Posts Tagged ‘health’

“She grabbed me in her arms, put me in her arms, and whispered in my ear ‘we will get through this’ to hear those words by my mother were like…it was the most amazing moment in life.”

Adrian Neil Jr. Shares his heart warming story about when he was first diagnosed.



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Catharsis: A World AIDS Day Event

Date: Monday, November 30, 2015

I am Thomas John Davis an NMAC Youth Scholar

To kick off World AIDS Day I am collaborating with The Lula Washington Dance Theater with an event entitled “Catharsis”. The goal of this event is to raise awareness around HIV & AIDS by using performance art as the ice breaker to start conversations between parents, youth, artists, and advocates about disclosure, support, getting tested, and what living with HIV is like. The event will feature professional dancers and testimonies from people living with HIV as well as their allies.

Target Audience and Importance

The doors are open to everyone but the focused group is Parents and their children. I’ve chosen to focus on these two groups in particular because that’s where the information needs to start to make a change in how we talk about HIV when it comes to prevention. Children follow what their parents know weather they are aware of it or not. To lower stigma and increase the flow of valid information into a child’s life we have to also give parents the information so they are informed and up-to-date. By having youth attend with their families we are giving them an opportunity to ask questions about what they saw and to give them information that may be updated from what their parents know. This way the child and parent are getting information together.


The agenda for the evening

The event will start out with a quick “what do you know about HIV?” to figure out where the audience stands. This is meant to be a brief but informative section that will transition into the first performance. The first piece is about the challenges two friends face when one of them discloses that he is HIV+. This piece will be followed by a testimony from an ally who saw a family member pass away from HIV related complications. The second piece is about a patient going to the clinic to get their labs drawn for the first time. This piece is followed by a testimony from Thomas Davis and what it was like to be told that he was HIV+ and what he did from there. The final piece is a duet followed by a testimony from a sero-discordant couple and how they navigate their relationship where HIV is concerned. After each testimony/story questions and conversations are encouraged.


Why dance?

When it comes to talking about HIV we tend to find the same conversations happening over and over again and as necessary as these conversations are we need to find more innovative and engaging ways of presenting them. Using dance as a way to communicate and tell a story is a great way to educate and inspire people. You are able to escape the idea that everything you say needs to be “Politically Correct”. It’s a way for the audience to experience a story rather then having one talked at them. To show this one of the pieces being shown is filmed below. This is a story of the struggles a couple goes through when HIV is introduced into their relationship. This piece is about the anxieties of the waiting room and was used to start conversations about testing, doctors visits, support, and dating. Do you go and get tested with your partner? When was the last time you two talked about your sexual health to each other? If one of you was positive would the other stay? All these questions and many more are asked in the heads of these two individuals as they wait.

The Long Wait

Choreographed by: Thomas Davis



“I deal with stigma by speaking out about my experiences and being open to any questions people have about HIV even if it is no one else’s business. If a question or statement comes out offensive, I breathe first and try to hear where they are coming from before I respond. Stigma will only die off when we start listening and understanding exactly what it is that people are scared of.”

Check out the original piece here.



Earlier this year Thomas, Adrian, and I had the opportunity to attend the Young Black Gay Men’s Leadership Initiative’s Policy & Advocacy Summit in Atlanta.  I can tell you this is going to be bigger and better!  If you are 18-29 years old and identify as  a Black gay, bisexual, same gender loving, or as a man who has sex with men then apply.  Below is the press release with additional answers to some frequent questions.  You can reach the application here.  Please share with your networks and get the word out to ensure people have the ability to apply.  Applications are open until January 5 at  5:00pm EST.  

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The Young Black Gay Men’s Leadership Initiative (YBGLI) is excited to announce its third Policy & Advocacy Summit (PAS). The PAS will bring together young Black gay, bisexual, and same gender loving men from various parts of the United States in order to help them become better advocates and leaders within their communities.

Applicants are selected based on a proven track of individual leadership, community mobilization and/or ability to conduct grassroots organizing at the local, state, and/or regional level. The PAS will include various policy, advocacy, and mobilization -based workshops that are designed to encourage activism through new media and ongoing engagement with the community.

If you – or someone you know – would be a good fit for the 2015 PAS, please complete this application. Summit applicants are due Monday, January 5, 2015, 5:00 p.m. EST.  Applicants will be notified of their application status by email no later than Monday, January 26, 2015.

2015 Policy & Advocacy Summit Application

FAQ’s about the 2015 Policy & Advocacy Summit

1.) What is the Policy & Advocacy Summit (PAS)?

The PAS aims to build capacity and promote leadership among young Black gay, bisexual, and same gender loving men in order to help them become better advocates and leaders within their community. The PAS will include various policy, advocacy, and mobilization -based workshops that are designed to encourage activism through new media and ongoing engagement with the community.

