Posts Tagged ‘african-american’

 

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Nova Salud put on another amazing event as myself and other individuals who are affected by HIV took time out of their schedules to model amazing clothes by Juan Jose Saenz-Ferreyros and his line Ferreyros Couture Company.  Thank you all who came out to give back to Nova Salud as they continue to provide excellent services to the Northern Virginia region.  Also, a huge thank you for all the sponsors and O Mansion for making this event happen.    

 

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For more information on Nova Salud click here.  

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A year and a half ago I was diagnosed with HIV. As the year progressed I started disclosing my status to my friends, family, and of course my sexual partners. There was always the initial shock from everyone when I would disclose my HIV status. They would gasp, clutch their pearls, and scratch their heads, because for some reason they could not wrap their head around the fact that I was HIV positive.

My sex life did not change. The only thing that was different was that I would disclose my status to my sexual partners. I put my status on my Jack’d account and made sure people read my profile and just to be safe I would bring up the subject before things got to an intimate setting. To this day, I still have yet to have someone tell me that there was a lack of interest based on my status. In fact, most guys seem okay with the fact that I am positive. I am happy to experience this, but it definitely is never the reaction I expect. One thing I started to hear a lot was “Well it’s okay you don’t even look positive,”….ummmmm excuse me?

I’m not sure what people expected to see. Maybe they thought I would look “sick” or tired or beat up and miserable from finding out my status. Instead of being offended by what they said, I wanted to know why they did not think I looked positive. I would ask them: what does “sick” look like? If I take care of myself, why should I look tired or beat up? What does HIV look like? Have you EVER been able to tell by looking at someone? No one had answers for me but it was clear that to them I, “Just don’t LOOK HIV positive.”

HIV is a virus. It is INSIDE you. It is not something you can see. You cannot tell who has HIV just by looking at them. Having HIV does not make you “sick”. The ONLY way you can know your status and your partner’s status is to BE TESTED. That’s it. You can’t see, smell, or feel it.

  • I am a 22
  • I am HIV positive
  • I am African American
  • I am Latino
  • I am a man who has sex with other men
  • I am part of the demographic that is most affected by HIV
  • We are the ones with the most newly diagnosed cases
  • We are the ones that seem to be shocking the nation with the outstanding numbers of just how many of us are acquiring this virus.

Therefore, the notion that I do not “look” HIV positive is FALSE. Currently, I am what HIV looks like. 

 

 

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IN THE GROUNDBREAKING documentary “Paris Is Burning,” Dorien Corey states, “Shade is I don’t tell you you’re ugly but I don’t have to tell you because you know you’re ugly. And that’s shade…” I often see LGBTQ people tearing each other down.

With all this shade being thrown around, we need to pause to ask questions. Is it necessary? Why do we do this? What is the balance between fun and harm? Why does a community that is already fighting for so many things battle each other?

While shade can be viewed as a form of banter, it can often be taken to the point where it impacts an individual’s mental and social development and outlook on a particular community. I have many times found myself on the negative side of shade. Growing up, I felt alienated from my peers and family because of my sexual orientation, and I felt alienated from a community where being different is supposed to be celebrated, not debased. I quickly found myself feeling more alone than I had before coming out.

At that point in my life, I didn’t feel comfortable within the African American gay community (and truthfully, I still don’t at times) because that is where most of my negative experiences have occurred. As a result, I developed a distrust and found myself feeling alone, not good enough, and like I didn’t meet some sort of gay black standard of acceptance. This led to depression, self-harm, and feelings of being unworthy of love and friendship. I felt betrayed, not only by my family and society, but by a community who I thought would accept differences. Not only did I not have the family support I desired, but I also didn’t have a group of non-judgmental, young African American gay males that I could turn to for support.

In my opinion, shade is often the result of someone being jealous or self-conscious about their shortcomings. I too am guilty of throwing shade; usually it’s because I see a characteristic in someone else that I wish I possessed. For example, when I would see people who were not afraid to be themselves no matter what others thought, I would get jealous. I was not yet at that place in my life, so I would quickly pass judgment or talk about them. Secretly I wished I was that confident to be who Adrian really was.

Talking about someone without money for certain shoes or making fun of someone who happens to sleep with many people is exactly what we shouldn’t be doing. We may find it to be a joke or think of it as innocent fun, but we don’t know the person’s whole story, what their struggles are, and how our “shade” will affect them.

