Posts Tagged ‘blog.aids.gov’

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 AIDS.gov 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 AIDS.gov’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

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…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

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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.

– See more at: http://blog.aids.gov/2014/10/usca-2014-reflections-of-3-black-voices-bloggers.html#sthash.gRSS3cMJ.dpuf

BLACK VOICES: HAVING (AND USING) MY VOICE TO ADDRESS STIGMA

 

Patrick IngramMy name is Patrick, I am a gay man of color, and I currently reside in Fredericksburg, Virginia. I was diagnosed with HIV at a health department in Virginia on December 1, 2011, which happened to be World AIDS Day.

Turning my life into my life’s mission

From the moment I tested positive, I have dealt with stigma and discrimination. I dealt with friends saying they wanted nothing to do with me because of my new status.  A person who I thought was my best friend said he would be there for me when I disclosed to him. That was not the case as he began to no-show on events, activities, or previous plans to spend time together.  This made me feel unwanted and pretty much like I was transformed from a best friend to a stranger in just a 72-hour period. I turned to Facebook and YouTube to learn more about HIV and find someone to talk to, but couldn’t find someone I identified with. There seemed to be a lack of HIV-positive young people of color talking about what it’s like to live with the virus, so I started my blog, PozLifeofPatrick Exit Disclaimer. I use this site to journal my life living with HIV and address other topics related to HIV, like stigma, disclosure, and dating.

In addition to my website, I am the Testing Coordinator at the rural community-based organization, Fredricksburg Area HIV/AIDS Support Services (FAHASS) Exit Disclaimer. Through my blog, work in prevention, and advocacy I hope to reach as many people as I can to bring more focus on HIV.

 It’s so important that we have a voice.

 Stigma and rural communities

When I started at FAHASS, I was briefed on the challenges I might face trying to recruit, educate, and provide prevention services like testing to the Black community in rural Virginia. But nothing could prepare me for the reality which was how people would react to me when they found out I was HIV+. “You don’t look sick,” was something I heard a lot. Staff working for years tell me that HIV-related stigma stops so many people, particularly in rural communities, from utilizing our services because so many people that test positive in our community don’t end up successfully linking to care.

I continue to hear that stigma prevents people from testing, disclosing their status or testing frequency, coming into our agency for prevention tools like condoms, or going to the doctor and asking for a prescription for Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) or Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP). Also, I’ve seen how stigma can prevent individuals who are either lost to care or newly diagnosed from being successfully linked to and remaining in care.

Engaging the community where they are

We work hard to educate and empower our Black community about HIV through outreaching to local colleges, community based organizations that serve our target populations, churches, and local health fairs. We have continued to work with the community through our Community Advisory Boards, asking clients for suggestions to better our services, coming up with additional opportunities to test, and working to engage and involve more young people of color. We have a mobile testing vehicle that we can use to reach more people in our service.

 Having (and using) my voice

In my time at FAHASS I have tested and educated many young black same gender-loving men. Through our outreach and testing efforts we have tested more people who ended up being HIV positive, the majority are people like me, men under the age of 25.

As a person living with HIV, I talk to providers on what it’s really like to live with the HIV and help debunk myths or misconceptions, including information about PrEP and PEP. I also work with the providers about how to effectively work with the LGBTQ, HIV-positive, youth, Black, and Hispanic communities to provide them with the tools to meet them where they are at on a more personal level by sharing my story through my blog and videos. Because I am a part of this community, I can help normalize HIV and equip people with the knowledge to help prevent new HIV infections and get people into care.

By being so open about my status, I’ve been able to establish “roots”. Like roots on a tree, I have a strong system network of friends. Friends they now stand up for me. Friends that support me. Together we fight stigma. And they give me strength to share my voice and share my story.

We all have a voice and something to share. Will you stand alongside me? Will you share your voice? Will you help me to be part of the solution?

This article was originally from Blog.AIDS.Gov