Junior Deondre Moore will remember April 21, 2014 for the rest of his life. It was the day after Easter, the day he tested positive for HIV.
Today, Moore travels across the nation to present speeches, spread awareness and advocate for HIV/AIDS education. Two years ago though, as a freshman sitting on a sterile Student Health Center bed, he was terrified.
“My first thought was ‘oh God, I’m going to die,’” Moore said. “I didn’t know anything about HIV, I just knew it was a death sentence.”
Moore originally checked into the health center with flu-like symptoms and was misdiagnosed with the flu.
“The flu test came back negative but the doctor thought they just caught it early,” Moore said. “But my body was in so much pain. I was coughing up blood, my head was pounding and I couldn’t sleep.”
After his symptoms continued, Moore got a blood test. He said he knew the moment he answered the phone what the results were.
“I was very nervous but I kind of knew,” he said. “The time before that when I had gotten tested and it came back negative, they told me over the phone. So when I called to get my results again and they told me to come in and see a doctor I just packed up some stuff to go straight home if that was the case.”
At 19, Moore told his mom his test results and tried to bear her reaction.
“She was devastated…and at first she was scared for me and thought it would be hard for me because of the way people take it,” he said.
Eventually though, the fear faded and a sort of bravery took stage as Moore became more informed about treatment options and prevention methods.
Right now, Moore takes one pill a day to protect and prevent his HIV from progressing.
“It used to be what they would call a cocktail,” he said. “People would take anywhere from 10-25 pills a day and now I only take one pill a day. One pill a day is what keeps me alive.”
Moore said when someone is first diagnosed and starts treatment, their medicine is considered a prevention method as well. That aspect of the pill reduces the risk of spreading HIV dramatically, almost 100 percent.
“Now that I’ve been on my medication for so long I’m no longer detectable,” he said. “So even though I have HIV, my body is in a dormant state, it’s like asleep. I reduce spreading HIV by 96 percent- there’s only like a four percent chance that I could pass it on through unprotected sex.”
Matthew McConaughey’s 2013 Dallas Buyers Club revealed the reality behind high priced HIV/AIDS medication in the 1980s. Moore’s reality however, is much less expensive because of his insurance plan, which completely covers his three month supply. Otherwise Moore would pay $7,250 out of pocket.
“My insurance covers everything fully, I don’t pay a dime,” he said. “If I didn’t have my insurance there’s other ways to get into programs that will help pay for your medication because it’s so expensive.”
While his insurance covers the cost of his medication, his exposure to harsh words and uneducated responses is a payment he makes from time to time, even though he said he has felt accepted for the most part.
“There are people, even family, who say very nasty things about me like ‘don’t drink after him’ or ‘be careful, make sure you wash your hands after you touch him’ but that’s just ignorance,” Moore said. “When people are ignorant you can’t really blame them, they’re just not educated. That’s when I try to come in and say, ‘well if you knew any better, you’d know you can’t catch HIV from salvia or touching or kissing. It just comes from education.”
Comprehensive sex education is at the center of Moore’s advocacy.
“In Texas, we only have abstinence-only education, we don’t teach comprehensive sex education and how to protect ourselves,” Moore said. “That was one of the things that I called out. The NEA (National Education Association) happened to be in the room when I gave my speech and I told them the education systems have failed me and millions of people everywhere.”
President Barak Obama proposed defunding abstinence only education, which Moore said is a step in the right direction.
“I hope we get to an AIDS free generation,” Moore said. “I think it’s very possible but it won’t happen if we don’t educate people.”
Now, Moore works alongside the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ civil rights advocacy organization, among other non-profits. By traveling across the U.S. to give his testimony, Moore said he meets people from countless walks of life who have struggled with him.
“Being open about it hasn’t been the easiest thing but it’s been helpful to my peers to be able to show them my story and let them see my life on the inside and by being an open book they can see what it’s like being HIV positive,” he said.
This weekend Moore will travel to Washington, D.C. to meet with members of congress for AIDS Watch, the nation’s largest constituent-based HIV/AIDS advocacy event. He also plans to work alongside fashion designer Kenneth Cole for a new ad campaign, The Courageous Class- The Real Models are the Role Models.
“Kenneth Cole wants to do a campaign called The Courageous Class where he finds people who have overcome life obstacles and are now living through whatever they went through and are now role models in their community,” Moore said. “A representative of Cole asked me to be a part of that so I’ll be working with him.”
Moore’s long term goal, he said, is to be somewhere in the White House where he never plans to stop advocating.
“I would love for there to be a day where HIV is no longer a problem but as long as it’s here I’ll continue to advocate,” Moore said.
To view Moore’s complete presentation on comprehensive sex education, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8tFWwbOZohw&feature=youtu.be