When I have pointed out that maybe the person has been though a deeply traumatic experience, many have responded,“Well, I have had traumatic things happen to me and I got over it.” I think it is important to understand that not everyone is emotionally or mentally strong enough to just “get over it.” Either way, this type of shade is not healthy for our LGBTQ brother or sister– and it is not healthy for our LGBTQ community.

With the growing rate of suicides, bullying, and HIV infections, it is time for us to collectively rise above all this. As we move forward, I implore each person to ask yourself: Am I helping to build up the community or am I still stuck within the narrow confines of my own individualistic concerns?

-Adrian Neil-Hobson

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This year The Red Door Foundation will host an exciting symposium planned that includes different activities involving presenters from various interdisciplinary fields, including HIV/AIDS and STD fields on both local and national levels. Speakers include:  Dr. Mitchell Wharton (University of Rochester), Daniel D. Driffin (University of Connecticut), Michelle Allen (Georgia Department of Public Health), Dr. Leo Moore (Yale University School of Medicine), DaShawn Usher (New York Blood Center- Project ACHIEVE), Jonathan Paul Lucas (FHI360), Noël Gordon (Human Rights Campaign), Anthony Roberts, Jr. (ARJR, LLC), Justin Tyson (The Academia Society, Incorporated), Steven Martinez (AVAC), Dr. Shanell McGoy (Tennessee Department of Health), Marvell L. Terry, II (The Red Door Foundation, Inc.)  and Blake Rowley (National Association of State and Territorial AIDS Directors).  To see a complete list of confirmed speakers and their bios, click here.

Thursday, June 5 and Friday, June 6 will be the Black Gay Men’s Technical Assistance Meeting. The technical assistance workshops is designed for traditional and non-traditional stakeholders working with Black Gay Men in a effort to improve their overall health outcomes.  Workshops include topics such as Culture Sensitivity, Faith & Black Gay Men, Bio-medical Prevention,  Mental Health, Exploring Sub-cultures and Building Rapport with Black Gay Men, to name a few. 

  Plenary discussions during the 2014 Saving Ourselves Symposium will be hosted by Young Black Gay Men’s Leadership InitiativeAVACIntimacy & Colour and Gilead Pharmaceuticals.

SpeakOut will be the topic for the Twitter Town Hall Meeting on Friday night, June 6, 2014.  SpeakOut will convey the need for black gay/bi-sexual and same gender loving men to speak out about their relationships, their health and for their communities in the South.  This discussion will be interactive by using #SpeakOut on twitter.

  Saturday morning will involve community level workshops on topics such as PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis), Finance Management, Interpersonal Relationships, Spirituality and Sexuality,  Self-Care, Social Media Activism  and Leading with Passion.

Sponsors for the 2014 Saving Ourselves Symposium are Southland Park Gaming and RacingTennessee AETC, James Anderson Lester, King Rose Consulting, Positively AwareWellsConsultingFamily Safety Center,  and the Human Rights Campaign. Sponsorship opportunities and vendor space is still available. Contact trdfmemphis@gmail.com to request information.

 

Deadline to book rooms at the host hotel under the conference rate of $91.00 is Friday, May 16, 2014.  For Lodging/ Venue, Registration and Theme Information visit www.trdfmemphis.com.  

 Credit to original news source: HIVmemphis.org

 
Image  April second through the fourth saw 55 young black men from across the nation to meet in Atlanta, Georgia for the YBGLI’s second Policy and Advocacy Summit. When I confirmed to my parents that I was gay so many years ago they warned me that my life would be very difficult, and that it would be full of barriers that would require me to be the very best in everything that I do. This belief stayed within and made me believe until more recently that if I was not perfect or the best in whatever I was attempting then there was no reason trying to pursue.

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  While on my flight heading to Atlanta so many thoughts were running through my head. I really wanted to work hard to learn as much as possible and network. I am not going to lie when I felt as if the summit would be the same as any other conference, which would be information overload and maybe some opportunities to network. We all met downstairs to talk and network before walking over to the location we had our first session waiting for us. It was a great opportunity because it was a happy hour. This allowed us to begin the process to truly get to know each other. It was truly great to see old friends but have the ability to start the process of making new ones. Our first night had us at The Evolution Project. The Evolution Project is a drop-in community center for young black gay/bisexual men and transgender individuals between 18 and 28 years of age. There we got an overview of the drop-in center, listened to representatives of AID Atlanta and the state health department, and got to hear from Jose R. Rodriguez-Diaz who is the CEO of AID Atlanta. We then received a presentation on the Affordable Care Act and then had a private screening of Blackbird by Patrik-Ian Polk.

