Giuliani Alvarenga is an award-winning writer and law student living in New Orleans. A familiar face to those who have watched Trust Me, I’m Sick, they are HIV-undetectable and have a Bachelor's degree in English Literature and Gender & Women's Studies from the University of California, Berkeley. Giuli is also affiliated with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and a student liaison for the American Bar Association's Health Law Section. They are also involved in immigration rights as a public health issue, and speak on this topic in partnership with various organizations, as well as contributing writing to TheBody.com alongside last week’s guest, Charles Sanchez. In 2019, they received a Marguerite Casey Foundation scholarship to report and write a story on the chronically ill Latinx women of Los Angeles. Giuli was featured on the April/May 2018 cover of POZ Magazine, selected as one of the POZ 100 in 2019, and has also appeared on CNN en Español.
Tune in as Giuliani shares:
- that they received their status abruptly while living in the Bay Area; but with the help of a wonderful case director, became undetectable within a month
- how understanding their friends and romantic partners have been about their diagnosis
- that being HIV-undetectable means they cannot transmit the virus to anyone
- the importance of open communication with potential lovers
- how they’re addressing HIV laws in Louisiana, which often stigmatize and criminalize HIV+ individuals
- how they have learned from their past and are using their experience as a tool to create change
- why racial bias in healthcare is a public health crisis, and needs to be addressed in the legal field
- that they are an ambassador for the CDC’s Let’s Stop HIV Together campaign
- how housing, detention, and immigration play a role in public health
- why advocating for people over property and profit is essential for universal healing
Lauren: All right, guys. Thank you so much for joining us. I am here today with Giuli Alvarenga. Giuli, you may recognize because he was on Trust Me, I'm Sick. He is a law student and an HIV activist. He lives with HIV and works in health care and human advocacy. And he's going to talk to us all about that. So Giuli, thank you so much for joining us on the show today.
Giuliani: Thank you. I'm so excited to be here. How are you?
Lauren: Oh, I'm good, thank you. You're so kind to ask. I'm so excited to have you on.
Giuliani: Same here. I really love your energy. And I'm really excited to share space.
Lauren: Yes, I couldn't agree more. I love your energy as well. We've been saying that. We had a little chat on the phone before we were able to record this interview. And we were like, Oh, I like that person! So we get along very well. So I would love to start at the beginning of your story, because your HIV activism has so much to do with the work you're doing now. And I would love for you to tell us about how you first got your diagnosis, and what steps you've taken to control your health since then.
Giuliani: Yes, totally. So, I remember when I found out about my status. It was a scary time because I had just moved to San Francisco for a new job. Thankfully, I went to school up in the Bay and I had friends that still stuck around. But it just was very abrupt, the way I got the news and everything. And thankfully I had a really great case manager who linked me to HIV treatment really quickly, and that helped me become undetectable within a month.
Giuliani: Yeah, because I do get tested frequently for STIs and everything every three months, I was able to catch it at such an earl-on stage where the treatment works so effectively that I became undetectable within the month. It was more about me coming to terms with my status, what that looked like for me, what I could do to prevent things. And then what I realized was that writing was such a healing process for me. A year later, after adjusting and understanding my status, I began to write for this public health platform called TheBody.com.
Lauren: Which we know well, yes.
Giuliani: Awesome. Have you read anything from TheBody?
Lauren: Yes, I love it. And actually, we've interviewed Charles Sanchez as well.
Giuliani: That is amazing!
Lauren: Yeah, because I know you're friendly with him.
Giuliani: Oh, Charles is a sweetheart. I love him. I think Charles has been writing for TheBody longer than I have. And I remember just writing for them, and really getting acclimated with a lot of folks that are part of the HIV advocacy world. Literally, folks from different parts of the country, places like Puerto Rico; I’ve met some wonderful people out there who are doing advocacy work, post-Maria, and even before then.
You really see how HIV is such a big concern in different conversations, and you get to see the bigger picture in all this.
Lauren: Yeah, I love the idea that you discovered that writing was healing for you, and that you were able to channel a lot of your own processing into that work. Which automatically helps other people, because they have access to your thoughts and what you're sharing. It's pretty amazing to me that you were diagnosed and made undetectable within a month. That's kind of an unusual story for us to hear. I'm wondering what the emotional journey was like for you, too. It sounds like, obviously, there was some processing involved. But you sound very much like you're on the other side of that right now. You mentioned your networks of friends who were in the Bay Area. Was it a shock when you were diagnosed? And how did you go through the process emotionally? Was there mental health support there for you through your caseworker as well?