2.) Who is eligible to apply/attend the 2015 PAS?

Eligible applicants are U.S. citizens between the ages of 18 – 29 years who are

  1. African American/Black, and identify as
  2.  Gay, bisexual, same gender loving, or as a man who has sex with men.

3.) How does the application process work? 

The application is available at All applicants are required to submit an application that includes submission of a resume/CV. No application will be considered complete without a resume or CV. The deadline to submit your application is Monday, January 5, 2015 5:00 p.m. EST. All selected applicants will be notified of their status by email no later than Monday, January 26, 2015.

4.) What is expected of my participation in the PAS?

Selected applicants are expected to participate in a pre-conference webinar shortly after being selected for the Summit. Webinar information will be included in acceptance package.  Additionally, selected applicants are expected to participate fully during all PAS-related activities and to demonstrate excellent judgment and character while at the PAS.

5.) What is the cost to attend the PAS?

There is no cost associated with attending the 2015 PAS. However, please let us know if your employer/organization would be willing to subsidize your participation in the PAS through financial or other in-kind donations. This will allow us to finance more participants. Please note this information will NOT help or hurt your application, as the 2015 PAS selection process is double-blind.

6.) What should I wear/bring to the PAS?

Participants are expected to dress in business attire throughout the 2015 PAS. Participants who choose not to dress in business casual attire may be asked not to participate in PAS-related activities and/or asked to leave the PAS entirely. Participants will be encouraged to use their cellphones, tablets, and/or laptops throughout the PAS in order to utilize social and digital media. However, YBGLI is not responsible for any lost or stolen items.

7.) What will I learn/do at the summit?

Among other things, 2015 PAS participants will…

  • Network with other young Black gay, bisexual, and same gender loving men from across the United States.
  • Develop policy, advocacy, and interpersonal communication skills through workshops and institutes.
  • Learn about issues affecting young Black gay, bisexual, and same gender loving men from respected experts in a diversity of fields, including health, research, policy, advocacy, community mobilization, and communications.
  • Have fun!

8.) How many participants will attend the summit?

The 2015 PAS will bring together up to 60 participants from across the United States.

9.) Are transgender or gender non-conforming men eligible to participate in the 2015 PAS?

Yes, the PAS is open to transgender men and gender non-conforming men.

10.) Who should I contact if I have more questions about the 2014 PAS summit?

Contact the YBGLI Organizing Committee at for summit related questions and to inquire about sponsorship opportunities.

11.) What is the location and date of the 2015 PAS?

The location and date will be included in the acceptance package. You will have two weeks to confirm acceptance.

12.) If I can’t – or am not chosen to – attend the summit, how else can I participate/get involved with YBGLI?

Contact the YBGLI Organizing Committee at for additional opportunities to stay connected. In the meantime, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


At the beginning of the year I did something that my parents continued to oppose and forbid me to do. Well during Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday weekend after spending some time to reflect on the New Year in my hometown of Hampton, Virginia I drove back up to Maryland and did it. No I didn’t partake in an orgy, decide to binge on a buffet or go on a shopping spree. Instead I picked up a bundle of joy, my puppy I later named Cocoa.



You see in the beginning of the year I was alone, down in the dumps and struggling with work. I can candidly say that at the same time I began to realize that it was harder to get up in the morning or even feel motivated to faithfully go to the gym. All of this began to take a toll on me caring about my adherence. So I knew something had to be done to address this issue. There are definitely plenty of reasons my little Miniature Pincher has helped me deal with my PTSD and also keep my life interesting.

Every morning I wake up to being barked or talked at, nudged, or on rare occasions a foul smell. The majority of the time I am working simply by her moving or nudging me and I immediately know it is time to wake up and give her a good walk. Our morning 1-3 mile walk does not necessarily only help her. By walking with her in the morning I have the ability to be physically active, have some time without my iPhone to critically think and most importantly get out of bed regardless of how I feel and be productive. Cocoa also plays a role in me taking my medication. Around 8pm on most nights I feed her and afterwards she sits at the edge of the kitchen staring at me. The moment I give her eye contact she immediately looks towards the fridge. You see I keep some of her dog treats on top of the microwave next to my pill bottles. On top of that surprisingly when I have horrible nightmares she wakes me up.  Cocoa also is the perfect cuddle buddy and keeps me warm on cold nights. This has been a perfect partnership to keep me adherent and happy. Little does she know how big of a role she plays in my life.1517595_10152348101883522_4986122712107354650_n

Pets can be a great responsibility and come with additional expenses but nothing can replace the love coming from them. Cocoa brings tremendous joy into my life. Her silly expressions and creepy stalker ways always keeps a smile on my face. Many of my friends and colleagues I work and advocate alongside constantly comment or mention my dog and how I am always talking about her via social media. To be honest she definitely works my nerves when she pees or poops in the house of gets carsick and throw up in the car; however, at the end of the day when we lock eyes or I walk into the door after a ten hour day or week away at a conference she greets me with unconditional love. This love alongside the love of my family and friends is what keeps me going on those very hard days.



