Antonio grew up thinking he was flawed, that there was something deeply wrong with him. As a young man in his small town in Guatemala, he knew that he was gay, but he vowed never to tell anyone. When two neighborhood boys committed suicide because they too were gay, the teenage Antonio was certain he would be next. It was at that moment that he decided he had nothing to lose.
Antonio told a couple of key people in his life. All were enraged; he was beaten and warned not to tell another soul. Finally, there was redemption: Antonio’s best friend and last hope responded, “I love you, I don’t care about this, you are my best friend.”
Antonio is deeply contemplative, finds as much meaning in life’s challenges as pleasures, and is quick to thank the people who have offered him support and guidance along his path of coming out, immigrating to the United States, and establishing roots in San Francisco. Throughout his life, Antonio says, people have miraculously intervened when his circumstances looked bleak. Among those people have been AHP clinicians.
“I love AHP!” says Antonio. “There are three things that have saved me when I have been really down; therapy, art, and boyfriends.”
In 1994, when AHP was housed at 400 Castro Street, Antonio saw his first therapist. He said it changed his life. Being able to see a professional at no cost was vital to his healing. AHP has provided what Antonio called, critical mental health care and support, which helped him through some very dark times in his life. He credits AHP for his ability to stay HIV-negative. Antonio also said he got a lot of support through AHP’s Health and Wellness workshop series, where Antonio found relief from isolation and developed community through connection with other gay men.
Perhaps the greatest tribute to the effect mental health care has had on him is that Antonio is now studying counseling and psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies. He hopes to give back to his community and help others by using the same tools and compassion that he credits with saving his life. If Antonio is a grateful recipient of AHP’s care, we at AHP remain grateful for his tireless volunteer work both for AHP and for other community organizations.