Giuliani: I definitely was trying to find ways for me to heal mentally, and be in a place where I could be holistically better. Because I was very grateful for my treatment; I was very grateful for my health. But I also knew that my mental health was really important. So how could I come to a point where I could fully grasp the situation and be in a better headspace. I found that, definitely, taking care of myself, working out, eating right, having a solid support system was all part of the process. And then a year later, it was the advocacy part that really just got me more excited also to do this work and realize … there's nothing to be ashamed about. These are processes that in our healthcare system, in stigma and everything still need to be addressed. Prior to this, I was already doing a lot of work around immigration and LGBT family acceptance. So this is something that I saw as an opportunity to also engage with.
Lauren: And we're going to talk about that in a little bit, because I know you've been working with the CDC on HIV awareness campaigns, too. It sounds like you had a support system through your caseworker; things were really sort of set up for you to succeed. And I'm wondering whether you found that you needed a personal advocate along that journey to your health? Was that your caseworker? Were you having to step up in new ways? How has that impacted your relationship not only with your friends and family who've supported you, but also with yourself as you've stepped into that advocacy role?
Giuliani: I definitely feel that my case manager was such a great support system, because he then linked me to this case study with UCSF that allowed me to also understand the HIV virus more. I thought that by understanding it, by seeing it drawn out … I will never forget this amazing doctor, she literally started to draw out the virus and and how it comes into our bodies and really just gave me a crash course on where HIV is in me.
And that really helped me get a lot of reassurance that things are gonna be great, that I have amazing people on my team.
And then in the Bay, some of my best friends are still out there from school, from undergrad; they just decided to stay in the Bay Area. And so we connected again. I told them what I was going through. And I still remember that night where I told one of my best friends, and we literally were just, like, you know what, you're not alone, we're gonna handle this together. And that literally was how it was ever since. And so it's just a beautiful process, because it’s like chosen family, people that are with you. And you don't have to feel alone.
Lauren: Well, especially because this is a diagnosis, as well, that's so often stigmatized. And the fact that you had a support system, who seems not to have judged you at all and have stood beside you this whole time, right?
Giuliani: Totally. Right through. Even another friend of mine that I've known since high school was also living in the Bay; she's still out there herself. Friends that I’d made, these connections for so long, were present during this time when I needed them most. And even romantically, later down the road, a year later I should say, I was definitely dating and getting to know guys and stuff. And it was a beautiful process, too, because they were very supportive. And they were, like, “I'm really happy that you feel comfortable in your skin, because that's what matters the most,” they would say. And, “For me, personally, I have no issue if you're HIV-positive or not.” So I got some very great feedback and energy from even romantic relationships.
Lauren: It’s really amazing. What about how it's impacted your relationship to yourself, as you've also had to stand up and as you've been sharing with others? It sounds like because you were met with a positive response and acceptance that, in many ways, you stepped naturally into this advocacy role for yourself and have gained some self-confidence from this diagnosis, too, in many ways, right?
Giuliani: Right. I feel like it happened, it clicked, very fast, the advocacy part. And then I think you're right, because it was such a positive outcome. The first few days were definitely like me crying, and stuff. But then I realized … there are people out here who care about me, there are professionals out here who are amazing at what they're doing. And they're reassuring me, ‘Everything's okay.’
It didn't really hit me in that moment like it does now — how being undetectable means that I cannot transmit the virus to anyone.
I never really thought about it like that back then. Until now. So I think, whoa, they were being sensitive with me, they knew what I was going through felt like. For me, it was the end of the world at that moment. But I think what they were trying to show me was that, ‘You're a very healthy person, Giuliani, and you're taking your medicine and you're undetectable, and you cannot transmit the virus to anyone. You're a healthy person. And that's what you also need to understand — that you are here advocating for yourself; you’re the one that's doing it.’ So I felt that I had the agency to continue that. And that's really what I want other people out there to feel, as well, who may be going through something similar — that they should never feel shame, they should never feel like they're not advocating for their health, that they don't have agency. Because in reality they do, in so many ways. I'm just very lucky that I got to experience such a positive outlook in all this, and I hope to continue sharing that to others.
