Posts Tagged ‘poz’

“Throughout my tenure at FAHASS we have had phenomenal successes within our prevention department. We worked hard to receive funding through CAPUS, increased efficiency, seeing more diversity, increasing our visibility through HIV education and testing, creating and beginning the early implementation of our mobile testing and outreach initiative, and most importantly identifying more individuals living with HIV. Through focused outreach methods we are able to locate and confirm HIV-positive diagnosis so that we can successfully begin our linkage to care.

When I was diagnosed with HIV in 2011 my interactions and process through testing and actual linkage to care was the absolute most difficult and humiliating experience of my life. My current and long-term goals continue to encompass work toward all gender, racial, and MSM minorities who are affected by STIs (including HIV). I want to work to ensure quality, treatment, care, and more options for individuals throughout the continuum regardless of socioeconomic status and barriers. I have accepted a position with the Virginia Department of Health working in Northern Virginia as a Health Educator. I will continue to focus on increased cultural competence, sexual/health education, and utilizing the prevention tool-belt to help reduce the chances of individuals being infected with HIV.

As one of the first individuals many in our community will come across I am extremely grateful and blessed to be able to have the opportunity to support, educate, link, empower, and most importantly work to decrease STI infections among the most affected areas in our community. I will work hard to ensure my transition out will be smooth and seamless. I have valued the relationships I have made and grown while here at FAHASS and hope they will continue upon my departure. The work in our rural community is difficult; however, just know that it does not go unnoticed. Thank you for your commitment to working with individuals affected by HIV in our service area and beyond.” – Patrick Ingram

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Check out my new series that discusses HIV in rural communities. I interview individuals who are actually on the ground leading the fight against this growing epidemic in rural Virginia. Please share and spread the word!

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

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

So remember when I said I was going to involve more individuals and their stories on HIV, LGBTQ issues, or anything they want to sound off about?  Well National Black HIV AIDS Awareness Day is here and I am proud to present to you a blog by my friend and colleague Kemisha.  

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ImageBefore I became involved in the field of HIV/AIDS, I thought I knew all there is to know about it.  I knew it was something you could get through having sex or by IV drug use and it was something you wanted to avoid. I believed that if you did have it meant that you were being reckless with your body and did it to yourself. I always saw it as you made a mistake with your sexual activity and now you have to deal with it.  I was fortunate enough to go to schools, especially a high school where comprehensive sexual education was taught. I will say that even though I knew the do’s and don’ts of sex, that doesn’t mean that I always made the best decisions for myself. Yes, I knew that HIV/AIDS was something that was really out there but I also felt as if it was something that would never happen to me. I had that feeling of being invincible, a feeling that I think a lot of teenagers had at that time. When I think back to that time frame I will say that I did take a lot of risk. I wasn’t running around having sex with multiple partners but the person I did chose to have sex with, we never had the conversation about our sexual history. We never asked each other “have you ever been tested for HIV”, “when was your last STD screening”. It was more like we just believed that if there was something to be told that the person would say it.  Now that I look at it, that is a scary thought. By not choosing to ask those questions and trusting that person with my body, I was taking a chance with my body and my life every single time.

When I went to college, I started as an Athletic Training major and loved it. Two and half years into the program I realized that I no longer had the passion for it, I wanted to change my major but still be involved in Health. My professor recommended the Health Promotion program to me. It was there in that program I became very interested in HIV/AIDS. I began volunteering with the Wellness, Alcohol, and Violence Education Services (WAVES) office at George Mason University. The first program I helped with was the HIV/AIDS awareness week and from there I became hooked.  I took a class called Interventions on Populations at Risk. I chose to do and intervention for high school teenagers geared toward sexual education to help lower the high rates of teen pregnancy. After that course I had to take a course in Research Methods, I took the information I gathered in the previous class and took it a step further for this one. My final research paper for undergraduate degree was based on whether sexual education courses had an effect on the actual sexual activity of teenagers.

In order to complete undergrad I needed to complete 400hrs of a health related internship. The first internship was all set and ready to go and at the last minute the organization lost the funding to host and intern. I then came across Fredericksburg Area HIV/AIDS Support Services (FAHASS). They decided to take me on as an intern and it was a perfect fit because this was the field I definitely wanted to work in. While interning here I learned so much information that I didn’t know.  From understanding what exactly HIV does once it’s inside your body, to what the experience of having an HIV test done is, even an understanding and different out look on what its like for people living with HIV. I have learned about the services people that are living with HIV are eligible for that I had no clue about before interning here. My eyes were opened to so many things that I had no idea of; it showed me that there is always more to learn and not everything on the surface is the whole story. It allowed me to see that everyone’s story is different and you cant generalize people in the same category.

