Posts Tagged ‘black voices’

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


Thomas shares the moment when he told his parents he was HIV+ and talks about what the year was like disclosing.

Sources: CDC Fact sheets (Understanding the continuum)

Adrian C


This year has been a big one for me. Firstly, in late march I learned my status as a positive person. A few months after, the caseworker that did my intake told me about the NMAC Youth Initiative. I applied and was awarded a scholarship to attend the conference in October. It was an amazing experience to be surrounded by like-minded, young, professionals and individuals. While at the conference I had the pleasure of meeting Thomas, Patrick, and Benjamin. It was an honor to be brought on board to ThePozLife. After I returned home I had many ideas and seeds to plant for my community. In late October I met with the executive director of the Valley AIDS Council, James Judkins, and a caseworker to discuss some ideas I had for our area. One of those being to launch a support group targeted to but not exclusively for HIV positive people in the Rio Grande Valley: VPOS, Valley Peer Outreach and Support. VPOS is one of my projects for 2015 and I am eager to get that up and running strong for the New Year. I created a Grindr and Jack’D profile to conduct my own outreach and to answer any questions my community might have regarding HIV and resources in the Valley. I started these profiles early November and have received a positive, no pun intended response from the men in my area that have approached me. Through these outlets, I’ve been able to reference some of these men to testing centers and provide basic and detailed knowledge of the virus. On World AIDS Day, December first, I had the pleasure of attending our local AIDS Memorial Quilt presentation at the University of Texas Pan American and met a few more members of the Valley AIDS Council. Who presented me with a job opportunity as a Risk Reduction Specialist where I would be conducting HIV and STI screenings, providing counseling to members of the community that reach out to us, and conducting outreach activities. I’ve applied for the position and have made it to the final round of interviewing; I am anticipating a decision sometime early January. In looking forward to 2015 I have also applied for a scholarship to attend AIDS Watch in DC and am waiting for a response. You can learn more about AIDS Watch here:
2014 has been such a roller coaster, sometimes difficult, but I’m happy to say that I not only survived, but thrived! I’m very excited to see what I can accomplish in 2015. Especially now with all that I’ve started and alongside the boys at ThePozLife.


Patrick participating in youth-led session at 2014 USCA


Reviewing the CDC’s HIV surveillance report for Texas in 2013.

USCA Youth Lounge

Hanging out in the Youth Lounge at 2014 USCA


AIDS Memorial Quilt at The University of Texas Pan American on World AIDS Day.

Thomas Davis

This year has been HUGE for me! I am truly grateful for every experience I’ve had. I started the year releasing my video of me “coming out” as HIV positive. I wasn’t sure what it would look like to be openly living with HIV but I knew it was something I wanted to do. After sharing my video I attended YGBLI summit in Atlanta and connected with Patrick Ingram and Adrian Hobson. I then got more involved with Aids Project Los Angeles and their young men’s group Empowerment. As the year progressed Empowerment changed to R3VNG, which stands for Reshaping 3 letters for the Voices of the Now Generation. In addition to changing the name APLA also provided funding for R3VNG to create a talk show focused around HIV education and other issues that surround gay men of color. Towards the end of the year I attended USCA in San Diego as a Youth Ambassador, which was an AMAZING experience! At USCA The POZ Life team expanded to get a wider range of representation. After returning I worked on a project with Reach LA where I choreographed a dance that told a story about the struggle between two people to deal with HIV being introduced into their relationship. It’s the first piece in what I hope will be a series of creations centered on living with HIV.  I was also picked by The Human Rights Campaign as a youth ambassador and will be involved with them until 2016. This past December I spoke at an event for World Aids Day at the New Testament Church here in L.A. For the past few weeks I’ve been prepping to speak at Time To Thrive in Oregon at the start of 2015. Most recently I was featured in Healthline’s Portrait of HIV. Outside of my involvement with HIV I’ve spent the last year teaching at Lula Washington Dance Theater and training/touring with the professional company in preparation for their 35th anniversary in 2015. This past month I also started touring with a company called The Lucent Dossier Experience and did a performance in Las Vegas.

