While volunteers got ready for the luncheon, putting together tables and chairs and food, Tim Haver waited for his opportunity to meet others who have HIV and AIDS.
He was diagnosed with HIV in 1986 when he was 25 years old.
It was like being.wearing the scarlet letter. You didnt tell anybody because there was such stigma and such bigotry around the disease, especially in the gay community, Haver recalled.
He said in the 80s, HIV and AIDS led to isolation for people part of the gay community. Since then, Haver says the stigma has gotten better, but is still there.
“Over the years, its becomeI mean the stigma, I dont think is there as pronounced, but theres a lot of people that still feel very uncomfortable talking about it, he said.
Now, Haver’s comfortable talking to people about it. He has tested ‘undetectable’ for 10 years, meaning his viral load is so low, he cant pass it on to others.
The Poz Cafe, part of the Tucson Interfaith HIV/AIDS Network at 2660 N. 1st Ave., is a luncheon put on every month. It’s become a place for people like Haver to go and connect with others just like him.
St. Phillips in the Hills co-sponsored this months luncheon in the Foothills at St. Marks Presbyterian Church in Midtown.
Everyone that Ive spoken to has been so receptive and so engaged and its gratifying, Heaver said about his experiences at the Poz Cafe.
Sitting with him was Robb Gonzales, who was diagnosed with AIDS in 2003 and has gone to the Poz Cafe for 18 years.
Poz Cafe has been positive for me to come out and socialize with people. I also mingle with them, he said.
Gonzales said hes gotten more comfortable over the years talking about his health condition, even going up to Washington D.C. to fight for legislation to change.
Socializing at places like the Poz Cafe and resources like the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation have allowed him to connect with others who are in his same shoes.
Dont be quiet. Reach out. Talk to people, he advised others with HIV and AIDS.