Posts Tagged ‘living with aids’

The Poz+ Life is so pleased and excited about the followed award.  This shows that collaboration and teamwork can get the job done.  I am so proud of my fellow members Thomas and Adrian for their hard work in such a short time. This includes our guest contributors and hundreds of individuals who shared our materials! Thank you so much supporters, roots, family, and friends!

-Patrick Ingram


 

Screen Shot 2014-07-20 at 5.58.31 PMWASHINGTON, D.C. (July 7, 2014) – The ADAP Advocacy Association, also known as aaa+, today announced the recipients for its 2014 Annual ADAP Leadership Awards, which recognizes individual, community, government, media and corporate leaders who are working to improve access to care and treatment under the AIDS Drug Assistance Programs. The eight leadership awards will be presented during the 4th Annual ADAP Leadership Awards Dinner being held on Monday, August 4th at 7:00 pm in Washington, DC. The dinner will be held in conjunction with its 7th Annual Conference, being held at the Westin Washington DC City Center on August 3-5, 2014.
The 2013-2014 award recipients include:

• ADAP Champion of the Year (individual): Kathie Hiers, AIDS Alabama
• ADAP Emerging Leader of the Year (individual): Wanda Brendle-Moss
• ADAP Corporate Partner of the Year: Ramsell Corporation
• ADAP Community Organization of the Year: Community Education Group
• ADAP Lawmaker of the Year: The Honorable Henry Waxman, M.C. (D-Calif)
• ADAP Social Media Campaign of the Year: The Poz Life by Patrick Ingram
• ADAP Grassroots Campaign of the Year: Moral Mondays
• ADAP Media Story of the Year: Continuing HIV Care for Formerly Incarcerated U.S. Citizens,
by Candace Y.A. Montague, TheBodyDotCom

“With so much uncertainty surrounding the future of the AIDS Drug Assistance Program, it is only fitting to recognize a group of honorees who have worked so tirelessly to improve access to care for people living with HIV/AIDS,” said Brandon M. Macsata, CEO of the ADAP Advocacy Association about the 2013-2014 award recipients. “It is reassuring to know that these individuals will be continuing their advocacy to promote and protect programs, such as ADAP. Our award recognition is a simple gesture of our appreciation!”
To learn more about the ADAP Advocacy Association, its Annual ADAP Leadership Awards, or its Annual Conference, or the, please contact Brandon M. Macsata at info@adapadvocacyassociation.org.
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Check out the original post here!

 

[The ADAP Advocacy Association (aaa+® ) is a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization incorporated in the District of Columbia to promote and enhance the AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAPs) and improve access to care for persons living with HIV/AIDS. aaa+® works with advocates, community, health care, government, patients, pharmaceutical companies and other stakeholders to assure that access to services recognize and afford persons living with HIV/AIDS to enjoy a healthy life.]

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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 locator.aids.gov 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?

– See more at: http://blog.aids.gov/2014/06/black-voices-bloggers-on-national-hiv-testing-day-and-social-media.html#sthash.FX8cGSwV.dpuf

  So let us face it, there are many pros and cons when it comes to collaboration; however, to continue the winning war against HIV&AIDS it is essential to our victory. When communication and opposing visions clash, it creates an environment where every time you correspond with one another it is like walking on ice. Communication is essential to the success of any relationship and if there is a not a system to ensure everyone at the table has a way of knowing what is going on (including being able to provide feedback on changes) then all hell will break loose.

  There is an unseen benefit to this because when done correctly and in a manner that is consistent collaborations can be very useful. Apart of the Northern Virginia HIV Consortium Prevention and Education Committee is a perfect example. Nechelle Terrell, Chair of the committee has shared with me that this creates an opportunity for many organizations to work together across their service areas and jurisdictions. Like many community-based organizations across the nation, we are seeing a decrease in available resources. The prevention and education committee utilizes its members to ensure that events have the ability to have additional support from other agencies. In addition, successful best practices and experiences help to ensure organizations struggling to meet certain populations or communities where they are at have some assistance. Resources and talents to better meet the needs of a community (or even audience) are shared and work together to achieve a common goal.

  As the creator and only person behind Pozlifeofpatrick, I hit a roadblock a year after operation. I was working full-time, going to school full-time, and then taking on more blogging and traveling request than normal. The blog ended up being more of an object of stress in my life. This changed I met two other amazing guys at the Young Black Gay Leadership Initiative’s (YBGLI) 2014 Policy and Advocacy Summit where we agreed to combine our blogging, video, and social media skills into one to create something new. The creation of ThePozLife has received great response from the community. We share responsibilities, which give me the ability to focus more on school and work, but most importantly, we are bringing our specific personalities, skills, and attributes together in our partnership rather than competing for the same or similar audiences. This solidarity and ability to work together shows something that we have forgotten about.

   When the Normal Heart came on TV, I sat up and watched every minute of it. Like that movie, How to Survive a Plague and IMG_9249_1even Paris is Burning they all had one common denominator. They were able to work together for a common mission. Today we must be able to place our egos aside and focus on the work for the good of progressing and eventually winning this war against HIV. When we continue to have opposing ideologies about PrEP, HIV Criminalization, and what organizations are not doing we are only hurting ourselves. We must be able to come together in solidarity and work towards a common goal.  On top of working as a team we must be able to have each other’s back and not be willing to let injustice happy to our fellow brothers in sisters who are also trying to make a difference in our communities.   Now our paths to the goal may be in different forms like demonstrations, policy, blogging, education, and prevention however we all must be at least somewhere on the same page.