Thomas and Patrick

Patrick and I at USCA


The boys of R3VNG

Thomas spirits Thomas

Benjamin Di’Costa: 


One year ago this month I made a resolution that 2014 I would go “All Out”. Since then almost everything in my life has changed.

A year ago I was okay with the normal daily routine in the organization I worked for. Now everyday when I wake up for work I find myself all over again and pursue my passion every day. A year ago I was content with my life. Now I’m living a meaningful life.   A year ago I wasn’t speaking out, let alone blogging. Now I’m proud to be apart of ThePozLife, as well as other endeavors.  A year ago I had few people reading my words (other than some vapid work emails). Now I have over 100,000 active followers, and my work have been read by over half-a-million people in 151 countries this year.

A year ago no one was interested in following me on Twitter or Facebook or Google+. Now I have over 10,000+ people who interact with me via those platforms.

A year ago my inspirations were Angelina Jolie, Laverne Cox, Pedro Zamora, Janet Mock, and others like them. And I’m still inspired by them. A year later I’ve been in meetings guys, been featured on international websites, and established organizational relationships with them and dozens of similar people who have helped shaped the lives of those living with HIV in meaningful way.

A year ago I hadn’t presented anything. Now I’ve presented 20 presentations: 5 abstracts, Facilitated 2 nationwide panel discussions, and featured on 3 magazine covers.

A year ago I had a spreadsheets full of goals, and I would beat myself up when I didn’t achieve those goals. Now I live with one goal at a time.

A year ago we strived to make everything perfect. Now we embrace the imperfection of my daily life.

A year ago I was a dorky guy living in South Florida. Now I’m given the opportunity to travel the country and meet young advocates like myself and collaborate with the most amazing people I’ve ever met. I’ve given away hundreds of free hugs on this tour so far.

A year ago there was a considerable amount of discontent in our lives. Now I’m happy, and when we I look in the rearview mirror everything is different.


I’m not trying to impress you with my “accomplishments.” Rather, I want to impress upon you the power of a year. As human beings, we often overestimate what we can accomplish in a short period of time (e.g., six-pack abs in two weeks), but we drastically underestimate what we can accomplish in a year or two.

Most of the above mentioned “accomplishments” weren’t goals I developed at the beginning of the year. They just happened, organically, as we worked hard to add value to other people’s lives. Thus, I’ve discovered that when we add value to other people’s lives, everything else tends to fall into place. The big life changes don’t happen overnight. Give yourself some time. Put in a lot of effort and keep at it. You’ll be surprised with what can happen in a year.


Patrick Ingram and Ryane Hill at the 4th Annual ADAP Leadership Awards


2014 has been a year of progression, beauty, success, and identity. This year started with trying to discover a way of growing PozLifeofPatrick to be faithful to my goals from my resolutions for 2014. After the Young Black Gay Men’s Leadership Initiative’s 2014 Policy and Advocacy Summit I discovered how that would look. PozLifeofPatrick took the necessary steps and evolved to ThePoz+Life.


“Sexy, smart and HIV+” exhibition in Zagreb, Croatia.

By bringing on the unique personalities and positive attributes of others living and affected by HIV we are now able to reach places we have not been before. At this year’s USCA we asked the tough questions, networked, educated people on what we do, and really worked alongside other young people to have our needs and issues addressed. At the ViiV Community Summit in Miami, FL we learned about the great community work ViiV Healthcare does, new information on advancements in the work to end the HIV epidemic, and the work that is taking place in our communities. We were apart of their 1st Youth Summit were we refined our leadership skills, fellowshipped with other great young leaders and influencers, and gained new collaborations which will start in 2015.

