Durham observes AIDS Day with hope

Dec. 03, 2013 @ 09:43 PM

Billy Moize recalls the day in 1993 when he walked into his parents’ home and told them he had been diagnosed with HIV.

They hugged him, and he burst into tears.

“I thought it was a death sentence,” Moize said. “But 20 years later, I’m still here.”

Moize isn’t simply here – he’s thriving.

He lives a life he calls “high-quality,” but it wasn’t always like that.

Before his diagnosis, Moize abused drugs.

But gradually, after learning he was HIV positive, something happened.

He said he became a better person – someone who wanted to live life to its fullest and help others do the same.

“It’s been a spiritual journey, really,” Moize said. “You learn to get in touch with yourself, and then you learn to release that to others.”

Moize shared his journey Tuesday night in an interview at the Holton Career and Resource Center on North Driver Street, where hundreds of people observed World AIDS Day.

“I think HIV is making me a better person,” Moize, 55, said. “God can take things that are bad and turn it to good. And I think that sometimes, HIV for a lot of people is an awakening – they stop drinking and drugging, and take better care of themselves.”

A Durham native, Moize attended public schools in the Bull City and moved to New York for about 10 years in the 1980s. There, he saw the toll that AIDS was taking on people in the prime of life.

After moving back to Durham, he got a blood test and was stunned to learn he was positive.

“I was like: ‘Me? There’s no way.’ I thought life was over. But today, it’s not a death sentence. I’m living proof.”

He credits drastic improvements in medication for helping him extend his life and make it worth living.

Moize’s regimen is a single pill – three medications compressed into one – taken daily. He said he’s never had nasty side effects with his meds, which he’s taken for 20 years.

One positive side effect has been a desire to help others.

Moize works part time for a home health-care agency, where he helps those who can’t help themselves.

“That’s good for me,” he said. “I could be down in the dumps, but I’d rather help someone.”

His advice is for people to practice abstinence or safe sex, and realize that HIV plays no favorites.

“A lot of people are in denial,” he said. “They don’t want to face the fact that anybody can get this disease. It still has a stigma that it’s a gay disease or a black disease or something else, but it can affect anyone.”

Moise said he used to be in denial.

“But once you get past that point, you can do anything,” he said. “You can have a high quality of life.”

Tuesday’s keynote speaker was LaHoma S. Romocki, associate professor at N.C. Central University who has helped secure grants for AIDS relief to the West African nation of Cameroon.

Romocki supports the World AIDS Day theme: “Getting to zero: Zero new HIV infections. Zero discrimination. Zero AIDS-related deaths.”

“We have moved to a point where people need to be caring and understanding and embracing of each other,” Romocki said. “The bottom line is that we’re all human beings.”

Romocki looks to the future HIV/AIDS with hope, but not complacency.

“We should be proud that we’ve seen the progress we have, but it’s not over,” she said. “Despite the historical obstacles we’ve overcome, there is still a lot to be done."