to offer the world that no one else can. Your voice is important. No one has the right to rob you of your self-confidence. As you work through the process of owning your individual status and arriving at your decision to be “out” or not, you can still help others gain knowledge about this pandemic. Believe me, I respect your privacy to the fullest degree. God knows I do. Every individual arrives at different stages and comfort levels at different times and in different ways. It is your walk and you know what you are able to handle.
Future generations need us. They need to hear our voice. They need advocates who are experienced at working diligently to promote education and enlightenment which, in turn, save lives. When you’re ready, join me. We have a fight on our hands. Your voice can help end stigma. Join the millions of unsung heroes all “OVA” the world who are in solidarity and are fighting back. You and I have kinship. We are thriving, and even though my self-esteem is sometimes in the dumps, I pick myself up and press on.
It is my love and compassion for humanity which drives me each and every day. This book and this letter are born from that love. People who are close to me see as a gift my passion to help others succeed—the gift of encouragement, support, teaching and inspiration to be the best they can be.
Seize the day!
PI: There’s widespread finger pointing regarding the disproportionately high infection rates of HIV/AIDS cases among African American women versus that of their white counterparts; some blame black men and the “down low phenomena.” As a black gay male what’s your position on this?
DC: As a gay black man whose experience has been in black churches, I have something to say to leaders in black churches: Stop speaking messages of hatred against homosexuals in your congregations. All black men—not just straight black men—need your support, not your judgment. Stop driving us away. In fact, I blame The Church for contributing to the spread of HIV/AIDS in women in a very direct way, through its pervasive condemnation. In order to continue to maintain their lay ministry and leadership roles and worship in the church, gay men will marry and then have relations with men outside of the marriage. These secret encounters are not always acted upon by practicing safe sex. If he is unknowingly infected with HIV, he brings the disease home to his wife. The Church’s intolerance unwittingly fosters this shocking repercussion within its own church body. These men are conflicted because they have been told all of their lives that being gay is an abomination and that God hates gays. In some way, these men actually believe it’s true which causes them to deny themselves and act out privately, bringing HIV/AIDS to the front pew in The Church. They are trapped into hiding their sexuality out of fear of public humiliation for themselves and their family.
I do not believe homosexuality is a sin,
So get OVA it!
PI: How long did it take you to come to terms with your condition? And describe the moment when you decided that you were going to turn tragedy into triumph?
DC: I remember being alone one night listening to an old CeCe Winans cd called, “ Alone in His Presence.” Her music was comforting and ministered to me daily. After realizing that I wasn’t going to die, I decided that I needed to “OWN” my diagnosis and get back into the driver’s seat of my life. After just a few short months, I created a turn-around-plan for my life. My faith in God was the under current for my positive attitude, strength and survival of this horrendous diagnosis.
PI: Do you believe that we will ever live in a world where positive people will no longer be ostracized?
DC: My book, is a clear focus on this very issue, the eradication of stigma of people infected with HIV/AIDS. We do that now by all of us fighting back, raising our voices, with a resounding force to stand up and say “No More!” We have to be brave and stand out on a limb, tell our stories and educate the masses breaking down the barriers of this unacceptable ignorance.
I have introduced a global ASK campaign in my book as well as a Church HIV/AIDS Ministry Proposal that would help with reducing the spread of HIV/AIDS and help in eradicating stigma. Yes, I believe we can see stigma become extinct!
PI: You wrote this book as the “second time” you came out; tell us about the first time.
DC: My coming out of my first closet is when I disclosed to my mom I was gay. That was a very tender moment in my life and it makes my cry when I have to relive it. Hearing that I was gay for her was very hard, but we got through it and I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that she loved me. I am the man I am today because of her unconditional love. God rest her soul. My book is in loving memory of my mother.
PI: What did friends and family say about this book?
DC: The friends who loved me through all of my ups and downs over the past ten years love the fact that I am sharing my story to the world. They have been encouraging, supportive and my rock in all of my endeavors. They know this book will save lives.
PI: Why did you become a motivational speaker?
DC: As a young boy at the age of twelve I was on the streets preaching to gospel to strangers and trying to save souls, leading folks to Christ. I guess I knew then in some strange way that I would be involved in helping people learn how to have a better life. As a corporate executive for eighteen years, my specific duties and responsibilities was to ignite teams all over the country to be the best that they can be in their jobs which in turn increased their personal income and increased profits for the company. I am a born passionate motivational, inspiring educator. I love the journey that I am now on, these visions were in my head for years and now they are coming to fruition. I was just born this way!
PI: What has this experience taught you about yourself?
DC: This experience taught me that sometimes you have to just go over in your corner and sit down and be quiet, by doing so you can hear the whisper of God. In the midst of a horrible storm, be still, you will get your answers. You can overcome and be triumphant; you just have to be patient with yourself. Let go and operate in a higher level of consciousness that all will be ok. I practice this thought on a daily basis now.
PI: I heard you were planning on participating in AIDS Lifecycle Ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles to end AIDS. Tell us about your physical and mental training. What could the general public do to support you?
DC: Yes, From June 3-9, 2012, I’m bicycling in AIDS/Lifecycle. It’s a 7-day, 545-mile bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles to make make a world of difference in the lives of people living with HIV and AIDS. The organizations benefitting from this annual ride is the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center and San Francisco AIDS Foundation.
By being an AIDS survivor, I know first hand the struggle, those infected by HIV/AIDS go through on a daily basis to try and have quality of life.
The training for this ride has been a challenge especially since I suffer from neuropathy in my feet and now progressing to my hands, side effects from AIDS and medication, but I have not let those issues stop me! I have got to do this ride and I am looking forward to it.
Anyone interested in donating to help others receive food, housing and medication, please click on the following link to donate:
I am only $950.00 away from making my minimum goal to ride. So please send your love! I appreciate it.
“Out of My Second Closet: I Have AIDS – Get OVA IT,” is available on Amazon.com, coming soon to kindle, ITunes and Nook.
To receive an autographed copy of my book visit my website at DwayneCarlEnterprises.com
It’s been ten years since my AIDS diagnosis and I am now the picture of health. I marvel that my immune system was once depleted to a mere eight T-cells at one point and yet rebounded to my current count of 618, well within the normal range and with an undetectable viral load. I have been given a second chance at life. Sometimes my thoughts are invaded by fear of that dreaded scenario where my meds fail me and I am back where I began in 2002. God knows I don’t want to go down that road again, but I know now that I would be able to face it if that day came. Yet focusing on the positive is my daily goal. My journey has taught me a great deal, not the least of which is the importance of being a voice of awareness in a world that would rather not listen; the importance of a voice that cries out for the eradication of stigma. As long as I am able, I will continue to do my part to raise awareness of the critical issues concerning HIV/AIDS and to help others raise their voices as well. I believe in humanity’s ability to love and accept, rather than hate and reject. I am looking for nothing short of a global love when it comes to this and all issues that separate us. I am confident a change is coming, that we will finally eradicate stigma and prejudice. Let it begin with you.
“Be the change you wish to see in this world.” Mahatma Ghandi