Posts Tagged ‘advocates for youth’

Adrian and Thomas share their thoughts on USCA 2015! Can’t wait for next year!


Today is National HIV Testing Day! a few of the NMAC Youth Scholars came up with a challenge for the day called “The 60 Second Challenge” The purpose is to get the message out of HIV testing to as many youth as possible. The rules are simple. When nominated you go and get tested for HIV (this is not about the results) If you decide that you would rather not get tested you are supposed to make a video showing us what you can do for 60 seconds (or what you chose to do for those 60 seconds instead of getting tested). If you already know your status you are encouraged to make a video of what you can do in 60 seconds and challenge others to know their status. Simple. Easy. Fun.  Please feel free to participate in the challenge and share with your friends!


National Youth HIV AIDS Awareness Day Youth Ambassador Thomas Davis Hosted an event “Positive Transformations” sponsored by REACH LA. The event brought together several performing artists and organizations from around Los Angeles to educate the community on HIV & AIDS. Focuses were on several subjects from HIV testing to life with HIV. The event was a great experience and a great start to what will hopefully be an annual event. Thank you Reach LA for sponsoring, Lula Washington Dance Theater for hosting, Advocates for youth, Tasheena Medina for Producing, and all the artists and organizations that participated! A huge thanks to Tigersnooze Productions for shooting and editing footage of the event!


Like it or not but HIV related stigma can be seen everywhere. From the entertainment industry all the way to our phones. Mobile networking apps or as I like to call them “FCK or Hookup apps,” carry much of the stigma. Many of these companies like Grindr, Scruff, Jack’d, and Adam4Adam do provide ways for AIDS Service Organizations/Community-based organizations to advertise services, and is a great opportunity to outreach to our community. Many of these applications allow for you to share your status, and even note your last testing date if you are positive; however, we are still turned down, blocked, or face ridiculous comments when we disclose our status to people or reach out to them as a openly positive person.  So here goes a list of the SHIT IGNORANT GUYS SAY TO POZ GUYS Online:    


“Are you clean/DDF?IMG_6869

Let’s face it before you can even get into saying what you are into or what your favored dick size is you are faced with either reading this in a profile or after a light exchange of messages. What tickles us is the fact that folks common sense would either be confused by what someone means by clean or not disclose one’s STD and HIV status in order to bust a nut or avoid being discriminated against. Let’s not mention the fact that many are positive yet just do not know it.  How about saying something like “I frequently test and currently negative for all STDs including HIV.  How about you?”  We are all clean.  Let’s stop using cleanliness to describe status and keep it in the hygiene category.


“Sooo… can you still fuck?IMG_7183

I take it that the  lack of comprehensive sex education and just lack of contact with positive guys attributes to this. It is really sad that guys think that an HIV positive diagnosis means that we have to give up our sexual pleasure. Yes, guys who are positive can have sex and lots of it. Many use the term “undetectable to share that they are virally suppressed and on top of the virus.” Studies have shown that an undetectable viral load means a significant decrease of being infected with HIV if exposed.


“Why are you still having sex and/or bare backing if you are positive?”  

IMG_7108 The answer is simply because I can. Just because someone is HIV positive doesn’t mean they have to confine themselves to a life of celibacy nor only have sex with positive guys. It’s all about sex positivity. If both parties are cool with it then so be it.





“But you’re such a good guy.”

 I’m still a good guy. Being HIV positive doesn’t change who I am as a person.  








“I prefer my guys clean or DDF.”

IMG_4643Yet if no one even mentioned HIV you wouldn’t have brought it up or asked when the last time I tested (or cared if it was more than a year). So many put clean or DDF in their profile yet don’t understand you are basically saying anyone who is not STI or HIV free is dirty. Plenty of times you wouldn’t even be able to know a person’s actual status based of off window periods.  We need to learn to have healthy conversations surrounding current STI and HIV status.




How did you get it?

IMG_0683 HIV isn’t something you just pick up off the sale rack at TJ MAXX. Everyone’s experience with the virus is different. More importantly, it’s probably not your business. There are some people who are willing to talk about their own story, but that doesn’t mean you should assume it’s okay to ask other poz people the same question. It could be a difficult conversation for some people to have based off of past negative or traumatic experiences . Don’t be that person who reopens old and unhealed wounds.



“Who gave it to you?”tumblr_n8qcsl5s0w1tdjuqvo1_500

Who gave you Herpes? Oops was that too much? I mean it’s like asking someone what they went to jail for. Let the person tell you that information when they feel comfortable around you. Again there is such a thing as too much information.