In 2015 we look forward to working alongside great organizations, projects and individuals who are ready to see the end of the HIV epidemic. Personally, I am very excited to have been able to represent the many Young Black Gay Men living with HIV through a variety many projects. They took the form of filming a commercial, interviews, magazine features, Op-Ed pieces, being apart of “Black Voices,” and even being featured in a photo exhibition aboard. This year has been full of challenges as I have continued to battle depression and PTSD, working full-time, being a full-time student, having people relying on me as a primary source of support, managing the newly formed ThePozLife, and trying to live my own personal life. Although there were many challenges trying to balance all of these responsibilities the rewards have been fruitful and the fact that I can touch and connect with people who are both HIV-Positive and HIV-Negative continues to speaks volumes.

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In 2015 I have a few request.

  • Let’s focus on not always bragging about what we do but instead give your platform to someone else for five minutes
  • Seek self-improvement and self-development
  • Give back through volunteering and donating to causes specific to one’s you are affected by
  • Stop being selfish and collaborate with others, also support social justice movements that realistically impact us all
  • Share the work of ThePozLife and always keep us in your prayers and thoughts

The most important piece of this all is to understand that regardless of how you feel or think that your voice and lived experiences does matter!


See you at NAESM in January!

Positivity is everything

As of 2013, AIDS has killed more than 36 million people worldwide (1981-2012), and an estimated 35.3 million people are living with HIV, making it one of the most important global public health issues in recorded history.So ThePoz+Life is calling for everyone to join us on November 29th at 1:00 PM EST via Google Hangout, YouTube, or for, ThePozLife: Nationwide Call to Action for World AIDS Day! For this to be successful we need you to share with your social networks, organizations and other news platforms.

The 2014 U.S. Conference on AIDS (USCA) Exit Disclaimer earlier this month was the largest HIV/AIDS-related gathering in the nation. During the conference, the team provided daily social media coverage Exit Disclaimer, policy updates, and technical assistance to conference participants in our social media lab.

Today, we bring you personal perspectives of the conference from Guy Anthony, Kahlib Barton, and Patrick Ingram: three bloggers from’s Black Voices Blog, a bimonthly blog series written by black, gay millennials affected by HIV/AIDS. Each is a community leader is his own right, and all of them are sharing their experiences of living with HIV by using new media to amplify their voices and touch the lives of those like them.

Guy Anthony


…we are moving in the right direction if we continue to advocate positioning ourselves at the table when it comes to issues that directly infect and affect us.”

For a USCA first-timer like me, being amongst so many passionate people, both infected and affected, was an indescribable feeling that I’ll never forget. USCA left me reeling with excitement to return to DC to “do the work.”I was incredibly inspired to hold everyone, including myself, accountable in the fight to eradicate this disease. Not just people providing direct services to clients, but agencies as a whole, executive directors, and policy-makers.

One of my favorite moments was the workshop titled “Black Gay Men: Where Are We Now? Where Do We Need to Be?” The references to black gay revolutionaries like Audre Lorde Exit Disclaimer, Essex Hemphill Exit Disclaimer, Marlon Riggs Exit Disclaimer were inspiring. I think, as a community, we are moving in the right direction if we continue to position ourselves at the table when it comes to issues that directly affect us. And what exactly does being represented at the “table” look like? A great example is Douglas Brooks, the Director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy; President Obama appointed him to that position earlier this year. Brooks is an HIV/AIDS activist, and a gay black man who is living with HIV. He leads the Administration’s work to reduce new HIV infections, improve health outcomes for people living with HIV, and eliminate HIV health disparities in the United States.

Overall, USCA 2014 was everything I thought it’d be. The dialogue at USCA was sincere and shared a common theme that black gay men need to start taking care of themselves, for themselves.

Kahlib Barton


I became inspired to advocate for those who are unable to do so for themselves, because so many people advocated for me when I didn’t think I could.”

USCA Exit Disclaimer, NMAC Exit Disclaimer, PrEP, PEP. Alphabet soup anyone? All of these acronyms were foreign to me about a month ago. But now I not only know what they mean, but I am inspired to learn more about HIV and how I can make a difference. Because of NMAC’s Youth Scholar program Exit Disclaimer, I was able to attend USCA for the first time this year, and it has changed my life.

