Every year, HIV Community Link holds The Calgary AIDS Walk & Run, an event dedicated to getting the Calgary community together to show support for those living with HIV. The AIDS Walk is a 3 month-long fundraiser that raises money for HIV Community Link’s programs across Calgary and Southern Alberta. It culminates in a fun Walk & Run every year in September.
Jules will turn 60 next year. He was born in Lima, Peru, part European, South American and Asian. He was born in a poor neighborhood and his parents had to work two jobs.
“I started living as my true self. Sometimes, I feel like dressing up as a woman, sometimes as a man.”
He started being bullied when he was 12 years old. “It was a critical time for me. I had to hide my true self. I wasn’t ashamed of who I was, but I was living in a homophobic environment. I was being told that I was not normal, that I needed to see a psychiatrist,” remembers Jules. To avoid the stigma and the bullying, he found safety in a monastery.
By the time he turned 21 and left the monastery, Jules had learned Portuguese and French, languages that would help him get a job later. “Some of my siblings were in Canada and one of my sisters asked me to join her up here. I started living as my true self. Sometimes, I feel like dressing up as a woman, sometimes as a man.”
“I went to the hospital where I discovered I was HIV positive. I had to cope with AIDS and with being transgender.”
Jules met his partner in Alberta 35 years ago. For all these years, his partner has always been there to support him. “After living in Edmonton as a translator, I moved to Calgary and started working as a barista and then became a store manager. I worked until I turned 50. I had not realized I was living with HIV for probably 15 years. I started losing weight, from 180 pounds to 105 pounds. I went to the hospital where I discovered I was HIV positive. I had to cope with AIDS and being transgender.” Jules says. It was like the time was ending, he remembers, and he thought he was going to die. Although Jules got on treatment and his health was improving, he was burden with guilt and sadness that made him not want to live.
It took time and a loving partner, now his husband, for Jules to get back on his feet. Now, he goes to the gym six times a week and talks about the importance of self-care. “I love gardening, I love the people around me. I am one of the lucky ones.”
“I want to help and share what I’ve learned from my own experience with this disease. To get a job as an HIV-positive person is hard. To be single it’s even harder”
A few years after the diagnosis, Jules started a peer group for people living with HIV and then working with HIV Community Link to support those newly diagnosed. He played a key role in the development and success of our growing Peer Support Program in Calgary. “I always tell people around me that everyone has the same rights. I want to help and share what I’ve learned from my own experience with this disease. To get a job as an HIV-positive person is hard. To be single it’s even harder,” Jules adds.
“I want to thank those fundraising for people living with HIV.”
Jules comes to all Calgary AIDS Walks and he will be present for its 25th anniversary. “I want to thank those fundraising for people living with HIV. I want to thank them for being there and for showing support. It is so important to see that someone else cares,” he concludes.
Support people living with HIV by registering, fundraising and donationg to the Calgary AIDS Walk & Run today: www.calgaryaidswalk.ca