Lauren: That’s so beautifully said. It's interesting, too, because something that has come up in the conversations I've had with people who are living with HIV is that there's a responsibility that goes both ways in terms of anyone who you're having sexual contact with, right. It’s not just your responsibility to share your status with other people, but it's also their responsibility to take care of their own sexual health. So while you're undetectable, they also need to be making sure they're taking care of themselves — whether that's using protection or taking PrEP or something like that, and making sure that communication is a really big part of any kind of encounter, right?
Giuliani: That’s well said. Yeah totally. I definitely like to have open communications with lovers and let them know, and then just all of us just share everything on the table. One of the things that I'm doing out here now that I'm in law school in New Orleans is addressing some of the HIV laws in Louisiana. Because unfortunately, even with communication and everything, people can still run the risk of being put in a precarious situation where the law may come for them in a way that’s sort of stigmatizing their health. Which is one of the reasons why I'm really grateful to be in New Orleans for law school. It's a beautiful city. There's so much history, so much culture. And at the same time, there's a lot of work that needs to be done around HIV. And to be out here and to share space with some incredible advocates like Mandisa Moore-O’Neal, for example, someone that I truly admire. She’s a Black feminist attorney who went to LSU, and now she's sort of one of my mentors in a way doing this HIV work, as well as addressing racial disparities in health care and police brutality as well. Learning from her has been wonderful. She has also written for TheBody. I was introduced to her by my editor at TheBody, because they have years of knowing each other.
You realize there's so many amazing people out here in New Orleans and in the Gulf South that are doing great work.
I just feel really grateful to be part of their family in this advocacy world.
Lauren: It’s so beautiful. It sounds like there's so much acceptance among advocates as well, which is really promising, isn’t it. I wonder what a typical day is like for you. You mentioned you're living in New Orleans, you're in law school. This is a lot of work. I'm wondering how you're balancing the demands of work and life as you manage potential flares and making sure that you stay undetectable. I know you've mentioned healthy eating and exercise, and things like that. But I’m wondering how you reconnect to yourself to make sure that you're taking care of yourself in the midst of the chaos of law school?
Giuliani: Well, it's funny you say that, because I'm with one of my really good friends right now; we are passing through the French Quarter in her car. And we were just thinking, what can we do, we have to study later today, but we also want to make it fun. We're always looking for ways to … also, she's just a great inspiration for me, because she's so passionate about her work. So being in law school with people who are like-minded and have that passion and that fire is what motivates me, even if I'm having an off day. It’s their inspiration that also carries me through it. Those are some of the ways that I'm also keeping myself healthy and strong. That's what my everyday looks like, as a law student. I go to school; right now, we're doing everything through I call it Zoom School of Law, because that's kind of what it is!
Lauren: It’s giving you a taste of your future and Zoom meetings anyway!
Giuliani: It’s surreal, but it's wonderful at the same time, because we get to link up and we have great communication about where we've been. And just making sure that we're all staying healthy, our families and friends, because COVID is such a serious thing right now. And then talking about how people with compromised immune systems can be affected by this is also really important, as well as other chronic illnesses. We study together at the library, we are mindful of the space right now; we're hoping for the best, we're hoping this clears up soon. But my everyday looks like … I like running, I like biking, and going to the bayou which is one of the waterfronts, one of the artificial creeks that comes through Lake Pontchartrain, I believe it is. I hope I'm not butchering it!
Lauren: It sounds right to me, but then I'm not from New Orleans!
Giuliani: And then, the French Quarter is just beautiful. People can just walk here for hours and get lost in the magic, really.
I try to live my normal life. I’m trying to do the best that I can, be a law student, be a friend, be a brother, a son.
And continue to do the work that inspires me. Because I love to do this work. I love these talks, like with you and I. This is just amazing. I love to meet other incredible people like yourself who are putting that message out there around public health, and how important it is for folks who may be more able-ist, to be mindful of that.