Hearing personal experiences of others living with HIV, and meeting all the NMAC Youth Scholars with so many inspiring backgrounds, were my highlight moments of USCA. Meeting these inspiring individuals who were willing to help me navigate this unfamiliar world helped me to take advantage of this opportunity.

One story that particularly resonated with me was Lawrence Stallworth; he is young, the same age as I am, and has been living with the virus for as long as I have. But until I met him, the difference between us was that he did not allow his status to define him. Lawrence has already traveled across the country speaking about HIV awareness, and now serves on the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS.

At USCA, I became inspired to advocate for those who are unable to advocate for themselves, because so many of the people I met advocated for me when I didn’t think I could. Before USCA I was a shy, angst-ridden, 23-year-old man living with HIV. But I turned my shyness into sufficiency and my angst into assurance. Now I feel that I am empowered and ready to make a difference in my own community. I have now joined multiple councils and organizations to be sure that my voice is heard. Most important, I use my voice as my tool to combat stigma and raise awareness for all those suffering with, or because of, this disease.

Patrick Ingram

Patrick Ingram“As I continue to grow, I realize the impact of change that takes place when I speak up…”

I was thrilled to return to USCA this year as a member of both the NMAC Youth Scholars and the USCA Steering Committee. For me, USCA is a great opportunity to meet like-minded people who are dedicated to addressing HIV.

One highlight from my time at USCA was having the opportunity to visit the University of California at San Diego’s Center for AIDS Research (CEFAR) Exit Disclaimer with my fellow NMAC Youth Scholars. I was able to learn more about the amazing work being done in the field of HIV medications and vaccines research. Visiting CEFAR has encouraged me to continue to advocate for young, gay men of color to have access to biomedical research opportunities.

As I continue to grow, I realize the impact of change that takes place when I speak up and set my mind to the task at hand. USCA has shown me that sharing my experiences and using my voice are important, and I continue to do so on my personal blog and in my work at the Virginia Department of Health. USCA 2015 will be held in Washington DC, and I am interested in how government agencies and organizations that serve those affected by HIV will employ, listen, give opportunities to lead, and implement the ideas/strategies of youth.

Did you go to USCA 2014? Share your experience in the comments below. Read more from our Black Voices bloggers here.

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10575284_684433221634225_7606948107668887114_oThis December 1st, it will be three years since I learned about my positive HIV status. Since then, the journey hasn’t always been easy. I have experienced successes and challenges—but I am always learning. During my days of being newly diagnosed, dealing with mental illness, contemplating suicide, and, letting others stand in the way of my true happiness, kept me from being comfortable in my own skin. After countless visits with my therapist and having better support from those around me, I decided to start the process of disclosing my status through storytelling online. Despite my own difficulties, I have chosen to be open about my status and by using new media and public speaking, I believe I am helping to fight stigma. By showing people what it looks like to live with HIV, I am using my journey to amplify the voices of others like me. (This process may not work or be appropriate for everyone.)


While many people choose to keep their status private, my positive HIV status is something that I openly share. Telling people that I’m HIV-positive is not the hard part–I can simply send them a text or direct them to my blog Exit Disclaimer or YouTube channel Exit Disclaimer. The most difficult part for me is waiting for their response, because that’s the time I start second guessing if I should have revealed myself in the first place. But by speaking out, I have found who Patrick Ingram is. I am proud of him and I am proud of his journey.

The journey is not easy at all because having to deal with rejection and absurd reactions from others come with the territory. I face many uphill battles of having to explain what it is like living with HIV in today’s technological age to sexual partners, friends, colleagues, family members, and other loved ones. Disclosure for me is always tricky because there is never a perfect way of doing it. The easiest way for me is to share my blog or just pose a question like, “I am HIV-positive, is that an issue with you?”

The waiting game for a written, facial, or verbal response is always the most anxious part of the entire process for me. Some have questions and some block me on social media and never speak to me again. What I have learned that if someone is not comfortable being around me because of my HIV status, then they were not mature or worthy enough to really get a chance to know who Patrick is. My newly found confidence, love for myself, and growth as an individual has helped for me to continue to live openly.