I was fortunate enough to receive a part time position with FAHASS and then eventually a full time position as a Prevention Specialist after my internship with them. I now do testing under the Care and Prevention of the United States grant (CAPUS). This specifically focuses on African Americans and Latinos. Now that I am out there in the field-testing, it is eye opening. In the rural community of Fredericksburg that I work in, I have seen how uneducated people are on the topic of HIV. Some people have no idea what HIV even stands for and it amazes me that this happens especially when there are so many resources for them to receive that information and begin to process and understand it. It feels good when I am able to give people information on HIV and see that they are interested in what I am saying. They are learning and becoming informed about it. I can only hope that they are passing on this new knowledge to others because it is something that needs to be shared with others.

Every day I learn something new being with this organization and it is only growing my knowledge base of HIV/AIDS. If I do not know something I have no problems asking questions because I believe that the more I know the better equipped I am to help educate people about HIV/AIDS and give them the tools to help make better decisions for themselves.  Eventually my ultimate goal is to help work on the different HIV/AIDS initiatives in the Caribbean. They are doing the best they can with what they have now and I commend than for all their efforts but I feel that more could be done. They really need to break into the communities and push outreach and testing and having those conversations but it is very hard to do that when there is still such high stigma associated with HIV and such strong stances against things such as, homosexuality. These walls need to be broken down in order to effectively provide the best outreach, prevention and care services to the people of these islands and their communities.

Kemisha is currently the prevention specialist at FAHASS, and just like many of us in prevention is continuing to learn more about the field every single day.  If you are interested in sharing your story with Pozlifeofpatrick.com email pozlifeofpatrick@gmail.com

Image  I definitely love this time of year.  Cuddled up with a good television show or book in front of a fireplace. Even watching the snowflakes fall down, steadily accumulating on flat objects can captivate me for hours.  This time of year people or more friendlier (if not fighting for last minute gifts), families come together, and many of us stop or selfish ways and begin to do look at ways to be there for others.  Christmas is a time of year where I become quiet, introverted, and begin the process of reflecting on my life both present and future.  This year I spent

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in a very different way then in previous years by just relaxing.  I took this time to catch up with friends, family, homework, and future projects that you will all love.  Also there is a new initiative and venture I am looking to step into; therefore, my brain was in constant motion.  Plenty of you always probably wonder, “What’s up with the frequency of your posts and videos?”  Well currently I am the only person behind PozLifeofPatrick and handle this blessing with additional educational and professional responsibilities.  Working 40+ hours a week and being a full-time student is tough but I am blessed and thankful for having the ability to do these things.  This Christmas I took some time to be thankful for the readers, watchers, family, friends, and the many opportunities I had.  With that said I want to promise you that in the New Year I will be giving you more quality videos and blog posts because you deserve it.

    Taking the time to look at the numbers I am proud to say that we have surpassed 500 likes on Facebook, more than 200,000 subscribers on YouTube, and many more people reaching out for support, answers, and directions to resources.  I use the word “we,” because without your support it would be nearly impossible to write on days that I hit a brick wall, finish 26.2 miles, or continue to fight for issues that affect the LGBTQ, youth, and HIV affected community.   Image

     This Christmas I decided that I want to give back to you all for being so faithful to me so make sure to follow me on here and social media for fun giveaways, chances to guest blog, and come onto PozLifeLive with me.  Again thank you so much for all that you continue to do for me because you all truly inspire and empower me!

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During the first week of November, ViiV Healthcare welcomed invited individuals from across The United States, Puerto Rico, and Canada to Atlanta, Georgia for the 15th Annual Community Summit.  I became familiar with the summit during the U.S. Conference on AIDS and was immediately interested.  I arrived to Atlanta on November 7 and made it to the W Midtown.  I made it to the posh hotel were the next few days came and gone.  I reunited with friends and colleagues that I have known as well as new ones I met at USCA 2013 in New Orleans.   The Community Summit also gave me and others in attendance the ability to expand my network, make new contacts, and form new friendships.

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The purpose of this year’s Summit is to discuss new challenges and solutions to the HIV epidemic.  I experienced some of the greatest discussions this year.   Topics ranged from surrounding the changing healthcare environment to how the Affordable Care Act and the changes to the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program will affect the HIV population in our country.  Also, there was a phenomenal panel discussion titled “The Future Generation: Youth Leaders in HIV/AIDS.”  The informative yet entertaining, Trina Scott Associate Director, Health Equity and Youth Empowerment at Advocates for Youth moderated this discussion.   On the panel was Emily Carson from IGLHRC and HIV Young Leaders Fund, as well as Lawrence Stallworth II, Youth Services Coordinator at Beyond Identities Community Center.  Trina Scott provided a briefing regarding HIV, which gave great insight to those who attended both physically and virtually.  Ms. Scott gave some staggering statics:

