Posts Tagged ‘LGBTQ’

“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 dec. 14

 

TO DONATE PLEASE GO TO: https://nmac.z2systems.com/campaign.jsp?campaign=1&fundraiser=42702&team=13&

 

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

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zm6f1PhG5eo

 

TO DONATE PLEASE GO TO https://nmac.z2systems.com/campaign.jsp?campaign=1&fundraiser=42702&team=13&

So in life we as humans are constantly growing and evolving. It’s an attempt to better us and strive to achieve the unthinkable. So many times I have caught myself being ok with the status quo and being surrounded by those individuals who didn’t have my back or best interests. Being diagnosed with HIV in 2011 really forced me to go through a sort of metamorphosis and reassess my life.

Recently many folks have been asking, “Did you go and decide to end ThePozLife.com?” The truth is that I decided to do some serious soul searching and adult decision-making. Believe it or not I used to fly before for a regional airline; however, I was sexually assaulted on an overnight and that scarred me so much flying and overnighting in hotel rooms were never the same. That night in Chicago I learned to stop being so naïve and trusting of others. Since then I had gone to working within the for profit sector before transitioning to non-profits and finally a state health department. Since being diagnosed with HIV I have been seeing a mental health professional, discovering who I was, pushing myself to go outside of my perceived limits, and then going back to accomplish my dreams. While working in the HIV field I honestly became disgusted and annoyed. I felt as if I was in a remake of the movie Mean Girls and was among folks who were in the market of making themselves “famous and notarized,” by their work rather than letting the work speak for itself. I found myself surrounding by cliques of academics, community mobilizers, social media gurus, and socialites and began to lose my identity and purpose. That was not Patrick. I was far from my roots of just posting long ass YouTube videos where I’d vent and just aimlessly talk. More importantly I lost focus and connection on the actual experience of living with and moving through life with HIV. I was now in a place where I was talking at people rather than sharing my experiences. Am I bitter how individuals in the field treated me? Yes, however I have had so many great experiences with a handful of folks who have given me so much more than a clique can; therefore, the positive experiences outweigh the negative ones.IMG_6644

It’s very frustrating to work among people who had no passion or drive to really touch people’s lives. More importantly among people who use HIV and people living with it as a tool to gain personal profits and increased social status.   I had a coming to Jesus moment where I had to really think about my future. Did I really want to wake up one day 60 years old and had been totally committed to ending the epidemic of HIV that I was not able to pursue my dreams, work within my dream job and primarily being surrounding by people who were in the same situation. Or did I want to break back into a dream job that I loved doing where I could utilize all of my talents. At that point I was close to a decision to go back to being a flight attendant.

The final straw that broke my back was being at a conference in Atlanta earlier this year where someone tried to tell me to look and carry myself a certain way when around people of power and influence. I was very confused at to why I would be invited to become part of an organization but then forced to change to be the ultra conservative, suit wearing, name throwing, and inability to have humility that they had. It wasn’t my thing and seeing how particular folks can be really changed my perspective on the colleagues in the field I worked with.

Since leaving I have not heard from many folks in the HIV and Public Health field and if I have heard from them it is honestly for something they want. I am not writing that to complain but to let you know that in life you come across people throughout your individual journey to greatness and you may not take them to you. It is ok for them to come and go. This is simply apart of the human experience. It is so important to focus on your dreams and the necessary people you either have to knock over or get through to get to the finish line. The other important thing is to make sure that you keep those valuable friends and allies on your side. These folks will support you when you are up or down in the dumps.