The Power of Friendship

Having friends who love and support me has been an important part of my experience of living with HIV. My relationships have renewed my faith in the power of vulnerability; because I know those relationships would not have blossomed if I were not open and honest. Once I shared my fears, it was life changing to be able to place my trust in friends who did not change the way they interacted with me. In fact, having my best friend, Davia, say she loved me and that she would be my biggest cheerleader helped me get my life back on track. It’s wonderful to be able to be who you are. My friends remind me that I am not alone. With them, I can speak freely and feel a sense of normalcy–and I know they are on my side.

A Guiding Hand

Experience has taught me that having a guiding hand is valuable not only for my own journey, but also for addressing the challenges that the Black LGBTQ community faces. I am fortunate to have many inspirational mentors in my life–from a very good friend who helps me to reflect on my experiences, to an elder letting me cry on his shoulder and vent my frustrations. Prior to becoming HIV positive, I had one mentor, Calvin who constantly checked on me and empowered me to be the best person I can be. He was one of the first people to know my positive status on December 1st (World AIDS Day) and continues to keep in touch with me to ensure that I am taking care to ensure I take the necessary steps to keep the virus in check. Calvin and my other awesome mentors in my life are amazing in ensuring the journey is less of a struggle than a hardship.

I have also recognized that the work of organizations such as the Young Black Gay Leadership, the National Minority AIDS Council’s Exit Disclaimer Youth Initiative to End HIV/ AIDS in America, National Youth HIV&AIDS Awareness Day Exit Disclaimer, and individuals in communities have provided a lot of support to gender and sexual minorities of color. For example, the Elite Project in Birmingham, Alabama Exit Disclaimer is a safe drop-in center for the LGBTQ community in an otherwise conservative southern city. This center provides prevention services, entertainment, intellectual conversations, professional and personal development, and–most important–a place to be one’s true self. Centers such as the Elite Project are needed in every community across our nation to provide the same support, friendship, and mentorship that has helped me get through.

Taking the time to reflect on my journey since learning of my status is an important part of my experience living with HIV. Over the last three years, I have learned a great deal about myself and about living with HIV. Disclosing my HIV status has been difficult at times, but the support of friends, family, and the community has been very valuable in my journey.

I hope my reflections and story can inspire others to support people they know who are living with HIV and, for those with HIV to remember that they are not alone. For now, my goals are to: continue my daily work to educate others; break down the stigma by speaking out; serve as a resource for people who are newly diagnosed; educate myself more on issues that affect the Black community; and continue to seek self-improvement.

For the original piece on click here

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Last month, the White House Office of National AIDS Policy hosted the much-anticipated meeting on HIV in the Southern United States. Federal stakeholders, policy makers, national and regional venton-e1396560969818advocates were in attendance to outline the current state of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the South and identify solutions for reducing the impact of HIV in this region of the United States. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the South has the highest number of people who are becoming infected and the majority of the people who are living with HIV in the South are people of color. During this important meeting, I had the opportunity to share my perspective as a person from the South living with HIV and also share recommendations for addressing the existing challenges around eradicating HIV in the South.

I am originally from Dallas, Texas. I grew up with a passion for health care as most of my family were involved in various aspects of health-care service and delivery. After obtaining my Bachelor of Science in Community Health from Texas A&M University in 2006, I moved back to my hometown to start my career in public health. I then completed my Master of Science in Healthcare Administration. My primary area of interest was health disparities and understanding its impact within communities of color. This led me towards an interest in HIV/AIDS and its disproportionate impact on Black gay men and men of other races who have sex with men (MSM). Early on in my career, I realized the stigma and fear that was associated around addressing the needs of this population.

