This post is part of a series of Queerty conversations with models, trainers, dancers, and, well, people who inspire us to stay in shape–or just sit on the couch ogling them instead. With this profile, we recognize National Latinx AIDS Awareness Day October 15.
Name: Erick Velasco, 38
Occupation: Host of the Homo Homie Podcast / Motivational Cheer Coach / Server & most importantly a Parent
City: Azusa, CA
Favorite work out venue or gym: I’m one of those people that pay for two gym memberships (Golds & 24hr) but end up doing most of my exercise outside the gym.
Do you have a favorite exercise playlist?
I have my own Spotify playlist “Gym & Relaxing on the Go.”
What’s the best outfit for working out?
Basketball shorts and a simple side cut-off tee.
How do you balance staying in shape and having fun?
Being a server really helps to give me a good cardio workout throughout my day so I get my fitness in a lot, 5-6 times out of the week, it’s always non-stop. The fun just comes naturally on the weekends to relax and unwind from such a busy schedule.
You discuss your HIV+ status in your episode of My Health Agenda. What made you want to speak out?
I’m truly grateful to be a part of LATV’s My Health Agenda. My good friend Enrique Sapene, host of The Q Agenda on LATV asked me if I’d like to share my status & take part in a new series speaking about all health-related topics affecting the LGBTQ community. Without a blink of an eye, I did not hesitate to say, Yes! It’s extremely important to me to always empower the HIV+ community & redefine the stigma behind it. I also want to take a moment to thank the creator of My Health Agenda, Andres Palencia for creating this safe and loving series to tell our stories.
As an HIV+ person, how important is staying physically prepared for your health?
It’s tough navigating through life with so much going on mentally, spiritually, and especially physically. Physical health is very important for someone who has an autoimmune condition and by maintaining good physical health it continues to build a strong internal defense system.
You make a point in your My Health Agenda interview that there is still a stigma associated with HIV, even in an age of antivirals and PrEP. How do you prepare yourself mentally and emotionally to cope?
The fact that I continually educate myself on how HIV affects the body & how these medications continue to advance to help suppress the virus helps me to prepare & understand that I may have the virus but that it doesn’t have me. I’m in control. Also having opportunities like the one LATV’s My Health Agenda is giving us so that we are able to openly speak out and educate about the unnecessary stigma regarding HIV is wonderful.
You also talk about toxic masculinity in your episode, particularly growing up Latino at a certain time. Obviously, that can also take a toll on mental health. How do you not fall prey to that kind of negative attitude?
Most of the time I try to steer away from that negative environment but when I fall prey or am surrounded by it, I’m blessed that I’m able to navigate through that by being my authentic self & redefining what masculinity is. Authenticity is key! Also having the opportunity to educate the Latinx community on being more accepting like the opportunity I just had on My Health Agenda helps to stay in a positive frame of mind.
What has your journey as an HIV+ person taught you about self-love?
SELF ACCEPTANCE. Learning to accept the things I can’t change about me, that’s including my HIV status. As long as I continue to take care of myself & continue taking my medication is proof in showing that I love myself enough to still be alive & continuing to live out my purpose.
What’s a basic, if useful, tip you can offer for staying mentally, physically and emotionally healthy?
The most basic thing you can do is prepare. Mentally, read up on things and educate yourself, knowledge is power. Physically, take time to know your body & your limits so you can learn how far you can push yourself. Emotionally, learn how to stay positive & surround yourself with positive energy. The energy you put out is the energy you bring in.
In your interview, you also talk about resilience. How does staying mentally, physically and emotionally prepared strengthen your resilience?
By intentionally showing up for myself. When I show up for myself I’m living in my moment & truth & with that, I’m able to become a better me & a resilient me.
You’re also raising your young niece. When you have a parent-type role like that, what perspective does it give you on good health?
Making sure that I educate her on everything that I just mentioned in this interview. I only have the tools my parents gave me that I can improve upon to give to her and help educate her about all types of health, mental, physical, spiritual, sexual & emotional.
What hope do you want to offer others?
That nothing is ever worth giving up. You can only be good or be good at it but be safe while doing it.
What do you keep on your nightstand?
I have a pink salt rock light crystal that I touch to rejuvenate my energy.
Check out Erick’s episode of My Health Agenda on LATV.com.