In 1985, Derek Canas underwent heart surgery to correct a congenital anomaly — he was three months old.
The surgery was a success, but 16 years later Derek was diagnosed with AIDS — he had acquired HIV as a result of a blood transfusion during the heart surgery.
Derek is now a DJ and a campaigner for HIV awareness. Derek shared his story with Mainly Male.
When you were first diagnosed, how much did you and your family know about HIV?
The only thing I knew at that time was a few memories of a Nick News episode years before. I was diagnosed in 2001. My first thought was — “I’m dead.”
Thankfully, I had a great doctor who told me that I would that I would be going to his funeral, that he wasn’t going to mine. I had an AIDS diagnosis and wasting syndrome — I was weeks away from death.
What sort of counselling and support was available to you when you first diagnosed?
Just at doctors’ appointments. I live in a small town, there were no support groups close by. Family and close friends became my support system.
Have you encountered any stigma or discrimination as a result of your status?
Yes — especially in the early days after diagnosis. It’s just part of living in a small town. The understanding of the virus is still stuck in the mindset of the early-90s. Sadly, that’s nationwide — public knowledge is really lacking in terms of HIV.
You speak publicly about HIV and educate people about the virus — do you ever feel like taking some time out? Do you ever feel like you don’t want to have to explain your status to people that you meet?
I don’t take time out for myself. My cardiologist hates that — I’m on my fifth pace-maker. I always welcome the opportunity to explain my HIV status. I wear it like a badge of honour. The virus nearly killed me, and I’ve fought back — I’m the one that’s kicking its ass now.
What advice or guidance would you give to someone who has been recently diagnosed with HIV?
The days after are rough — don’t be ashamed of the breakdown. You’ll feel better as your health gets better. It just takes time and patience.
Do you have any hints or tips for people on how to respond to HIV stigma or discrimination?
I use music to get me through. I’m a DJ, so I know how powerful music is on our minds and bodies. I always encourage people to find their music or movies — something that helps them laugh or get hyped-up.
Keep a calendar — put things on it, no matter how small — always look forward. Tomorrow can and will be better.
Everyone gets knocked down in life. It’s about how you stand back up.
Sharing the stories of our community
It’s not easy to talk about HIV, but talking about your experience can help to build your confidence and understanding of what HIV means for you. Your story can also help others who are processing their own experiences with HIV.
If you’d like to share your story with the readers of Mainly Male, please email [email protected]
We want to hear your opinion
Butt sex for beginners
I caught up with Chris Davis from TAKE TWO to discuss how a dietary supplement can play an important role in anal sex.
What led you to create the TAKE TWO dietary supplement?
We saw an opportunity to deliver the absolute highest quality of dietary fibre blends to a demanding market, while offering a premium alternative with high-end, discreet packaging that really sets us apart from other brands.
My understanding is that there are similar types of fibre supplement products on the market, but I haven’t seen anyone else market them specifically to men as an aid to anal sex. Why did you decide to focus on that market?
Pure for Men is the clear market leader and actually does speak to clean anal sex, however, we’ve found what is considered to be a more effective formula that delivers even better results.
We decided to make a splash in the market after early customer reviews raved about just how much of a difference TAKE TWO made to their digestive health and confidence in the bedroom. We also found that a lot of customers prefer discreet packaging and bottle labels, which matches the high-end look and feel of TAKE TWO.
Is TAKE TWO an alternative to douching or just an additional option to help guys be clean and confident?
We like the idea of have additional tools in the shed for every occasion! TAKE TWO is not meant to completely eliminate the need for general maintenance and hygiene, but we have found that many of our customers spend 70 percent less time ‘getting ready’ while some users have forgone traditional preparation steps, altogether. We’re such strong believers in the above claims that we stand by these promised results with a money-back guarantee.
The edition that you’ve created in partnership with the Tom of Finland Foundation looks great — why was the imagery of Tom of Finland a good fit for TAKE TWO?
It’s no secret that here in the office, we love the rich, leather-bound imagery rooted in Tom of Finland’s unique catalogue of art. It was an obvious match to the leather-like look and feel of our standard TAKE TWO bottle design, and not at all hard to imagine how amazing the Tom of Finland art would look if properly featured on the TAKE TWO product.
We worked closely with the Tom of Finland Foundation to identify some of the most iconic pieces, and coupled them with the jaw-dropping metallic backing on each panel to give that one-of-a-kind finish. After the first bottle was completed, we knew it was a winning bet.
Customers have fallen in love with the result, and we’re already getting daily requests for new favourite pieces of Tom of Finland artwork to be featured next.
How do you market your product?
We rely heavily on word-of-mouth, but have run a few very successful campaigns on social networks and dating apps like Scruff and Hornet. We’ve also partnered with doctors serving the LGBTQ community around the US who see the immense value in supporting fibre-rich diets via TAKE TWO’s premium blend of soluble and insoluble fibres. You’ll likely see TAKE TWO popping up in various radio, television and social media campaigns featuring respected online personalities that have made the switch to better fibre.
I was interested to see in your Q&As that you specifically talk about the product’s capability with PrEP — was that a question that you were receiving from customers or did you just want to proactively address any potential concerns that might be out there?
Although risks are determined to be relatively low when it comes to dietary fibre supplements and medications like PrEP, we wanted to be 100 percent certain that best-practices are being followed to eliminate any doubts.
If I was a young guy, just starting to explore my sexuality, what hints or tips would you give to make anal sex as enjoyable as possible?
- Get to know yourself and your body inside and out. This includes everything from exploring tools like lubricant and practising with safe objects and toys to get a feel for what works for you.
- Be sure you are comfortable with and trust your sexual partners before diving in.
- Remain sex-positive and remember that sex is a long journey — an experience that is meant to be enjoyable.
- Take your time and communicate freely before, during, and after playtime.
- Play safe!
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