 

 

Yours in the struggle,

Patrick R.  Ingram

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Adrian Neil-Hobson

Full Film Stay Positive | 8 min | 2013
A teen comes face to face with his HIV status when pressured into a blood drive by his grandmother and runs the risk of isolating himself and missing out on life.
Excerpt from Director’s Statement
“The personal tone in Stay Positive was birthed from my experiences testing for HIV. I had always been afraid of HIV, because I was taught to be afraid. I was taught to believe that HIV/AIDS is bad, a punishment for being gay, and a death sentence. In many ways, creating this film has allowed me to come face to face with my own fears and ignorance about HIV/AIDS and ask the questions I was too afraid to ask.”
-Robert-Carnilius

Special Thanks Thanks:
In filming, we were very thankful for Howard Brown Health Center and Broadway United Methodist Church for allowing us location usage and other resources.

 

To donate and help me reach my fundraising goal please go to:https://www.crowdrise.com/TeamGrassrootsFULL/fundraiser/patrickkay

Over $18,000 raised last year let’s do even more!

The Grassroot Project serves to educate at-risk youth from Washington D.C. about HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention by utilizing Division I “student-athlete” role models. Founded in January 2009, The Grassroot Project is one of the first 501(c)(3) organizations to be designed, initiated, and managed completely by NCAA Division I varsity athletes encompassing athletes from Georgetown University, George Washington University, Howard University and University of Maryland. We are also unique in our approach to HIV/AIDS prevention—instead of using a traditional education program that is lecture-based and taught by teachers or health educators, we use games that teach lessons and athletes as our messengers.

Mission:

The mission of The Grassroot Project is to use sports to educate at-risk youth in the community about HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention. Our curriculum focuses on creating a fun, friendly and safe environment in which youth learn healthy life styles. The programs allow kids to share their feelings and beliefs, increase knowledge, and develop healthy attitudes and behaviors pertaining to HIV/AIDS through the use of interactive games and activities. By using the vehicle of sports to influence social change, student athletes use the curriculum to combat the high rate of HIV/AIDS in D.C

Check out http://www.grassrootsproject.org

“Wait a minute did I take my meds?” This is a question I often ask even if my pill box, mobile application, or friend says I have. Anxiety, nervousness, fear, and due diligence keep me on track to continue to the best of my ability to take my medications faithfully. For me the process of taking my three medications everyday at 9 am is an experience both with and without emotion.  Every time I swallow my pills, I am reminded that HIV is living inside me.

What Motivates Me (Inside and Out)

According to the CDC, one in four people living with HIV have achieved viral suppression. In other words, three out of four people living with HIV in the United States have either not connected to care or do not adhere to their medication to achieve viral suppression (meaning they have a very low level of HIV in your blood). And while that doesn’t mean I’m cured, by lowering the amount of virus in my body with medicines can keep me healthy, I am able to live longer, and significantly reduce chances of passing HIV on to others. To ensure that I have a great future is the motivating factor behind me staying focused on taking my medication as prescribed. I am proud that to I’m able to maintain my undetectable viral load while increasing my CD4 count/percentage. Seeing those lab results helps to show improvement and reward my diligence of staying on track.

Many people may be surprised when I use rewards to treat my success of staying adherent. Giving myself a pat on the back in the form of something that I enjoy gives me a goal to work toward.  I call myself a “cheatatarian,” because I tend to often sneak out of my vegetarian diet. My love for chicken sandwiches and seafood is ridiculous; therefore, when I stay adherent without any issues for the month I reward myself by going to my favorite restaurant and having some of those foods (in moderation of course)!

A good physical, mental, spiritual, and organizational balance also helps me stay adherent to my HIV meds. Even with my busy schedule running Pozlifeofpatrick Exit Disclaimer, going to school, and managing my professional duties, I always make personal quiet time. That “quiet time” might be playing my favorite game, training for my upcoming marathon, and video chatting with a friend or mentor. And while these activities aren’t necessarily “quiet”, the silence comes in being able to separate out the stressors of the blog, school, and work. This helps me slow down and take the time to focus on my medications.

Helpful Tools (Online and Off)

Tools like pillboxes and mobile applications can also help to remind people to take their medications. Personally, I use Care4Today Exit Disclaimer which alerts me to take my meds and helps me chart my adherence.  When I am out of town, it reminds me on east coast time (and even asks me to change the time zone). But the feature I find most helpful, is that it notifies providers or family members if I have not taken my medication. There are many online tools and applications like Care4Today,including pill monitor Exit DisclaimerThebody.com’s personal reminder service Exit Disclaimer, and RxmindMe Exit Disclaimer that have similar functions. All can be helpful for people who need a reminder or that will check in with a support person when/if you miss a day. Offline, I take extra care to ensure that I have my HIV medication located in my bag that I take everywhere (in a nice discreet carrier). This helps me just in case if I am in a rush and totaly forget about my medications.

Finding out what motivates you to stay adherent, along with a system that fits with your lifestyle, is the key. If you are living

– See more at: http://blog.aids.gov/2014/05/black-voices-wait-a-minute-did-i-take-my-meds.html#sthash.4MlQhK0f.dpuf

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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