Lauren: Totally. I'm so glad you bring that up, especially during these COVID times. And it sounds like so much of your everyday is not just about being fed by your environment, but also by your relationships, which are so important to you. I'm wondering whether you've ever been in a position living with an invisible diagnosis, and undetectable as well, where you've been confronted and forced to justify or validate the existence of your diagnosis to people who just didn't understand it because they couldn't see it. Have you ever found yourself in that kind of position?
Giuliani: I found myself like that sometimes with online applications. People will sometimes say something that's just nasty or ignorant. And to me, it doesn't really register that much because I personally feel that I'm very well read in the work that I do. I'm a writer, I share a lot of our content on TheBody, so that allows me to explore the message from other writers. And I think that when someone wants to make a comment like that with their soundbite, I'm just thinking … this person really doesn't know what they're talking about. I just feel sorry for them, and I hope that they eventually educate themselves. Because sometimes it takes an experience to really make us want to learn more. And so I don't want anyone to have to have a bad experience in having to learn more. But I'm really hoping that with time, these people that may make these nasty comments can learn from their mistakes, in a positive way.
Lauren: Yeah. But that it's also not necessarily your responsibility to teach everyone individually either, because you have a life to lead as well.
Giuliani: Totally, especially if they're not going to reciprocate it. Because if I can get from the beginning that they're just trying to add their two bits, and it's not really productive at all, there’s no point in having a conversation.
Lauren: Yeah, couldn't be more true, especially during times like this. I'm wondering, also, this idea of prejudice or being confronted about your condition … have you had experiences of prejudice, or perhaps privilege, in the healthcare system, particularly in regard to the way you present? You're a person of color. Can you see your circumstances maybe having been different in the healthcare system if you presented otherwise – maybe if you'd shown up as a white man, or as a female, with this diagnosis?
Giuliani: I’m so happy you asked that question, because I always took PrEP, I was always taking PrEP; even when I was laid off from work in 2015, I was trying to access PrEP at the time. And unfortunately, the Los Angeles LGBT Center started to blacklist me from accessing some of the PrEP. I was trying to access on Medical. And I remember there was some administrative error on their part. So I had to wait a little longer to get PrEP. I still had some of my PrEP saved, but I remember going to the center and telling them like, “Hey, I don't have PrEP, I've been exposed to HIV.” I would tell them that, because it was protocol for them to put me on DESCOVY and Tivicay. The medicine that I'm taking right now is DESCOVY and Tivicay because I have HIV. Except that when they would give me both bottles, I would only take the DESCOVY because DESCOVY is the blue pill, which is called PrEP.
And at one point, they were, like, “You're being very reckless, we're not going to give you any more.”
Lauren: So they judged you.
Giuliani: They judged me, they called me reckless.
And I felt like telling her, “I'm only reckless in my Givenchy dress, girl.”
Lauren: (laughs) You have to call Beyonce on B’Day!
Giuliani: (laughs) It’s B’Day! We’ve got to reference one of her lines!
Lauren: (laughs) We do! We’ve got to reference the Queen!
Giuliani: So when they said I was being reckless, I was, like, “The irony here is, I'm really just trying to advocate for my health." And then I felt really sad later on to realize that they weren't recommending me to the Gilead Medical Assistance Program, which is a program the pharmaceutical company gives people. Basically, the Gilead Medical Assistance Program helps people get free PrEP while they're waiting for their MediCal or their insurance to kick in. Which is what they should have done for me rather than call me reckless.
Lauren: I cannot believe that the LGBT Center in LA judged you, and then prevented you from getting life-saving medication.
Giuliani: Oh, my goodness, it's wild, right? It's the biggest LGBT center in the world. And I hope that now they're learning from their mistakes. I remember having this interview with POZ magazine a few years ago about it, too. And they were just as shocked. And I'm really glad that they put that out there, because POZ magazine does get to the LGBT Center, especially their health department. And so I hope that people read this and understand that they should learn from their mistakes. As case managers or folks linking people to care, they need to do a better job at figuring out what their needs are. Meeting the clients where they're at, coming from a place that's not shameful, and finding resources to help them.
Lauren: Absolutely. It's amazing to me that a health center decided not to do their job, essentially. To me, that seems like there's some kind of legal loophole there, too. Like there's got to be something illegal about denying someone care like that.