“Well you don’t look like you have it?”IMG_8295

What does someone who has HIV look like? Remember we are now in 2015 not the 80s. Due to the available and much needed medications, research, medical services, behavioral health services, prevention options, and so many other programs we have the necessary things to stay healthy. Folks living with HIV keep their viral loads down, their CD4 counts/percentages up, and overall holistic health flourishing. Some people don’t look like total a-holes but hey looks can be deceiving, am I right? Listen, people with HIV look like you or me or him or her or them. HIV doesn’t look any specific way. Did you think I’d be wasting away? That we’d be frail and sickly little things? On the contrary, there are lots of hot guys out there living with HIV! (See and this article for perfect examples.)



“Isn’t it like you just take a pill and everything is good?”

IMG_0743If only that was the case. Folks who are positive deal with so much stuff that goes beyond just taking a pill. Remember the fact that stigma creates barriers to staying adherent to medication and add a host of other mental and social issues. I hear horror stories of how people hid their meds in over-the-counter bottles, take their meds in secret, or even suffer from behavioral health issues. I have even been open about my own chronic depression and PTSD, which can cause huge barriers socially and to medication adherence. It takes those who truly understand the nature and severity of what people living with HIV are going through to understand that it isn’t just like a antiretroviral HIV pill(s) can fix things. So much time is spent with a mental health professional and a medical provider always checking to makes sure things are well.


“Do you think I need to be tested?” IMG_9925 Only you can answer that question. I would say if you haven’t tested in 6-12 months and have been potentially exposed to HIV then yes you should. In addition, if your local health department has contacted you or Disease Intervention Specialist (DIS) and they confirm you may have been exposed then testing would be advantageous.


“I was tested for HIV last year?”

IMG_6565 This is a tricky one. When I provide HIV counseling to many people who happen to be young and old alike I have to remind them of the window period, the need to frequently test, and the fact that based off of things like the amount of sex and number of partners may create the benefit of screening multiple times within a year (3-6 months). I tend to recommend HIV and STI testing every 3-6 months for folks who are highly sexually active

“Will you die?” IMG_7275

Chile boo. I am not going anywhere. As long as I take my meds as prescribed, go to my doctors visit, and live an overall holistic healthy lifestyle I will be just as old if not older than you. Yes! And so will you! I’m assuming most guys mean to ask; will you die due to HIV related causes? C’mon guys. Great strides have been made in enhancing treat and the lives of those living with the virus, and discovering out how to control it in order to live a full life. As long as a poz person stays in care and/or sticks to their medications then there’s hardly a reason that their lifespan is decreased BECAUSE of HIV.


“But you’re such a good person.” annoyed-2 Sooooo everyone else that has HIV are terrible people? No my friend HIV doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t care which walk of life you come from. You could be the biggest sinner around or a total saint!  You could have a purse so heavy making Oprah dollars or dirt poor.  Keep your pre-conceived judgments to yourself.




“How did you get it?”annoyedgif

The same ways HIV is transmitted. Did you want some elaborate story? Well that depends on how comfortable the poz guy you’re talking to is up to sharing.





“Who gave it to you?” tumblr_m9ckn3wgDj1qfc8cw Again this is probably not your business and probably not the most comfortable conversation to have. Also, does it matter? If you’re worried about knowing who has “it,” and who doesn’t so you can know whom to avoid, then you probably should be taking other precautions. Like, I don’t know, talking about the matter with your intimate partners, condom use, and even PrEP?


“I prefer my guys clean.” not-mr-clean Hey good for you! Some like ’em clean, some like ’em smelly! STOP equating being negative to being clean! If negative is too difficult of a word to type out, use “neg,” maybe? It’s also only one syllable!







“I’m so sorry for you.”

tumblr_nlahy4GIv81rl3tufo4_r1_400 And I am so sorry that you are ignorant as hell. No one asked for apologies. Why? Who died? Is my dog okay? Dude, where’s my car? I kindly reject your invite to the pity party. Instead of feeling sorry or sad for me, you could try to support the HIV community by broadening your horizons and giving back. Educate yourself and start the conversation with your friends. I’m only sorry that people still cringe at the acronyms HIV and AIDS.






“Why does it always have to be the cute guys?” small-violin

Why does it have to be anyone at all? Why do folks think that HIV only goes after a certain look? Although certain populations are impacted greater than others anyone can be HIV-positive. It does not matter how you look, your socioeconomic status, the amount of followers or likes you have, or even if you identify as a top or bottom. Trust there are some positive tops out there.




Patrick Ingram and Adrian Castellanos are two awesome gay men of color living with HIV sharing their experiences.  Please share, spread the word, and continue to keep in touch with  For media inquiries please contact




IMG_1223We would like to welcome Adrian Castellanos to ThePozLife!  Thomas and I were blown away by Adrian’s drive, ambition, determination, and advocacy efforts at USCA 2014 and we found it necessary to bring him onboard.  We feel as if he will be a great voice for the Latino community, youth and individuals affected by HIV.  For more information on Adrian check him out here.
Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us and agreed to join alongside us in our goal to spread awareness and decrease stigma.


