World AIDS Day 2014
On March 13, 2009, it seemed just an ordinary day. I got out of bed, took the dog for walk, stopped at the local tea house, and headed into work. Later that afternoon, I headed to the Biomat Plasma Center to donate. I was working and going to school in Salt Lake City, Utah. Living in the downtown area can be little expensive, and donating plasma gave me a little extra cash in my pocket. It started out as any other visit; I gave them my name, fill out the required forms, found a place to sit and waited for my name to be called.
A nurse called my name and directed me to a private room. He closed door and asked me to sit down. I will never forget the soul-numbing sensation I felt when he gave me the news. What? Surely, I did not hear him correctly. I imagine the look on my face must have been enough for him to understand I wasn’t grasping what he was saying to me. So he repeated himself, but I still could not seem to understand the words that were coming out of his mouth.
Then it hit me like a freight train traveling at the speed of light: he said the result from my plasma was HIV positive. I swear I felt my spirit leave my body. Didn’t know what think or say. He suggested that I should get tested right away. I told him that I knew of a local American Indian agency in Salt Lake City, and they had an HIV/STI program and do free testing.
Bryan Psaloka Kte (Kills Crow)
I went right over to the Urban Indian Center of Salt Lake (formerly known as the “Indian Walk-In Center”). That’s when I met my good friend/former coworker, Gay. She was very sweet to me. She asked if I had ever received or applied for services from the Indian Walk-In Center. I told her that I applied for one of the assistance programs, and she pulled my chart from one of the social workers.
I followed Gay to the HIV/STI program room. She gave some information that if the test is positive, I would need to come back to get tested again next week. The Indian Walk-In Center had the 20 minutes rapid testing, so we had to wait 20 minutes and just talked.
She looked at me and said, “Bryan, I am sorry, it’s a positive test.” I broke down and cried. She gave me huge hug. She asked if I would like to talk to a therapist. She said it would probably help.
An appointment was set up for me the following week.
I went to my follow up appointment the next week. That’s when I met Brenda. I have since been in touch with is amazing woman for over five years now. She has been my friend, sister, and mentor. She went with me to all of my appointments from the beginning. She walked me through all of the steps. Today, I am tremendously grateful to still have her support and guidance.
Being home was a big challenge for me. I was hearing and seeing acts of violence to Native/Two Spirits living with HIV/AIDS. I had to make an effort to surround myself with a good support system and stay focused on the positive things that were important to me. I began by helping to reconstitute the Minnesota Two Spirit Society. This helped open doors with our Native/Two Spirit Community.
Recently, I relocated to Michigan to be closer to a few of my siblings. I always make an effort get myself involved into community volunteer work, and I noticed something very different here in Grand Rapids. There is a lack of Native American involvement with HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness. I have been working with a group of individuals for the Grand Rapids World AIDS Day events. This turned into another opportunity for me to connect with my Native community.
I am working to bring both communities together. So far, right now, I am so very impressed that my LGBTIQ/Allies and Native communities are willing to work together to help change how we support those living with HIV/AIDS. I am grateful to tell my story, struggles, and concerns.
For those in Grand Rapids, no matter where you are, please remember those affected by HIV/AIDS. On December 1st, join a World AIDS Day event near you.
Bryan Psaloka Kte (Kills Crow) is Lakota. He was diagnosed as being HIV positive in March 2009. A current resident of Grand Rapids, Michigan, Kills Crow volunteers his time with Grand Rapids Red Project to further educate the Native community about the dangers of AIDS.