  Throughout the next day and a half we discussed health disparities, policy, advocacy, HIV prevention among Young Black Men Who Have Sex with Men (YBMSM), research, leadership, Feminism and its importance to Black Gay Men, and personal development & personal branding. The always-fantastic Testing Makes Us Stronger Team gave a presentation on their program to us before the Twitter Town Hall that will forever remain one of the most interesting experiences of my life.

On the final day, we had two very special events and both of them I will cherish for the rest of my life. We had the pleasure of having Dr. Theo Hodge, whom is a provider in DC, yet shared his story about his experiences in the district during the AIDS epidemic. Hearing him tell the stories of having clients taking HIV medications in the handfuls, the effects of AZT that were physically noticeable, and more importantly reviewing the timeline of then to here. The recording of the presentation needs to happen so it has the opportunity to play for every Young Black Gay Man (heck everyone) who is not familiar with the history of HIV. Our group truly enjoyed his charisma and his ability to convey such a serious story in a way to continue to engage us throughout our time together. Finally, the last session of the summit was one where Dr. David Malebranche, Dr. Sheldon D. Fields, Robert Miller, and Mr. Bernard Owens each gave us their stories and additional encouragement. I cannot tell you how much I saw the future me in these men. Each of them made me feel so comfortable I was able to break down my walls of protection and cry on their shoulders. I finally was able to let out my internalized stress and express my frustrations in a space where I felt as if I did not have to be either politically correct or forced to give some bullshit pageant reply like “I just want world piece.” It is truly a blessing to be in this position; however, it sometimes makes me feel extra diligent to stay on my Ps and Qs (even if that means saving those conversations for ‘kitchen table talk’). Immediately they offered their experiences and friendships and I am happy to say that post YGBLI’s Policy and Advocacy Summit we are still in contact and their words and perspectives have been invaluable. Having this opportunity would have been very difficult to achieve outside of this space.

This summit was definitely a success and far exceeded my expectations. The participants were very diverse and came from different geographical areas and professional (not just HIV). Topics were set but we had the ability to truly dissect what we were discussing, even if it transitioned off-topic for a bit. Having the ability to speak to representatives of our government agencies (CDC, HRSA, SAMHSA, and the Georgia Department of Public Health) gave us the ability to voice our concerns, thoughts, and ideas. The lack of job vacancies/internships and leadership positions, slow approval times for marketing materials, lack of funding to rural and other low socioeconomic communities that are seeing a rise in HIV, lack of cultural competency, and a vast array of others issues that were mentioned during this time period. I concern I had was that many of the representatives on the panel were white and only two members participating were Black. This is a perfect reminder that we need to have more opportunities to have Young Black Men Who Have Sex with Men (to include those who are HIV-positive) to fill these seats in the future to ensure that decisions made for us are created by and come from us. A huge shout-out though goes to Mr. Harold Phillips of HRSA who saw a need to address our questions due to the lack of time/ability of those reps on the panel to answer them. He graciously volunteered his own time to say back lack from 12am-1am to answer any of the questions he could. During this time, our awesome Organizing Committee Members took who concerns down and later brought them up with Douglas Brooks, the New Director Imageof the Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP). Feeling as if we had a voice was very empowering. Having that experience has and will continue to ensure engage my government on concerning issues.

The Policy and Advocacy Summit allowed for the formation of new relationships and partnership .It was like a beginning of a new brotherhood. From my end, there were phenomenal conversations and I cannot wait to announce fantastic news in the coming weeks! Addressing surviving as an YBMSM professional, leadership, and more importantly branding made me look at myself and analyze ways I can still to this day continue to seek self-improvement. This summit created a space where we could exchange stories, ideas, experiences, and more importantly continued support for one another. To this day, I am still in contact with many of my new friends and colleagues as we check in or support each other through the struggles of being an YBMSM in a society that has serious issues accepting us as social norms.

Coming to a close of the summit Daniel Driffin, Chair of the Organizing Committee for YBGLI said something that we all took back to our homes, careers, and everyday lives. This was that our voice does matter, no matter where we were, no matter how hard the struggle was, and no matter how muchImage we felt like our voices were unheard. This can seem very frustrating at jobs or ASOs where our advice or knowledge isn’t used; we continue to be disenfranchised; we deal with disrespect or ignorance from Cisgender white men (even gay) who do not truly understand the struggles and barriers of being a young Black Man who loves Men. These men still face a huge war within our own communities, to include mainstream society. His words really were soothing and helped to bury anger and resentment I had from some of those situations. In the end, I truly hope that this summit continues and wish that many more could take place across the country. If we can get more YBMSMs to go through a program like this, our community would see an increase in advocacy, activism, enlightenment, and progression toward more solidarity.