The Organizing Committee of the Young Black Gay Men’s Leadership Initiative (YBGLI) are pleased to welcome distinguished members of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to the YBGLI October Google Policy Hangout on Air scheduled for Thursday, October 30th at 7pm EDT.


Dr. Eugene McCary, Mr. Lamont Scales and Dr. Dawn Smith, MD are the panelists chosen for this discussion. These individuals are committed to engaging with young black gay, bisexual and same gender loving individuals about what the CDC does and can do for our community. Register and join us. Don’t miss your chance to ask CDC your compelling question and get answers.  This is a perfect opportunity to be engaged and be an advocate for the community so share this very exciting event and let’s make it a great turn out!  Besides, it’s not like you have an opportunity to engage members of the CDC about young black gay, bisexual and SGL folks.


Alexandria Health Department – Photo by Todd Franson

Rainbow Tuesdays is a clinic that I started to volunteer at when I initially started working in HIV.  This clinic is every Tuesday between 5:00pm-6:30pm and offers screenings for STIs (Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, and Syphilis) and rapid/confirmatory testing for HIV. Hepatitis B vaccinations are also available as well. This clinic is run by gay, bisexual, queer, same gender-loving men and their allies.  I also find it amazing that the staff can also see individuals of the Trans experience!  Generally this clinic is not like others in the area (including some in DC that can get pretty crazy with line) and although it may not be directly off the metro you can navigate it by easily taking a bus, which will drop you just feet away from the Alexandria Health Department (7A or 7F from Pentagon Metro Station).

Debby Dimon, who is Nurse Supervisor at the Alexandria Health Department, oversees the Rainbow Tuesdays Clinic and provided us with some history. “Rainbow Tuesdays clinic started in July 2009 because of the Syphilis outbreak in Northern Virginia and the absence of stigma-free health care to meet the needs Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Same Gender Loving Men. It started as a screening clinic the second and fourth Tuesday of every month at Alexandria Health Department working in collaboration with the HIV prevention nonprofit organizations (Inova Juniper Program, K.I. Services, Inc. and NOVAM) with other organization serving on the Advisory Committee,” says Dimon.  Her personal goal is to provide syphilis testing and treatment for every gay/bi/queer/sgl man and Trans woman to stop the spread of the curable bacterial infection.  A special exclusive that we were able to gain was that Debby plans on providing Hep A/B/C testing in the new year!

The Rainbow Tuesdays Clinic Program is a partnership that fully engages the community to foster trust and awareness of services among of men having sex with men to encourage those at risk for HIV and/or sexually transmitted infections to seek services and refer others potentially exposed for services. If you are ever free, in the need for screening/treatment or want to know more about the Rainbow Tuesdays Clinic then stop by the Alexandria Health Department during clinic hours.


PEP and PrEP. One is used as an emergency medication (PEP) and the other as a daily pill (PrEP). These two drugs have been available to the public since the FDA approved them in 2012. When used correctly they can reduce the chances of you acquiring HIV by up to 96%.

In the past 2 years those of us that work in HIV have heard many debates about these two pills. Who should take them, how effective they are, and weather or not this is a step in the right direction of creating an AIDS free generation. The public, however has not been able to gather that much information on these two pills. Due to many differences in opinion and health providers not having a general knowledge of about PEP and PrEP, most people that wish to learn more about this new prevention method or be prescribed it, have had to search for clinics that specialize in this matter. But regardless on the differences of opinion on PEP and PrEP it is imperative that we get as much information out about these two pills so the consumers can better decide if this prevention method is right for them.

Most recently the New York Department of Health and Mental Hygiene released new materials to encourage people to find out more about PrEP and if it is something they should be using. They have a whole section on their website that give you all the information about PEP and PrEP: Whet they stand for, the difference between the two, how often you should be taking them, lists of providers and clinics, how effective it is WHEN THE PATIENT ADHERE’S TO THE MEDICATION, and information on those that provide them. After sharing this website with a few peers and co-workers, they walked away knowing a lot more about PEP and PrEP. I even learned a few new things. The website gave out the information in an easy and informative way.

They also had several new images that have been placed on posters, pamphlets, and post cards with various slogans. These images had a different reaction when I showed them to the same co-workers and peers. I then asked what they felt and why when seeing these images and if they would consider PrEP or PEP as a prevention method after seeing them. I got a wide range of opinions which I will share but first, take a look at these images and ask yourself the same question.

