Our intentions shape the world around us
Tell LifeLube a little about yourself Richard.
I’m Richard Cordova and a native Chicagoan. I am a health educator who counsels callers on the IL State HIV/STD hotline [1-800-243-2437]. In addition I am a Spin instructor and running coach with the National AIDS Marathon training program.
What is different about your life now as opposed to a few years or months ago?
I suppose the biggest difference is that a few years ago I was a strung out crystal meth addict with no hope for a future.
What or who motivated you to make a change in your life?
The motivation to change my life came from the realization that as an HIV-positive individual and if I wanted to live a long and healthy life I was going to have to make some serious changes. This included getting sober, regular exercise, and healthy eating habits.
What is one key issue for you that needs addressing in terms of gay men's health?
Risk reduction is one area where I think gay men really need to have a better understanding of their own behaviors. A lot of guys out there seem to be willing to engage in risky behaviors simply because they are “the top” or because their partner says “they’re negative” and behaviors like that are going to lead to a lot more gay HIV positive men in the future.
How do you educate, motivate and inspire others who might be going through a similar situation?
One of the main ways I intend to help change the behaviors and thought processes of the local community is by being an HIV tester. When people come in for HIV tests we will do a risk assessment and together come up with different steps they can take to practice safer activities.
What are some of the assets in our community that we overlook?
I think that we overlook the younger generation in our community. Younger people have a passion and energy that, if harnessed, can help create new and exciting change in the community and the world around us.
On that note, and often working with younger people, what is your opinion on the high rate of new infections among young gay men? Is this a contradiction to your previous statement?
No I don't find that these numbers are a contradiction to this idea. What I'm curious to know is that if we break down that age group into demographics by ethnicity/race what would those numbers tell us? Perhaps they would tell us where to focus our prevention efforts. As far as the younger community being a source of advocacy for change I think that the “abstinence only” policies which have been in our schools have left young adults unprepared for the realities of being sexual beings able to make wise and healthy choices for themselves when it comes to their sexual health. I think the fact that 30% of all new HIV diagnosis are coming from the 13-25 age group bracket is even more reason why young people need to stand up for themselves and for their peers and demand that people listen to the facts surrounding HIV transmission and ways to reduce your risk.
Do you consider yourself a spiritual person and, if so, in what respects?
I consider myself a spiritual person in the sense that we are all connected. What you put out there comes back to you three-fold and most importantly our intentions shape the world around us.
How do you keep yourself motivated?
I’ve learned to always be looking towards another goal no matter how big or small. It’s okay to change your mind about things along the way to reorient yourself towards another goal.
What makes you happy?
Helping others, working out, a job well done, one-on-one time with a good friend... these are just a few of the things that make me happy.
In overcoming your addiction, or dealing with HIV, or finding a healthy and balanced lifestyle, what role did finding "meaning" in your life play?
I suppose in my case I wrapped it all into one. When I stopped doing crystal meth I started training for my first marathon through the National AIDS Marathon training program. I ran not only for myself, to prove to myself that I could, but also for the other HIV+ people out there who needed the services that I was raising money for: services such as housing, needle exchange, food & nutrition services, child care, and many more that are vital to people living with HIV.
In a few words, can you offer a bit of advice for someone who may be struggling with a similar issue?
Follow your bliss… If your happy doing drugs then do them but if your not then ask yourself why, why, why and then make your transition.