 

A very special thank you goes out to NGBMAC, NASTAD, The City of Atlanta, AID Atlanta, The Evolution Project, Testing Makes Us Stronger, Sphere Lab, The Red Door Foundation, Inc., AIDS.gov, Gilead, San Francisco AIDS Foundation, Georgia Department of Health, Impulse Group, AHF, Hudson Grille, Patrik-Ian Polk, HRC, Broadway Cares, Levi Strauss Foundation, Renaissance Atlanta Midtown Hotel, Summit Faculty, OC Members, and more importantly the participants for making this event happen.  For more information check out www.ybgli.org

Check out my new series that discusses HIV in rural communities. I interview individuals who are actually on the ground leading the fight against this growing epidemic in rural Virginia. Please share and spread the word!

Black Voices: Having (and Using) My Voice To Address Stigma

Check out my newest article with Aids.gov!  So excited to be able to have a platform to get the word out.

Ebony.com The Real Faces of HIV

I was featured in a piece by ebony.com titled “The Real Faces of HIV.  Myself and other friends I work were involved in the project and it is exciting seeing more African-American news articles bringing more focus to HIV on National Black HIV&AIDS Awareness Day.  

The following blog entry was from my blog on TheBody.com

Now officially into my second year living with HIV I take time on World AIDS Day, the day I was told I was HIV positive, to reflect on still being here to see another year.

I will never forget noticing how much weight I lost, the thrush alongside my tongue that I scraped off due to denial, and that cough I ignored. I had always seen myself as invincible or perfect, and never able to be infected or at all affected by anything like HIV.

Finding the strength I decided to pick up blogging and soon after did my first YouTube video, titled “How I Found Out I Was HIV Positive,” where I talked about my lack of knowledge and concern that I had for the virus. My feelings of perfection and misunderstanding as a young gay man at great risk to contracting HIV led me into an abusive relationship with a cheater. Also, I had no idea just how vulnerable I really was to a virus that affects so many individuals worldwide. At that time those things were the most I was ready to discuss.

Now two years later, with boundless therapy, discovering and loving who Patrick is, and focusing on my dreams and goals, I am no longer afraid of what others think. You see, the reality of my situation is that I was also taken advantage of against my will. That very well could be the reason I have HIV. What people who are blinded by stigma don’t realize is that many infected with HIV are forced to have sex against their will: fooled by one’s thought of a monogamous relationship; having unprotected sex to be able to survive on the streets after being kicked out of their home; or in an abuse relationship that has no room for negotiation of condom use.

While many people have unprotected consensual sex, many of those who did not have a choice are forgotten and called words from lips I would never kiss my own mother with. People who are sexually assaulted like me are forgotten about and placed under the description of “over-sexualized homosexual.” I strive very hard to break that thought process. The reality of the situation is that it does not matter how one was infected with HIV but what they are doing to take control of the situation and better their lives.

 The majority of individuals who reach out to me and are newly diagnosed with HIV fear so much of how the world will view them. I have spent energy and love showing these people who took the time to reach out to me after reading my blog and watching my videos to encourage and empower them to focus on themselves. We as individuals living with a currently lifelong condition first have to place all other outside influences and distractions aside and take the time to focus on healing ourselves physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Too many times have I found out that friends have gone off medication and have given up, simply due to listening to someone’s conspiracy theory surrounding HIV and how it is not real. So many times have I received an email in the middle of the night from a parent who is desperate for help because their child has been either exposed or harassed over social media because their HIV status was leaked for one’s sick enjoyment. We people living with HIV need to take the necessary time to focus on building back up our confidence and our armor that protects us from the stupidity of stigma so that we can be strong enough to show people that living with this virus does not define who we are or what we may have done in our pasts, but what we are doing to stay empowered, adherent to our medications, and reaching our goals of having an undetectable viral load and a fabulous quality of life.

On this World AIDS Day 2013, I acknowledge that work still has to be done with me. I will create new goals that will ensure that I will have continued success with having a suppressed viral load. Also, I will challenge myself by moving forward with my work to reduce stigma, educate those who simply need more knowledge, and encourage those affected to stay in the winning war against HIV.

Patrick is a gay African-American male who is living with HIV. Patrick was diagnosed December 1, 2011 (World AIDS Day). Never the kind of individual to accept defeat, he has worked hard to spread awareness, education, resources and support to his community.