Being a flight attendant for one of the greatest airlines in the world is a blessing. The experience of living with HIV within a Fortune 500 company is different but I am ready for the challenge and blessed that I am able to share every moment I can with you. Remember living and with HIV is a unique situation. We have many ups and downs the others will never know about. I just keep my faith and positivity that things will work out. This ideology has not failed me yet.IMG_6617

“Im going back, back, back to my roots

Where my love can be found and my heart rings true

Im going back, back, back to my roots

To the time and the place, coming back to you.” – Rupaul 

So after sending Joshua Rogers, the writer/director of Pickup, a message on Instagram I was happy to receive a response from him.I am so elated that Joshua was able to take time out of his busy schedule, promotion of the short film and fundraising to talk with ThePozLife.  I have stated my frustration with the fact that we do not tend to see many movies out there depicting the HIV experience in this new era of the virus; therefore, this movie naturally excites me.  Check out my interview below and remember to head over and donate toward the cause of seeing a movie surrounding gay characters that are HIV-positive and portraying that experience comes to fruition

Final One Sheet

What was the thought behind doing a movie that was focused on HIV?

Joshua Rogers –  I’m always looking for unique stories that haven’t been told before. I started writing this particular one, about a gay man telling a potential partner that he’s HIV-positive for the first time, when a friend came out to me as positive and I realized that I’d never seen that on film before. I never saw it as a coming out story. The more we talked about his fears and struggles, the more I understood how interesting his story was and how important it is that it’s told. Just to clarify, this is not my friend’s story, but he loves the script and I have his full support.

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Trevor Thompson

Are any of the actors HIV positive?

Joshua Rogers – Two of the three major roles have been cast, and I honestly don’t know if they’re positive or negative. All I know is that they embody these characters brilliantly and both are extremely passionate about the project.

There is a severe lack of focus on HIV in a positive light within film.  How is your film and its cast helping to address HIV and have much needed dialogue? 

Joshua Rogers – The purpose of this film is to start a dialogue. I want people to relate to the characters and situations and walk away thinking about what they just saw, talking about it with their friends. I agree that there is a severe lack of focus on HIV in a positive light within film and we want our movie to put a stop to that. We want to reach the widest audience possible so everyone can see a realistic, honest, and heartfelt portrayal of an HIV-positive person who’s happy, healthy, and looking for love, just like everyone else. This is our positive love story.

Why is donating to your film important?

Joshua Rogers – In order to reach the widest audience possible, we need to make the best movie possible. A film that looks and feels like something everyone will want to see. It’s difficult to get this kind of film made in Hollywood, which is why we choose to raise the funds on Kickstarter. We knew it was a film people would want to see made. This way we can make sure from beginning to end, that the story is authentic and true to the subject matter.

What was the biggest challenge with the film?

Joshua Rogers – Raising the money is the biggest challenge so far. We’re filmmakers who know how to make a great film, but haven’t had to raise money ourselves before. We’ve all been working really hard to get the word out (the last day to donate is December 16, 11am PST) and we’re all proud of what we’ve accomplished so far and learned so much about fundraising.

What will the audience take away from Pick up?

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Brandon Crowder

Joshua Rogers – They’ll be taken on a journey few have been on before. They will be introduced to a character and a situation only a few have ever experienced. Hopefully they will come out of it with a little more empathy, a little more understanding, and maybe it will be a step towards stopping the stigma associated with HIV.

Is there anything you would like to mention or say?

Joshua Rogers – The reception so far to the script and to the kickstarter campaign has been incredibly humbling and encouraging. I’ve had the unique pleasure of hearing some really amazing stories from HIV-positive people from all over the world who want this film made. Thank you to everyone who’s donated so far and everyone who will continue to help us reach the goal! And thank you to everyone that’s reached out, offered their help, told us their story, and reminded us of why we started this project.

Also, I learned by reading a recent post by Josh Robbins from ImStillJosh.com (Friend to ThePozLife) that in early 2015 auditions for a third important role will be taking place out in Los Angeles.  So for those actors preparing their dialogues and stage presence good luck and may the odds be forever in your favor.

