I’m From Colombo, Western Province, Sri Lanka.

by charles de silva

I was a chef working on a cruise line in Miami. Sailing the Caribbean, I was having the time of my life. Work was very hard. But that was it that kept me on my toes. I worked with 48 different nationalities and that was the icing on the cake as I loved moving around with the people of the world. I worked for 5 years and then it was cut short and it was down hill then…

Being gay was a problem as I was being followed by nearly every man who wanted an easy lay! But me being the old fashioned person that I am, I was not interested and shunned them away. I was more interested in a long-term relationship and with someone who meant something and not just lust.

But that was my downfall. Since I was not giving it to them I was gang raped by three of them and that was the worst experience of my life. I tried to forget it and get on with my life but it haunted me day-in day-out! Until something even worse hit me…

When I was back in my homeland for vacation, I found out that I was HIV-positive. But after a while I managed to get a job in Sri Lanka and it helped me forget what I was going through, but then the first ‘symptoms of HIV’ hit me.

My boss found out about my status and I was fired instantly. Then the routine followed job after job until I was out on the street on my own eating from garbage bins and surviving day to day. So I started doing work with PLHIV and also I started positive public speaking in forums to bring the issue to the forefront. It’s now been 16 years since I was infected, without medication!

I had three partners since 1997, and all of them turned out to be a disappointment as they wanted to get saved through me.

They all had jobs and were not HIV-positive. But they knew of my status before they got involved with me. But the last boyfriend took the cake as he lived with me for three years. I looked after him, finding jobs for him as he could not stick to one. I even looked after his family, sending one of his sisters to Japan for studies and his other sister for a temp job as she was studying at the same time.

I had saved a bit for hoping to start my own business at home, as doing sensitization and prevention work on HIV was a bit too much when you are living it every day. So I decided to have something else to take away the sting. So with a small loan from by brother and with all my savings I wanted to start a costume shop. But the day that I withdrew all my money, I had to go out for a sensitization programme and my boyfriend was at home. When I came back he and all my money had gone. Ten days went until I tracked him down. But he had not gotten the money as he says that he had lost it. Now in the meantime I had found out the lies that he had been telling me for the last three years and that was another blow. But I could not go to the police as I did not know what would come out. Homosexuality is a criminal act punishable by law. So I had to keep quiet and he took the upper-hand. This happened in 2007.

Now in 2010 I have met a wonderful guy who loves me and accepts me for who I am and my background, too. I was open with him from the start and he has opened up to me and we are now making plans to make fruit of our commitment to each other. The first steps of our relationship is to move in together and which we have now done, and are hoping for the best! I really feel this is the man I want to spend the rest of my life with as he shows so much concern and is also very open and direct, which is what I admire in him.

Wish us luck!


  1. Wow. Good luck, you definitely deserve some after all that. I’m amazed at how positive an outlook you have. Good for you.

  2. Charles Nigel de Silva

    Thank You sooooo much Rafi, i have had a few good friends around me that supported me and thats how i have managed to stay positive and be supportive of others like me. im blessed!!!

  3. Good luck! You are a modern day homosexual Cindarella!

  4. Charles Nigel de Silva

    Thank you Jordan, thats sweet of you!!! Kisses and hugs!!!! <3

  5. Wow 16 years positive without medication? I loved reading your story and glad that you’ve found someone to share your life with. Many thanks and hugs for your friendship and perhaps someday we shall meet!

  6. Charles Nigel de Silva

    Bless you Paul, and yes i hope our paths would cross. would love to get to know you too.

  7. Great nigel -I was happy to read your story. Even though i have known you for over ten years, i never wondered how you got infected as that is not what matters. What matters is how you are living with HIV. Your writing it is an inspiration to everyone in a closet – whether a gay closet or an HIV closet. Thanks for coming out!

  8. Charles Nigel de Silva

    Thanks Ravathi, its friends like you that I have been blessed with in order to be this way! Love ya!

  9. there is an important chapter of my life of my parents finally accepting their son as a gay man. this happened in 2008 during “Colombo Pride” organized by EQUAL GROUND, the organization that I’m proud to be working with. The Pride week started with a massive drag show held at one of Colombo’s prestigious Theaters. It was tribute to Broadway Musicals and was a huge production. I took part in many of the acts and choreographed many of the segments too. on the day of the show i invited my parents to come for the show. (My parents were at the age of 74 years then). and they were seated in the front row watching their 37 year old son dancing around the stage in a dress and heels, wig, makeup and the whole nine yards. at the end of the show for the finale, the cast had a surprise for me by presenting a bouquet of flowers to me in appreciation. the first thought to me was to give it to my Mom for been there for the show and showing their support. So there is me at the end of the show, squeezing through the crowd that were mingling at the entrance to the hall, and congratulating me on my performances, and me trying to locate my parents. finally i found them at the entrance and i gave Mom the flowers thanking them for coming for the show. I asked them how it was and my Mom was quite taken back as only then that she found out that i produce nearly most of the items that were in the show. then I asked My Dad what he thought of the show, and he said “Fantastic job. I’m Proud of you SON” and he hugged me in front of everyone there. (em in my red and green Flamingo dress). that was the day that to me the true meaning of PRIDE was revealed. and I knew from that day onwards my parents had finally accepted me and respected me for who I was. I will never fail to say this, that it was EQUAL GROUND who i have to thank for this experience.