 The Poz+ Life is proud to have Patrick, Thomas, friends, cohorts, and most importantly friends selected to attend the 2014 United States Conference on AIDS (USCA) in San Diego, California.  Thomas and Patrick will be providing live social media conversations , blogging and videos during and after the conference.  
HIV disproportionately impacts America’s young people, especially young gay and bisexual men of color. Approximately 25% of all new infections occur in youth and between 2007 and 2010, there was a 22% increase among gay men aged 13–24. NMAC’s Youth initiative, sponsored by ViiV Healthcare, the Magic Johnson Foundation and Advocates for Youth aims to assist youth in becoming more effective and informed health advocates, and empowering them to become more active in their communities.Hundreds of applicants between the ages of 18 – 25 applied to participate in our 2014 program, including the opportunity to further their leadership in the field of HIV/AIDS as well as attend the 2014 United States Conference on AIDS in San Diego, CA, from Oct. 2 – 5.

Participants will take part in various events throughout 2014, from webinars to conference calls, to help further develop their skills and knowledge and prepare them to lead efforts to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic in their communities and across the country. NMAC is thrilled hat it can continue to offer this exciting initiative and to introduce you to the selected participants. For more than 25 years, NMAC has worked to develop leadership in communities of color to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic and is proud to have the opportunity to help develop the skills of a new generation of leaders

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The National Minority AIDS Council (NMAC) is very pleased to announce it has selected the Youth Scholars for NMAC’s Youth Initiative to End HIV in America. The eight-month Youth Initiative program is sponsored by NMAC in collaboration with ViiV HealthcareAdvocates for Youth, and the Magic Johnson Foundation and will provide opportunities for the scholars to develop leadership skills, increase knowledge, build confidence, and integrate youth in HIV/AIDS programs and policies.

Learn more about our scholars online here!

NMAC received and reviewed hundreds of applications through a competitive selection process. A Youth Advisory Committee worked with our Treatment Education Adherence Mobilization (TEAM) and Conferences & Meeting Services (CMS) divisions to select the 2014 recipients. We are incredibly proud to have a diverse, talented, and dynamic group of young leaders to participate in the Initiative.

With its focus on developing leadership among youth to end HIV in America, the skills the youth leaders will develop during the U.S. Conference on AIDS (USCA) will help drive the next generation of leaders in HIV. Through education and training, these individuals will develop the necessary tools to have a significant impact on the current and future landscape of HIV. Following the conference, the scholars will have the opportunity to share their skills with individuals in their own communities and through best practices, continue active participation in the HIV movement.

If you would like to learn more about the incredible group of Youth Scholars, you can view their pictures and bios on our website at:


We will have youth from across the nation discussion National Youth HIV&AIDS Awareness Day! #NYHAAD #NYHAADLive


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During the first week of November, ViiV Healthcare welcomed invited individuals from across The United States, Puerto Rico, and Canada to Atlanta, Georgia for the 15th Annual Community Summit.  I became familiar with the summit during the U.S. Conference on AIDS and was immediately interested.  I arrived to Atlanta on November 7 and made it to the W Midtown.  I made it to the posh hotel were the next few days came and gone.  I reunited with friends and colleagues that I have known as well as new ones I met at USCA 2013 in New Orleans.   The Community Summit also gave me and others in attendance the ability to expand my network, make new contacts, and form new friendships.

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The purpose of this year’s Summit is to discuss new challenges and solutions to the HIV epidemic.  I experienced some of the greatest discussions this year.   Topics ranged from surrounding the changing healthcare environment to how the Affordable Care Act and the changes to the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program will affect the HIV population in our country.  Also, there was a phenomenal panel discussion titled “The Future Generation: Youth Leaders in HIV/AIDS.”  The informative yet entertaining, Trina Scott Associate Director, Health Equity and Youth Empowerment at Advocates for Youth moderated this discussion.   On the panel was Emily Carson from IGLHRC and HIV Young Leaders Fund, as well as Lawrence Stallworth II, Youth Services Coordinator at Beyond Identities Community Center.  Trina Scott provided a briefing regarding HIV, which gave great insight to those who attended both physically and virtually.  Ms. Scott gave some staggering statics:


  • 60% of new HIV infections in youth occur in African-Americans, 20% in Hispanic/Latinos, and 20% in Whites.
  • Over half of new infections among gay and bisexual males are in African-Americans
  • About 87% of young males get HIV from male to male sex, 6% from heterosexual sex, 2% from injection drug use, and about 5% from a combination of male-to-male sex and injection drug use.
  • 86% of young females got HIV through heterosexual sex and 13% from injection drug use

One of the final statistics that were given that reiterated the sizeable epidemic among African-Americans were that young African-American males have more new infections of HIV than in any other group of youth by race/ethnicity and sex.  Outside of these staggering numbers the entire panel discussed interventions, prevention initiatives, and strategies that have been effective at reaching youth who are at most risk of HIV infection.  During the question and answer portion, I posed a question, which was how we empower more youth national, more specifically in the south, to be advocates for themselves and their communities.  Ms. Scott and the panel agreed that giving youth the opportunity to utilize their talents, having a seat on a board, being placed in leadership positions, and most importantly creating a space for youth to be empowered enough to speak up were things that we discussed.  Also, the entire panel agreed to my question, that comprehensive sexual education in schools (beyond abstinence based talks) and encouraging adults to talk about sexual health and ways to protect or reduce the chances of being infected wit HIV or STDs are actions that must take place.


In addition, on day one, there was a panel discussion on ASOs and Community Health Centers: Partnering for Health.  This discussion was very interesting because it discussed how ASOs and CBOs were being creative and evolving in an effort to expand services to individuals affected by HIV and to adapt to the changing policies.  One of the major topics discussed in this panel discussion was merger.  One of the things I took away was that it was more important to discuss potential mergers when organizations were healthy compared to when they are struggling to make ends meet.  I learned that when organizations are not healthy and are looking to merge the conversation is no longer about merging but move to acquisition.  One thing that every individual on that panel discussion stressed was that egos definitely needed to moved aside at the door.  Bronx- based Boom!Health can related to that due to both Robert Cordero and José Dávila, serving as Co-Presidents through a merger of  CitiWide Harm Reduction and Bronx AIDS Services.  Both organizations’ presidents came together to work for the common good of their community, which can serve as a lesson for so many different community based organizations who refuse to do so based off of conflicting personalities.  The Community Summit definitely was a place to have this conversation so the attendees from across the nation can go back to their organizations and remind their leaders of the impeding changes that will soon take effect for all of us who work in HIV.

IMG_1058 I personally think that ASOs/CBOs really need to start considering potential mergers and partnerships when negotiations can commence on an even playing field.  Seeing so many organizations either struggling or closing and personally affected has encouraged me to being to have that conversation with my own organization.

This year’s ViiV Community Summit had other fantastic sessions surrounding medical updates, PrEP/PEP, and early treatment.  The shared detailed community and medical information impressed me.  ViiV also flipped the script this year by offering breakout sessions on Women and HIV/AIDS, HIV and Aging, and Bio Statistics in HIV Research. IMG_2346 IMG_2345 IMG_2344

I attended both the sessions on Women and HIV/AIDS and Bio Statics in HIV Research.  It was great to learn additional information on how Women are also greatly affected by HIV/AIDS.   Especially in a field where it is so easy to focus on same gender loving men. I also appreciated the free biostatistics course that tied in HIV research.  The presenter Amy Cutrell from GlaxoSmithKline definitely made it easy to understand the complexities that surround bio stats.

Overall, this was an experience of a lifetime. The speakers came from all occupations and provided information and stories. Stories on how it was like living with HIV in prisons and receiving updates from the CDC were just the icing on an amazing peanut butter chocolate cake. In addition, as a youth, being able to connect with so many knowledgeable individuals in this field has given me additional insight.  There may not have been a huge attendance of youth at this year’s summit; however, the ones who were there definitely made a presence. I really appreciated the attention to detail, friendliness, information, and networking opportunities ViiV Healthcare provided during the entire 15th Community Summit.  Since meeting and interacting with ViiV staff at USCA 2014 and now at CS 15, I have become even more appreciative of their efforts to support all that are involved in the cause to end HIV/AIDS.  I have never dealt with a pharmaceutical company who placed so much focus on communities.  From participation in conferences, their positive action community grants, and hosting events such as this shows the ViiV Healthcare’s investment.  ViiV’s staff continues to impress me and I am truly thankful for all of their hard work.  Bill Collier, Head of North America; Marc Meachem, Head, External Affairs, and Ashley Mahoney, Manager of External Affairs always were available and willing to talk to anyone.  When available, they sat and visited with us and wanted to know what we though about everything. ViiV staff also wanted to know what they could do to better address those who are at risk or living with HIV.  IMG_2385

I really appreciated the opportunity to be apart of the 15th Community Summit.  I hope that I will be able to attend next year and take away more information and connections that will help my community better address and fight and HIV epidemic.