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  • Writer's pictureKina Velasco

“Thriving with HIV”: Meet Latino Advocate Humberto Orozco



By Kina Velasco | WeINSPIRE Journalist

  • A Latino immigrant and member of the LGBTQ+ community, Humberto Orozco was diagnosed with HIV at just 19 years old

  • Initially, Orozco was ashamed of his status and chose to keep it private, believing HIV was a death sentence

  • Over time, however, his perspective on HIV changed—while the stigma around the virus persists, Orozco chooses to empower and advocate for his community, proving that it is possible to live fully and authentically in spite of HIV 8-Minutes Read


SAN FRANCISCO, California – When he was 19 years old, Humberto Orozco received life-changing news; he was diagnosed with HIV. The diagnosis weighed heavily on Orozco, who refrained from publicizing his status for nearly fifteen years. About one year ago, Orozco gathered the courage to disclose the news to his family. Now, he has not only been surviving–but “thriving”–with HIV. Orozco is a public health researcher at Emory University and social media advocate who aims to inspire those in his community by challenging the stigma surrounding HIV. According to HIV.gov, HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that attacks cells in the body that help fight infection, making a person more susceptible to other infections and diseases. Currently, there is no cure for HIV, but it can be controlled with treatment. AIDS is the late stage of HIV infection that occurs when the body’s immune system is badly damaged due to the virus. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2020, 30,635 people received an HIV diagnosis. Through his activism on Instagram, Orozco hopes to encourage others diagnosed with HIV to live more authentically. “What inspires me to keep advocating for my community, which includes people from all walks of life living with HIV, is to bring visibility to folks like myself, even people who may not be public with their status,” Orozco said.


Humberto Orozco at the AIDS Walk Atlanta 5K. Courtesy of Humberto Orozco.


Orozco understands firsthand the difficulties of disclosing one’s status. “I remember feeling so invisible because I couldn’t share the things I was doing for this type of work, like HIV activism. I felt held back and I couldn’t be myself in front of people that cared about me,” Orozco recalled. The courage to open up to his family came to him just over one year ago. “I think I had, like, a newspaper article [with me] – in fact, there was an article that featured me talking about some of the work I had done at a nonprofit organization related to HIV – so I brought up the paper, I opened it up, and I told my parents,” Orozco recalled. “I blurted it out and I was expecting so much pushback…but what I got was an outpouring of support from my parents, and that’s really all that mattered in the end. I wanted to be sure that they saw me for everything that I am.” “It was then that I realized how much walking around with this secret about my status weighed on me and how much lighter I felt,” Orozco said. Although Orozco is now public about his diagnosis, he believes that people living with HIV still deserve autonomy. “I would tell them that they don’t need to conform to any expectations about coming out or being public about their status, it’s a personal decision and they should do it when they feel ready,” he said. Due to the stigma surrounding HIV, many people living with it feel ashamed. The myriad of misconceptions associated with HIV contributes significantly to this stigma, highlighting the need for advocates who can debunk such myths. In the workplace, Orozco educates others about clinical research on sexual health and HIV. “Unfortunately some of the stigma that is still out there is based on a ton of myths, like one, I admit I still had when I was diagnosed, and that is that HIV is a death sentence,” Orozco said. “Early on in the epidemic, there were a lot of folks who died due to AIDS-related complications, but that is no longer the case. If people start treatment early on, they can live a full life without any impediments.” According to the CDC, death rates among people with HIV decreased by about 37 percent from 2010 to 2018. Orozco also notes that strides are being made in HIV vaccine trials and developing a cure.

Humberto Orozco. Courtesy of Humberto Orozco.

Other HIV myths perpetuate social stigma. For example, the idea that HIV only affects gay men; “It’s been known that HIV affects anyone, regardless of sexual orientation,” Orozco said. Although HIV affects all races and ethnicities, it disproportionately impacts minorities, including the Latinx community, of which Orozco is a member. “There’s still a ton of shame attached to it and people are not having conversations about ways to prevent HIV, or just HIV period,” Orozco said. “People’s lack of information goes back to just not having open conversations about sexuality because it is very taboo in the Latinx community to even bring up that topic.” In addition to using his platform to facilitate open conversations and empower individuals living with HIV, Orozco also hopes that those without HIV can learn from his platform–for them to see people like him as equals or simply “human beings.” “I want people to leave [my platform] more well informed about HIV, and be empowered to stop stigma when they see it. So those are the big three: education, empathy, and empowerment,” he shared. “I think people need to understand that we all have intersectional identities and one identity doesn’t necessarily define us. I’m an immigrant, Latino, gay person who happens to be living with HIV. So I try to share some of my everyday…just living my life,” Orozco said.

Humberto Orozco at the AIDS 2022 Conference. Courtesy of Humberto Orozco.

“HIV is not all-consuming,” Orozco stated. “The key to not just surviving but thriving is to feel seen and empowered to live your own life without any limitations based on a status…It’s not going to stop me from living my life… I feel it’s important to remind people that [HIV is] not a wall, it’s just a roadblock that we can get through, and we can still achieve all the goals we’ve set out for ourselves.” To support Orozco, check out his Instagram and Linktree. Every December 1, the U.S. Government commemorates World AIDS Day by reflecting on its response to the global fight against HIV/AIDS and honoring the millions of people who have died of AIDS-related illness worldwide. To learn more about World AIDS Day and be a part of the fight against HIV/AIDS, click here.

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