ADAM CASTILLEJO

Last year we learnt how Nelson Mandela spoke out on behalf of vulnerable people, including people living with HIV and AIDS throughout his life. Today we are very proud to introduce Adam Castillejo, a true Ambassador of Hope for people living with HIV and AIDS.

“The impossible can be possible because I am living proof that it is definitely possible”

Adam Castillejo

On a beautiful summer day in London in June 2022, Adam spoke to Stories of Hope, and we are very pleased to share this interview today.

So, Adam, following tradition, we ask every Hero of Hope “who are you?”

Since I entered in the public spotlight in 2020 as ‘Adam – The London Patient’, the second person cured of HIV, a lot of people have indeed asked me “who am I?” Well, I am just Adam Castillejo, a British Venezuelan man who happened to be extremely fortunate to have been looked after by the National Health Service (NHS) in UK. They supported me to be cured from two deadly diseases: Firstly, from an aggressive Stage IV cancer and secondly from incurable HIV/ AIDS.

I am a bone marrow transplant survivor and have undergone highly complex and risky stem cell transplantation to achieve remission in both cancer and HIV. While many people will have heard about my medical story in the news, most still don’t know much about me, my hobbies and passions – my private and professional life.

So here we go… I am a chef by trade, driven by the passion of fusion cuisines & cultures to reload food habits by experimenting with it while having fun with it too. In my leisure time I love to be in the great outdoors with nature, especially skiing, cycling and swimming or just being immersed in the beauty of the natural world.

As human beings our passions evolve just like mine have done, but the adventurous core, seeking a traveller’s adrenaline spirit and loving to explore different cultures has remained unchanged in my life, perhaps it has even been enhanced instead.

Probably most people don’t know yet about my creative talents as an amateur painter and designer, hopefully someday you can join me on that journey.

What makes you unique?

Another way I could describe the uniqueness is my journey is:

My birth = Venezuela, my blood = Germany, and my fate = United Kingdom

But ultimately I am a citizen of the world.

To be cured of HIV remains an almost unique experience in the world. That must be changed in years to come! My position as a survivor has truly re-written my outlook on life. To be recognised as ‘Adam – The London Patienthas changed the perception of other people of how they see me. To be seen by others as someone special and to experience this change is so dramatic at times, but in reality I am still just me, Adam.

How long are you open about HIV?

In my earlier years with HIV I did not really have a role model who encouraged me to be more open about my status. To be ‘The London Patient’ has given me the inner strength necessary to face stigma head-on and re-open the conversation about the stigma and discrimination that we all have experienced living with HIV. This is often forgotten by society.

Developing a frame of mind that allows me to look inward to my story of resilience, fuelled by positivity and understanding my own weaknesses and strengths, has given me the tools to be courageous, more open and to normalise the HIV conversation. At the end of the day HIV is a ‘HUMAN’ disease, not a ‘GAY’ disease as the media sometimes chooses to portray HIV.

What is your motivation to be open about HIV?

I believe my unique HIV journey has guided me and empowered my sense of responsibility to science because my cure is much bigger than me. There is NO WAY I could even imagine keeping this as a secret, that is not in my nature.

I hope that by sharing the laborious achievements of my journey, we realise we can achieve anything if we work together as one human race. The impossible can be possible because I am living proof that it is definitely possible.

Why is it important for you to share your story with other people?

My story is worthy to be shared so it can inspire others and give some glimpse of hope to many downhearted individuals around the world – to provide some comfort to millions of people living with HIV and struggling in their communities due to stigma, ignorance and intolerance. I hope my story contributes to bringing acceptance for who we are! We are just human beings affected by complex illness, nothing else.

You say you want to be an Ambassador of Hope, what does this mean for you to be?

My drive to be an Ambassador of Hope for the global HIV community comes from personal injustice and the injustice experienced by millions of people living with HIV who are struggling with stigma and discrimination on a day-to-day basis.

The significance of me being a Global Ambassador is to preach the message of hope and togetherness, so we can finally rewrite the narrative on HIV. Let us together change attitudes and mentalities to be able to help others less fortunate.

Do you have a life motto?

Don’t give up on hope, I never did!

This motto has evolved from being a cancer patient to becoming The London Patient. Throughout this journey my hopefulness remained undeterred. This also drives my passion to give back to others and my duty to science to achieve a feasible cure for everyone.

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