Giuliani: Totally. And I'm pretty sure there's now a statute of limitation. Otherwise, I'd probably jump in and open up my law school books and see, what can I do? what can I do? It really does give me that incentive to also advocate for folks in the future if I ever want to pursue a career in health law, in any kind of advocacy work. I'm still learning what I want to do, professionally, but there's so much that you can do in health law, as a legal advocate. So I'm really excited, and I learned from my past to share that, and trying to using that as a tool.
Lauren: Would you say that some of these inequities in the healthcare system, be they a pre-judgment that maybe an individual or a group of people enacts and sort of uses as a weapon against patients, particularly if it's based on racial or gender issues … would you say that in and of itself is a public health crisis?
Giuliani: Great point. I would say that's definitely a public health crisis, because there have been articles with studies linked to these articles showing why gay men tend to be on PrEP and other forms of advocacy much faster than their counterparts — Black and Brown queer men. And that's because we're hyper-sexualized. And I think that bias in the medical field is not new.
That's actually one of the things that we need to start talking about in the legal field, too — the racial bias in the health field.
Which is really important. It's something that I'm still learning about. A few colleagues at the law school and I are trying to even start a Health Law Society at our campus; we're also talking about these issues. Because these are the issues that we need to start talking about at the law school so that we become better legal representatives for clients.
Lauren: And for yourselves.
Giuliani: And for ourselves, totally. But to answer your question … my first article with TheBody talks about my lack of access to PrEP. It was an op-ed.
Lauren: We’ll have to link to that on the episode page for this episode.
Giuliani: Oh, that would be wonderful. Yeah, because I include a lot of studies that show that there is racial bias in health care, especially around HIV. I don't have the stats at the top of my head, but they're in the article that I wrote.
Lauren: Absolutely. We'll link to that so everyone can check that out. I'm wondering if you could talk to us more about your advocacy work. Obviously, you're creating inroads through your law school, and it seems like you've been an advocate for yourself and for others almost since day one of diagnosis. I would love for you to talk to us about your advocacy work, and how you have turned your own experience into something that you're able to learn from continually and able to help others with.
So I'm currently an ambassador for the CDC’s HIV program called Let's Stop HIV Together.
This is their fourth cohort. I started my work in November of last year, and we're about to wrap it up right now in September. It's almost a year-long program, and they choose advocates from different parts of the country. There's folks in Puerto Rico, I'm in New Orleans, Los Angeles area, SoCal/San Diego area, the East Coast, Midwest, Atlanta. We have folks from different parts, especially in areas where HIV rates are higher. Last I checked, I know that Baton Rouge and New Orleans were some of the cities with the higher HIV rates, especially Baton Rouge. Baton Rouge used to be number one for a while and I think they're now number two. Two or three, I definitely need to check my stats again, but definitely in the top five. They intentionally made this program four years ago now to address these needs and have us be advocates for our city, kind of like an ambassador, to talk about this. The work got a little muddled when COVID hit because we couldn't really do direct service or anything. But I definitely did share some resources, especially when Mardi Gras happened, and I linked up with other orgs in the area. Then soon after, I started to get creative with what I could do during my time as part of this internship, and I started to do a lot of legal advocacy work with these decrim attorneys that are trying to change the statute in Louisiana.
Lauren: That’s amazing. You're working with the CDC, but you also are doing a lot of your own advocacy through your legal work, not only in the HIV community, but also beyond. Can you talk to us about that, too?
Giuliani: Just as an example, I'm working with this organization called Sero Project. They do a great job at mapping out 'who is where' in the country in terms of prisons, based on a crime that they've committed related to HIV. I'm linking up with them, with this amazing person named Cindy, and I'm working with her to connect. There are a few projects that we have going on. One of them would be to write holiday cards to folks that are currently incarcerated. And I'm linking that with this position that I'm holding with the National Lawyers Guild; we have a chapter with them at our law school. We're sort of building that program so that we can continue that relationship with Sero Project, and let other law students be mindful of the fact that there are people incarcerated for HIV crimes, and let's write them a letter or a little card during the holidays, to let them know that we're thinking about them. Things like that.
Lauren: That’s wonderful. You've obviously been someone who has been well-versed in experiences of the health care system here. I'm sure that there may be limitations on what you can say, given that you're working with the CDC at the moment! But I'm wondering, given your experience, in what way the health care system here in the US is working for patients, particularly in the field of HIV? And in what ways it might be falling short and requiring improvement?
