Adolph St. Arromand is the Project Coordinator for The Evolution Project.The primary goal of the Evolution Project is to address the prevailing rates of HIV infection among young black gay men. The Evolution Project was started in 2006 to address the needs of young black gay men in Metro Atlanta. Adolph lives with is partner in Atlanta. This is his story.
Darian: Tell me a little bit about your background?
Adolph: I was born and raised in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. I'm a Haitian immigrant. I've been living in the United States since I was around eleven or twelve. My family came to this country like many other immigrants seeking a better life for their kids.
Darian: Do you remember what life was like in Haiti?
Adolph: Absolutely. Life was tough. It's an underdeveloped country so it doesn't have the resources that more developed countries have, but what we do have is beautiful people who love unconditionally. We're very proud people and very stubborn people too.
Darian: At what point in your life did you sense that there was something different about you?
Adolph: I think I was always aware that I was special in some way.I didn't know what that meant but I always knew there was something special about me. I can remember being seven or eight and knowing their was this special thing in me that liked the boys. I didn't realize that "specialness" was different until I began to understand homosexuality and I realized people didn't like that specialness.(Laughs)
I'd always heard whispers in my family that they were not supportive of a gay person. In my country they call it (homosexuality) "masisi" (prononunced mah-see-see). I began to believe the thing I thought was special about me wasn't any longer because it was masisi.
Darian: What role did religion play in your coming out process?
Adolph: Coming from a Haitian background they believe in spirits and spiritual things. My grandparents are highly spiritual and they really thought their was an evil spirit that had overtaken me. At one point they would say things to me like, "Haitians aren't gay", "there's no such thing as Haitian gay person", or "it's America that makes you gay."
Adolph: Yes. That was their way of saying they didn't approve and people in my family began distancing themselves from me.
Darian: How did you deal with that?
Adolph: At a young age I didn't deal with it. I wanted to change but I knew in my mind there was no way I couldn't be this person. I felt so trapped on the inside.
Darian: Let's talk about your life with HIV. How long has it been?
Adolph: Officially I'm not sure. It has to be somewhere between fifteen to eighteen years.
Darian: If you can just take me back to the events leading up to your diagnosis. When you look back now were you participating in high-risk activities?
Adolph: Well definitely now that I'm more educated on the science of HIV I can definitely say yes. Back then I was probably some kid who thought he was kinda cute and certain things would never happen to him, and I thought I was pre-selecting people properly. It just didn't happen to people like me. I kept saying to myself, God you've already given me a handful of stuff to deal with and I know you wouldn't give that to me too.
Looking back I definitely put myself at risk. Multiple partners. I think somehow I was trying to find comfort and safety in the arms of men. But I was at risk way before I even slept with anyone. I was at risk because I was in a lot of pain. I think sleeping with people is how I processed that pain.
Darian: Do you know who infected you?
Adolph: No and today it's not important. Perhaps years ago it would have been important to me, today it's not important anymore. I'm taking responsibility for myself, whoever it is I wish them the best.
Darian: What has dating and sex been like for you as an HIV Positive person?
Adolph: I've been very fortunate to have been in love three great times in my life and I don't have any regrets. And all of my long term partners have been negative.
Darian: Was their any initial fear on both sides?
Adolph: There's always fear anytime a positive person has to disclose their status. Dating a person with HIV is not for everyone, and nobody likes dealing with rejection. For those of us who are HIV Positive and a person is telling you they can't date you because of your status, they need to know that there's plenty of beautiful men out there both positive and negative who will love you just as you are.
Darian: Do you think about death?
Adolph: I don't think about death anymore, I'm too busy living to think about dying. Everybody dies. This is a very different me. A long time ago I feared death and I used to think about how I would look lying in a hospital bed all emaciated and that just took to much energy. I asked God when I was diagnosed to just give me five years and I'd be happy, and he's given me five x three years. No I don't fear death at all. I'm happy.
Living Positive: Antron Reshaud