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find more info at


Ken Williams

There are a few things I want you to know about my positive experience. Whether you’ve worked in HIV for decades or are new to the epidemic, we all start somewhere. I’m a filmmaker and, ironically, my first introduction to the epidemic was through film. It was film where I started and film where I continue to this day.

Well before I became positive, my first in-depth look into the HIV epidemic was through the lens of a film called Philadelphia. For two hours I watched Tom Hanks’ character die on screen. What I took away from watching Philadelphia was that the typical HIV positive experience can be one of rejection and discrimination. It can be a stigmatized and demoralizing experience. Some people may think that your fate is considered your fault. As a person who has been living with HIV for four years, I now know this is not true.

The truth about my positive experience is that my life can often be seriously impacted by the social and physical implications of living with HIV. Almost every day, living with HIV means something different to me. Some days I feel hopeful because I take my medications and stay in care, while on other days, I feel shame because I am confronted head on by the stigma that is associated with living with HIV, leaving me feeling that I need to remain silent about my disease for fear of ridicule; the expectation that I must be dangerous because I am living with HIV. Having tested HIV positive just 4 years ago, I am still adjusting. Adjusting to how best to deal with stigma; how best to understand and manage what is happening in my body; how best to keep moving forward.

Much of this adjustment, for me, at least, is best handled by practicing optimism instead of fear. Optimism brought on by scientific advances; optimism brought on by my own personal growth and understanding of how to live a healthy life with HIV; and optimism that we are now talking about the real possibility of a generation free of HIV/AIDS. I learn daily and I listen to the outpouring of similar stories in my community and I take my meds and I live! I live despite the stigma. I live despite the fear. I share my story behind and in front of the camera and through these stories and connections I stay hopeful. I hope for an AIDS-free generation and a generation free of the stigma and fear and blame. I hope for a generation where I can continue to share my truths. My optimism drives me to want to see that generation.

What are you doing each day to bring us all to an AIDS-free generation?

– See more at:


Screen Shot 2014-08-26 at 10.42.20 PMWe are so excited that Patrick Ingram was listed as one of the 20 amazing HIV-Positive Gay men of 2014.  Patrick continues to do great work in the community to advocate, educate, and empower young people. He definitely works tirelessly to ensure that the LGBTQ community of color is represented at any table he is sitting at.  Congratulations Patrick on your great year so far.  The Poz+ Life is going in the right direction and we cannot wait to show you more of what we have in the works. Stay Tuned!

Below is pulled from HIV Plus Magazine's article on Patrick Ingram.  Check here for the 
digital edition.

Screen Shot 2014-08-26 at 10.41.39 PMAfter he attended the Young Black Gay Men’s Leadership Initiative’s 2014 Policy and Advocacy Summit earlier this year, blogger Patrick Ingram says he realized just how much pressure there is to act as if living with HIV is easy.

“The reality is, it is not yellow brick roads and rainbows,” he says. “Dating, making new friends, and even making new professional relationships are tough because of the fact that I am openly HIV-positive and gay. I do think, though, that I am finally free and at ease with my sexuality and HIV status and am hardly affected by those who do not want to deal with me because of their inability to address the HIV-related stigma within them.”

That straightforwardness has made the 25-year-old Ingram, who by day works as a health counselor for the Virginia Department of Health in Alexandria, a voice to be listened to. His popular blog on (, which he crafts with two other young black men) began in 2012 so he could “vent and share my journey of coming to terms with my HIV diagnosis. While doing this I also offered support and a listening ear to others.”

While it’s garnered the young man a legion of fans — especially young men of color so used to being underheard in the HIV discussion — he says he never sees himself as a role model. “Because I am not perfect but just simply human,” he says. “I never want to be placed in a situation where others look up to me; however, I want people to look at how I took my life changing moment and become empowered by it to take charge of their lives and any barrier they may be facing.”

He spends plenty of time on his blog educating people on treatment as prevention, what it means to be undetectable, PrEP, and why resiliency and mental strength are cornerstones of good health.

As more young people like himself speak openly about what it really is like living or being with someone with HIV, people may stop looking at the virus as “something that is not from a person who is dirty, irresponsible, or even dangerous,” he says. “HIV affects us all, regardless of things like socioeconomic status, significant others, family, friends, and education on the virus.”

Still, Ingram admits that one of his biggest concerns is the need for HIV-positive gay men to feel empowered and worthy. He meets plenty of men who “do not think they are good enough and therefore have to settle. In other situations they feel defeated and therefore do not feel like fighting to ensure they can get their medications, see their providers, have a second opinion, disclose their status to a sexual partner, and even stand up and address incorrect facts or lack of education among their peers. As HIV-postive individuals as a whole, we must know that our voice matters and that we are worth it.”

For the article click here
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