Giuliani: There's a lot to be said about that, especially in a pandemic.
Lauren: It’s loaded!
Giuliani: It’s loaded, yeah! I think I'll definitely start right now with the pandemic that we're going through. We are at 6 million cases now in this country and leading it, which is really, really unfortunate, because we're supposed to be a leader in many cases.
Lauren: In health care. The whole privatization of health care and capitalist involvement in health care is supposed to mean that we get the best there is. And yet we have more people dying from COVID than anywhere else.
Giuliani: Yeah. And then I think about countries like Cuba who don't have much, but they're out there flying to Italy, flying to other countries to help, because they have it locked down. And so it just kind of baffles me a little with what this is. There’s so much to be said about the fact that we even need the CDC right now to try and stop evictions. In the first place, why we even need evictions during a pandemic is beyond me — because we see that being homeless is one of the factors in which people can become HIV-positive, or may fall into other situations and such. You realize how housing is so important to public health concerns. And then we think about what's happening in these detention centers and how children are still being put in cages and people are dying from COVID. It's all so much to really take on at the moment, and that's only starting within COVID.
I’m literally just putting dropping the pin there, and trying to figure out how the pieces connect together.
Lauren: It sounds to me like a lot of the issue there is all about money. When you really follow the trail of why the evictions are happening and why people are being held at the border and stuff, it’s because of private interest, right. That if we were to actually heal ourselves and focus on health care as a human right, and maybe help some people who we’re not helping during COVID, maybe it would be about removing that private interest in some way?
Giuliani: Right. Yeah, exactly. If we would advocate more for people over property or interests, that would be a better situation for us during these difficult times. I feel like we were just caught with our pants down with this pandemic. No one was ready for that.
Lauren: Well, in many ways, it seems to me like we weren't caught with our pants down. This is obviously my opinion, but it seems like we could have been way better prepared, because we saw it coming. It's just the messaging from up on high has been a little bit muddy, if you will.
Giuliani: Seriously, for real! It’s just really a lot to handle overall. And right now that we're trying to start a Health Law Society on campus, the irony is that we're trying to start it during a pandemic while everything is on hold.
But I hope that if we get one positive thing out of this tragedy, it's that people start to see a need to step up and not to be so comfortable in their Netflix bubble and their Amazon bubble.
Step out and figure out what you can do that can really make a change. And it doesn't have to be big and it doesn't have to be about individualism. It has to be about collectivism, all of us together.
Lauren: Yes, absolutely. That said, it sounds like the experience that you had, being diagnosed and going through the system with a caseworker, was really positive. That you were handed resources from the beginning that empowered you, right?
Giuliani: Right, exactly. The case manager at Magnet in San Francisco in the Castro area … I'm not gonna say his name because I don't know if they're okay with it … but that person was such a great advocate for me. I think about them a lot.
Lauren: Yeah, I think it's really wonderful. So I was wondering if you could help us with some tips here, for people who are tuning into the episode. I've got a couple of Top Three lists. And my first one is: your Top Three Tips for someone who … maybe they suspect that they are about to be diagnosed, maybe they've been recently diagnosed with HIV or have been undetectable for a while. What would your Top Three Tips be for someone who, like you, is living with an invisible diagnosis and navigating the healthcare system?
Giuliani: Having a team on your side — friends, family, a case manager, a therapist if there's access to that — is really, really important.
Start forming your team and start figuring out what each team player is doing.
Really hone in on what are the results for that, and what we can do to work together for your own health. Getting your team together. And then the second tip, I would say, is definitely do research. Especially now on social media, there are so many outlets. If someone has lupus, for example, there’s some great podcasts, there's some great platforms on Instagram, articles that people can read. For example, there's Remedy Health Media, which is under the umbrella for TheBody.
Lauren: We’ll link to it on the webpage for the episode as well.
Giuliani: So people can access that, and they're gonna have different articles that they can read — whether it's about lupus or kidney issues or other medical issues people may be going through, where they would like some more information. That’s a really great platform to check out as well.
Lauren: That’s wonderful. And what about a third tip for people?