  10. You have survived despite all your hardship; I believe that the better part of life will now be yours. Thank you for telling your story.

  11. waoo i cant belive waht you went though, and you still look at things in such a positive way. i am so happy for you and i hope you have a wounderful long happy life with your man.

  12. Thank you Abel and Silvan, as its people like you make make it all the more worthwhile! bless you both!

  13. I always knew you had the capacity to be larger than life and much larger than your HIV status and your negative experiences! Keep on dinging and dancing Nigel…..you are loved!

  14. ooops…that should be singing…althopugh dinging would do too!!!!!

  15. what an incredible story! you’re an inspiration.

  16. This is what My man has to face nearly everyday. this is one of the examples of the abuse he gets!!!!

    : remember…. NIGEL will not teach you the RISK….
    : you know “loev is blind”…
    : so now u both are in that boat..
    : he will give you HIV to keep u … and tell everybody about u… and then everybody think u also hv HIv… and u will not have any other option… to stay with him.. or kill ur self…
    : did u think… if ur parents may come to knwo that u are sleeping with a AIDS guy…
    : ur mother will get a heart artack… and you will be responcible for taht..
    : i will stop from here..
    : go to sumithrayo.. and get your self eduacted how to live with a AIDS person..
    : wish u luck..
    : i am upset… very upset about this…

    “Why cant we be left in peace????”

  17. I wish you both good luck and always love you…

  18. Thank you Manuja, its friends like you that make it all the more worthwhile!!!!

  19. charles de silva

    well looks like when the going gets toughthe tough run!!!………….my health hit rock botom recenly but now n meds and recovering. but t add to all the adventure, my man gets involved with a younger halhier guy (I suppose) and im single again. well i gave him my blessig as his happiness iswhats important here and i hope he finds true happiness, which i have had for the last few months he was with me.

  20. My man is back again with me, but i am taking it slowly this time, he still has the freedom to be with others as i trully understand that he is much younger than me and feels he needs to be with other younger guys of his age. i try not to let it get me down even though it hurts sometimes………..but i guess my understanding of who he is opens my eyes to the reality of things. Guess true love is what we make out of it…………. dont know the real answer!!!

  21. Charles de Silva

    CoVer STory
    16. Charles Nigel de silva, 38
    drag empress; community leader
    Colombo, sri lanka

    Pride 2008 in Colombo was de Silvas year. The aptly named “I have a Dream” (The Pride drag show) was one of his many dreams. He choreographed the massive show and trained a wonderful cast all types of lovely human beings Lesbian, Gay, Bi s, Trans, Hetero, Queer, you name it they were all there and just being themselves . The show was a smash but also special because de Silvas parents, who had never addressed the issue of his being gay were seated in the front row watching him dance and prance around the stage in drag. The icing on the cake was having his father hug him at the end of the show, while he was still in drag, saying “Well done, son” .

    De Silva had come a long way from 1994. Being infected with HIV in 1994 & tested positive in 1995 turned his life around. In fact it became the dawn of an entirely new life in which he dedicated himself as a workshop facilitator and trainer in the field of HIV & AIDS across the country. Currently he works as Projects Officer for EQUAL GROUND (an LGBTIQ organization), the only LGBT organization in Sri Lanka that works on Human Rights pertaining to LGBT persons as well as issues such as sexual health, sexuality, gender issues, home based violence, HIV & AIDS and empowering the community. Working with EQUAL GROUND has
    given him the chance to really be useful to his community. It is the one place he has worked in where he doesn’t have any fear of losing his job because of his sexuality or HIV status. It has
    also given him the opportunity to be who he is and also explore untouched territories (talents) which he didn’t realize he had.

    “and am still kicking after 15 years of being positive. Hoping to make it easier for the next generations in Sri Lanka to use the little clearing that I have made and to one day make it into a big highway for all to go through.”

    In his own words: Ralph Waldo Emerson said Do not follow where the path may lead. Go, instead, where there is no path and leave a trail. And that’s what I do. It s not easy but I have survived

    Trikone Magazine • Pride Edition 2009

  22. great story ,Charles .., Good luck man ..and wish both of you good luch, I ‘ve been known to you , like what 1 month , but the character you’ve shown is tremendous. keep up the good works.Remember… I owe you a BIG THANK YOU…., which you do not want to accept ,right now…lol ..,

  23. Guess what??? luck just fell through and im single again!! another one bites the dust i guess! and i guess this is the last one for me now for sure!!!

  24. Charles Nigel de Silva passed away 5 th of December 2010..

  25. as we all know he(Nigel) used to work for a NGO organisation called Equal Ground. when he was not well ,nobody from that organisation,specially Rosanna flamer caldera(Director) did not stand up for him.she always wanted him to come to work and do what ever she say.even she knew he is unable to stand on his feet without a help.
    when he is not well she thought he is gonna die and she send a priest.how dare she is.she totally put his mentality down.
    finally after he died nobody came to the hospital to see his body from the Equal Ground.only few people.but every year they (EG) celebrating his memorial .and tell to the world still they are helping for HIV people.they are not helping they are taking money from the international by just showing them HIV people.how sad this organisations…

  26. Well…. I herd about Nigel from a friend of his when I first came out to my friends… his story gave me courage to realy be who I wanted to be…. even if your dead now uncel Nigel i’d like to say thank you and I do hope I can be as brave as you….

    P.s. your almost god daughter is now going to pre-school and she’s soooooo cute

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