I have never officially introduced myself: my name is Erick Aguilar. I am a sophomore at Duke University majoring in a personally designed major called “Migration Geographies of Undocumented Labor: Journey from the Global South to U.S. South.” I hope to work with immigration reform lobbying in the future or work as an immigration lawyer for Central American refugees.
I’ve been lucky to be able to work with NCAAN through the Elton John AIDS Foundation Grant for LGBTQ Students to work with HIV/AIDS organizations. As my second semester working with NCAAN has geared up, I have created a few goals in mind for myself.
I have a particular affinity working with Latinx and undocumented communities. I was raised in Eastern North Carolina and my father and family members are part of the agricultural and food industry that drives the North Carolina economy. Undocumented life has been the crux of my personal and academic goals.
While working with NCAAN, my goal is to find ways in which undocumented status, Latinidad, and HIV intersect. This means: how can I find a way to better inform Latinx and Spanish speaking communities? How can I research ways for undocumented individuals to gain access to HIV medications or PrEP? How can I assist in creating informational pamphlets that NCAAN can distribute that will assist in breaking down the cultural barriers against taking PrEP and using condoms in each sexual encounter?
These are the questions I hope to answer by the end of the semester.
In the last month or so, I have undergone my own journey attempting to acquire access to PrEP. It IS possible, but as a student who is still under his parents’ insurance, I had to find my way around certain obstacles!
First, preliminary testing to get on PrEP is extremely expensive. You not only have to go through the basic STI panel testing – you also have to get tested for Hepatitis B & C, and test your creatinine levels to see if your kidneys are functioning well. Although insurance covers some of this, my parents were still not going to pay for the co-pay.
I went through the whole testing process through the local health department here in Durham and found a program through Gilead, the company that produces PrEP, that will pay for my medication co-pay.
I decided to begin the process of acquiring PrEP last November, since I was attempting to find a way to get on PrEP without burdening my wallet as much. It IS possible, but this process forced me to think about how individuals who are more economically burdened and face more discrimination find access to PrEP?
As my doctor said to me, “PrEP can be the first step to gay liberation.” And I agree! But through organizations like NCAAN, we must continue to work to make these medications accessible to all across our state of North Carolina.