Giuliani: A third tip would be to find the joy in something every day. Whether it's lip syncing to your favorite song …
Lauren: It might be Beyonce! (laughs)
Giuliani: (laughs) In this case, it’s gonna be Beyonce today, because it's B’Day!
So really trying to find the joy in something every day.
Some days, it may not be easy, because some days … people are going through different things, especially right now, right? And then when you read the news, it's not any better. But try and find the joy in something at least. I know that this may be a little cheesy, or whatever. But it's such a beautiful affirmation. Because an affirmation is like the antidote to a negative thought. So you want to think about what makes you happy, what you're grateful for, or what brings you joy — and just do something. Be silly and get out of your shell, and just really enjoy your life and enjoy your humanity. I would definitely say that's the third part that's really important.
Lauren: Well, following on from that, my other Top Three list is about the things that give you joy. I would love for you to share what you turn to when you need that moment of joy or inspiration. It can be a guilty pleasure, secret indulgence, a comfort activity. But it can also just be the stuff that inspires you. Where do you turn when you need to be lit up?
Giuliani: I definitely listen to music. I love to listen to music. I love to act silly. Just kind of like screaming in my room and dancing. My housemates are, like, “Hey, are you okay?” Just releasing a lot of energy. I love doing yoga. I love swimming. I love doing a lot of things that just bring me joy.
Lauren: It sounds like connecting to your physicality and your true self is part of that for you.
Giuliani: Oh, most definitely. Biking I love, and I love biking in New Orleans. It's one of the most beautiful experiences that I have had. I just put on some music and go on a nice little bike ride or a little run — and I'll come back feeling way better.
Actually, that's what I do when I'm having a bad day — I'll go for a quick run.
The music and the physicalness of it is what really brings me back to my core.
Lauren: That’s really lovely. So what is your ask for listeners today? What can they do to support you and your community in the work that you do?
Giuliani: I’m asking them to please go on to TheBody.com, and to check out some articles. There’s so much out there. We have some incredible new writers, like Gigi Engle. She is a sex therapist and she talks about sexuality in such an eloquent and educational way that I just really encourage people to check out her writing. See what else is out there. I, myself, write a lot about immigration and how immigration is a public health concern, because that's one of my topics in I'm doing as a law student. But there's so many other conversations on TheBody that people will find their niche, and I just ask that they take some time to check out the site online.
Lauren: And what's next for you in your advocacy and your wellness journey? It sounds like you're starting the society at law school, you're going to graduate from law school and become an attorney. Tell us about what the future holds for Giuli.
Giuliani: I'm hoping that maybe one day, I find a partner. Maybe I'll end up in DC sometime, and I'll be at a cafe, and we'll be across the room and … (laughs) I don't know really what the future holds for me. But it would be nice to meet someone that complements me and that I'm inspired by. That would be nice later on.
I'm a Pisces, so I'm a hopeless romantic.
Lauren: Oh, no wonder we get along so well! I totally get it.
Giuliani: What’s your sign?
Lauren: I'm on fire. I'm a Leo and I have very few Pisces friends. But when I meet a good Pisces, I know it!
Giuliani: Aw. So I think that's probably what I'd love in the future later on, you know?
Lauren: Absolutely. Well, Giuli, it's been such a pleasure having you on the show today. Can you remind everyone where they can find you and your work? I know they can find you by searching for you on TheBody,com. But where else can they find you if they want to connect with you, and engage over social or any other platform?
Giuliani: Definitely. They can reach out through Twitter or Instagram, and both handles are PrinceOfViana.
Lauren: Is there anything else that you'd like to share today with everyone tuning in?
Giuliani: No, just to please be safe, wear a mask, practice physical distance, get tested for COVID. We’re gonna get through this soon. All together.
Lauren: Well, thank you so much for your positivity and your beautiful energy, for taking us on this journey with you today. I'm really honored to be connected with such a wonderful advocate. And I hope we'll be able to continue to collaborate, and have these wonderful deep discussions, because it means so much to me. So thank you so much for being on the show today.
Giuliani: Thank you. I'm looking forward to it. I'm looking forward one day meeting you over coffee on Venice Beach. Having a little nice walk, that would be really lovely.
Lauren: Or I'll meet you in the French Quarter. I love New Orleans! It'll be one or the other, babe! (laughs) Thank you so much.
Giuliani: Thank you.