During my time in Dallas, I was involved with a number of local and state-level HIV groups, including the Texas HIV/STD Community Planning Group. One of my first jobs in HIV prevention was working with United Black Ellument Exit Disclaimer. This project, funded by the University of California’s Center for AIDS Prevention Studies, aimed to adapt the Mpowerment HIV prevention Exit Disclaimer intervention for young, Black, gay and bi-sexual men, between the ages of 18-29. Throughout my work, a major challenge I faced while living in the South was around getting health systems to understand the unique social and structural challenges that act as barriers to effective HIV prevention, care and treatment efforts within populations of Black gay men and other MSM. These include, but are not limited to: racism, homophobia, lack of culturally competent service delivery and a lack of Black gay men in leadership positions throughout the community, HIV/AIDS organizations and government.

This part of the country is directly in the cross-hairs of challenges that persistently contribute to increased HIV infection rates and low rates of viral suppression. I believe in order to get the HIV/AIDS epidemic under control in the United States and ultimately, to move to an AIDS-free generation, we must continue our intentional focus on the issues facing Black MSM.

How are you focusing your efforts on those issue facing Black MSM? People in the South?

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June 27th is National HIV Testing Day (NHTD) and the theme for this year is “Take the Test. Take Control”. In recognition of this observance day, our Black Voices series bloggers answer the question why NHTD is important to them and what is one thing people (or organizations) can do to promote NHTD. Here is what they said:

Why is National HIV Testing Day important to you?

“This month marks my 7th year of living with HIV. I found out I was HIV positive on June 7, 2007 after receiving a positive diagnosis during an attempt to enlist into the United States Army. After I found out I was devastated, but also determined to survive and THRIVE. In order to do this, I knew I needed to manage my HIV and take control of my health. Taking this HIV test was the first step to making sure I remained healthy. Seven years later, I am still healthy with my HIV undetectable.” –Venton

“National HIV Testing Day is important to me because it’s a day that reaffirms the value of routine testing. It reopens the conversation about sexual health and risk to people in communities where either the conversation has fallen off or never been had. National HIV Testing Day becomes a marker, in the year, for many who might not otherwise engage in this type of dialogue.” – Ken

“National HIV Testing Day is important to me because it is an opportunity to know your status. With taking the test, and whatever the test results, you can take the necessary steps to educate yourself on HIV. If you are negative you can take the steps to remain negative (i.e. harm-reduction techniques and PrEP), and if you are positive you can get linked to care (with the goal of viral suppression). The day is also a perfect day to educate others on HIV and really let the community know that this is still an issue we are dealing with.” –Patrick

“NHTD is important because it provides an opportunity to put a face and voice on what HIV looks and sounds like. It’s an opportunity to continue an important conversation about our individual and collective health and wellness and the important work of eradicating stigma.” –Meico

“This day is a national coordinated effort to encourage Americans to get tested for HIV. It gives me a chance to speak with my friends and loved ones about HIV. Additionally, it allows me to support AIDS service organizations in promoting the day and amplifying their messages online.”-Anthony

What is one thing people (or organizations) can do to promote National HIV Testing Day?

“We’re all impacted (directly or indirectly) by HIV. You can help promote NHTD by sharing your story. As appropriate, send a text to your best friend. Call your mom. Chat-up one of your co-workers. Wondering how to start the conversation? Check out these great conversation starters from the CDC.” -Meico

“People and organizations can use social media and their networks to have a conversation about HIV. Ask friends, family, and colleagues if they know their HIV status and help them find a place they can get tested (using the website or application of course).” -Patrick

“Social media has been a great tool to help spread the word about the importance of National HIV Testing Day. So many people still do not know their status and it is important for people to be aware and informed about the steps they need to take in order to stay negative or, if positive, to get into care.” -Venton

“Participate. Participate. Participate. National HIV Testing Day for me is about the grassroots process of getting the education out to those who need it. You can also set the example by taking a test and sharing your experience with family members, the faith community and colleagues. It’s really about asking yourself: ‘how can I keep the conversation going?’ ” -Ken

What’s one thing you’re doing to promote National HIV Testing Day?

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

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


Black Voices: From The Community, For The Community

I am so excited to be teaming up with other amazing young men through AIDS.GOV.  This series which focuses on “Community,” is here and I am so excited to see the next blog posts!