For more information on Pick Up check out their Kickstarter Campaign 

12/07/2014

By Benjamin Di’Costa

IMG_0297It’s World AIDS Day, and researchers, advocates and patients are taking measure of efforts to combat the spread of HIV. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that of the estimated 1.2 million Americans who have HIV, 86 percent are aware of their status. However, just 40 percent are receiving medical care for the virus. One barrier to treatment could be the persistent stigma that many HIV-positive young people face. Here’s a relevant scene (and one that’s not uncommon in this, the Year of the Young Advocate):

World AIDS Day 2014… And here I am a  young gay male—urban, professional, culturally and politically savvy—walking down the street in the “Gayborhood” called Wilton Manors here in Fort Lauderdale. It was a beautiful day and not a cloud in sight.  in which it’s common to see men walking hand in hand to the local Starbucks, or making their way to their morning workouts when out of nowhere I hear from across the street shout, ” You are not worth life and you should die!” says the middle aged gay male.

Being a person who faced discrimination for being gay I just blew it off and kept walking down the street when another younger gay male mumbles under his breath “Dirty Faggot”. Now at this point I was taken back by this statement being that I was in a LGBT neighborhood where pretty much every lifestyle was accepted. What was it about me just walking down the street that caused such negative reactions from the community?

I look down and realize that I was wearing my No Shame in Being HIV+ Shirt from RiseUptoHIV and then it all hit me at once that this in fact had nothing to do with my sexual orientation but was solely about me wearing a shirt with HIV+ written on it? As I continue into a local Starbucks that morning and then notice the countless stares and whispers that were coming from patrons enjoying their morning cup of coffee.

Here I am a young 24 year old gay male who actually doesn’t live with HIV but I am in encountering countless acts of HIV stigma within my own community. Up until this point I had never understood what it felt like to be stigmatized and when I sat down and really reflected on what just happened a wave of emotion just hit me, I realized that at the end of the day I can take off this shirt and the stigma ends but what about those who are living with HIV? Those living with HIV don’t get to choose when the stigma comes and when it goes it is something that is commonly faced within the Gay and Bisexual community particularly minority communities.

So you may be asking, What now? Where do we go from here? 

There are many ways we can all fight HIV stigma in our lives and in our community, whether you are HIV-positive or HIV-negative:

  • Break the silence surrounding HIV stigma in our community. Talk about your experiences, fears and concerns about getting HIV or transmitting HIV with friends, a counselor, or a fuck buddy.
  • Learn how to better deal with and react when a guy tells you he has HIV.
  • Take responsibility for the prevention of HIV. The prevention of HIV is a responsibility that all gay men share – HIV-positive, HIV-negative and HIV status unknown.
  • Challenge attitudes, beliefs and behaviours that contribute to HIV stigma. Don’t be a silent witness to it when it happens around you.
  • Avoid using language that overtly stigmatizes others.
  • Treat guys with HIV as you would treat anyone else: with respect, empathy, and compassion.
  • Get informed about how to protect yourself from HIV and be confident in that knowledge. We know how to prevent HIV.
  • If you have difficulty playing safe, take charge of your sexual health and get the help you need to ensure you do not get infected with or transmit HIV.

Are there other things you can think of to fight HIV stigma?

Email Info@ThePozLife.Com or Tweet Us @ThePozLife!

And remember Positivity Is Everything! 

1278188_10152310327582126_4025973683424660537_nSo today is Election Day in the United States. Voting is most importantly a civic right and in many nations is required by law. It is baffling how many people complain about government and are cynical about its system; however, have never been to a community meeting or directly engaged a candidate. Let’s be real, if you are a minority, living with HIV, enrolled in public assistance programs, or not seeing issues in your community being addressed then you need to be involved. From actually running for office to just putting the candidates on the spot by asking a question like “what is your view on increasing Ryan White Funding?” we all have to understand that in order to see better results in our community we have to be engaged on multiple levels. Being engaged by vocalizing our issues, voting and most importantly making our elected officials and governments (local, state and federal) accountable for their actions is essential. Too many times we vote people in public office based off of what we wish to see, yet never follow up until we are directly affected in a negative way. If I can wake up at 4am, walk my dog, drive two hours, vote, and be back at work then you can travel 10 minutes away and vote. It is simple yet not as tedious as you think.

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Check out my response over Facebook.

To find out your voter status and voting locations check out http://www.canivote.org

Remember you can find me out Facebook, Instagram or Twitter!

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

Check out our last show where we discuss grieving and HIV.

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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.