Local HIV worker’s message featured by CDC

HARLINGEN — Health and welfare.

Oft-repeated, so many times people fail to consider the gravity of that statement.

Adrian Castellanos, 24, understands its importance only too well. Testing HIV-positive more than two years ago, he values now the good health he enjoys, both physical and emotional.

Castellanos, a risk reduction specialist at Valley AIDS Council in McAllen, communicates that importance in his outreach. So passionate is his message the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has featured him in its “Greater Than AIDS — Somos Familia” campaign.

The national campaign includes a series of videos profiling Latinos living with the illness and emphasizes the importance of family support.

“It uses stories of real people with HIV and stresses the importance of familial support for health,” said Castellanos.

He and his partner Jeffrey were on their way Tuesday to Disney World.

Oscar Lopez, executive director of the Valley AIDS Council, said the campaign is important to young Latino gay men. Men in this category, he said, will become HIV-positive at a rate of one out of four “if outcomes are not altered nationally.”

Castellanos said he was still getting used to his appearance in the video, which has just been released.

“They made a film of me and my family,” he said. “It’s a little nerve-wracking but it’s really gratifying.”

Footage in the video shows Castellanos and his mother enjoying a casual conversation, stress-free and filled with smiles. More footage shows him and his partner.

When Castellanos tested HIV positive in early 2014, the diagnosis shocked him. He’d only gone to the hospital with pneumonia and … that’s why he had pneumonia.

Castellanos had waited so long to get tested, the virus had escalated to full-blown AIDS. That diagnosis had diminished his immune system to such a degree he was more prone to illness.

“A lot of this has to do with my partner not wanting me to get tested,” he said, referring to a previous relationship.

Fortunately, modern medications were able to bring his health back from the brink. His partner, who is HIV-negative, takes medication to keep from contracting the virus.

Castellanos has been speaking openly about the disease, telling people trying to find out who infected them is a pointless endeavor. Instead, their focus should be on their physical and emotional health. He also talks about practicing safe sex and living with the illness.