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  • 60% of new HIV infections in youth occur in African-Americans, 20% in Hispanic/Latinos, and 20% in Whites.
  • Over half of new infections among gay and bisexual males are in African-Americans
  • About 87% of young males get HIV from male to male sex, 6% from heterosexual sex, 2% from injection drug use, and about 5% from a combination of male-to-male sex and injection drug use.
  • 86% of young females got HIV through heterosexual sex and 13% from injection drug use

One of the final statistics that were given that reiterated the sizeable epidemic among African-Americans were that young African-American males have more new infections of HIV than in any other group of youth by race/ethnicity and sex.  Outside of these staggering numbers the entire panel discussed interventions, prevention initiatives, and strategies that have been effective at reaching youth who are at most risk of HIV infection.  During the question and answer portion, I posed a question, which was how we empower more youth national, more specifically in the south, to be advocates for themselves and their communities.  Ms. Scott and the panel agreed that giving youth the opportunity to utilize their talents, having a seat on a board, being placed in leadership positions, and most importantly creating a space for youth to be empowered enough to speak up were things that we discussed.  Also, the entire panel agreed to my question, that comprehensive sexual education in schools (beyond abstinence based talks) and encouraging adults to talk about sexual health and ways to protect or reduce the chances of being infected wit HIV or STDs are actions that must take place.

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In addition, on day one, there was a panel discussion on ASOs and Community Health Centers: Partnering for Health.  This discussion was very interesting because it discussed how ASOs and CBOs were being creative and evolving in an effort to expand services to individuals affected by HIV and to adapt to the changing policies.  One of the major topics discussed in this panel discussion was merger.  One of the things I took away was that it was more important to discuss potential mergers when organizations were healthy compared to when they are struggling to make ends meet.  I learned that when organizations are not healthy and are looking to merge the conversation is no longer about merging but move to acquisition.  One thing that every individual on that panel discussion stressed was that egos definitely needed to moved aside at the door.  Bronx- based Boom!Health can related to that due to both Robert Cordero and José Dávila, serving as Co-Presidents through a merger of  CitiWide Harm Reduction and Bronx AIDS Services.  Both organizations’ presidents came together to work for the common good of their community, which can serve as a lesson for so many different community based organizations who refuse to do so based off of conflicting personalities.  The Community Summit definitely was a place to have this conversation so the attendees from across the nation can go back to their organizations and remind their leaders of the impeding changes that will soon take effect for all of us who work in HIV.

IMG_1058 I personally think that ASOs/CBOs really need to start considering potential mergers and partnerships when negotiations can commence on an even playing field.  Seeing so many organizations either struggling or closing and personally affected has encouraged me to being to have that conversation with my own organization.

This year’s ViiV Community Summit had other fantastic sessions surrounding medical updates, PrEP/PEP, and early treatment.  The shared detailed community and medical information impressed me.  ViiV also flipped the script this year by offering breakout sessions on Women and HIV/AIDS, HIV and Aging, and Bio Statistics in HIV Research. IMG_2346 IMG_2345 IMG_2344

I attended both the sessions on Women and HIV/AIDS and Bio Statics in HIV Research.  It was great to learn additional information on how Women are also greatly affected by HIV/AIDS.   Especially in a field where it is so easy to focus on same gender loving men. I also appreciated the free biostatistics course that tied in HIV research.  The presenter Amy Cutrell from GlaxoSmithKline definitely made it easy to understand the complexities that surround bio stats.

Overall, this was an experience of a lifetime. The speakers came from all occupations and provided information and stories. Stories on how it was like living with HIV in prisons and receiving updates from the CDC were just the icing on an amazing peanut butter chocolate cake. In addition, as a youth, being able to connect with so many knowledgeable individuals in this field has given me additional insight.  There may not have been a huge attendance of youth at this year’s summit; however, the ones who were there definitely made a presence. I really appreciated the attention to detail, friendliness, information, and networking opportunities ViiV Healthcare provided during the entire 15th Community Summit.  Since meeting and interacting with ViiV staff at USCA 2014 and now at CS 15, I have become even more appreciative of their efforts to support all that are involved in the cause to end HIV/AIDS.  I have never dealt with a pharmaceutical company who placed so much focus on communities.  From participation in conferences, their positive action community grants, and hosting events such as this shows the ViiV Healthcare’s investment.  ViiV’s staff continues to impress me and I am truly thankful for all of their hard work.  Bill Collier, Head of North America; Marc Meachem, Head, External Affairs, and Ashley Mahoney, Manager of External Affairs always were available and willing to talk to anyone.  When available, they sat and visited with us and wanted to know what we though about everything. ViiV staff also wanted to know what they could do to better address those who are at risk or living with HIV.  IMG_2385

I really appreciated the opportunity to be apart of the 15th Community Summit.  I hope that I will be able to attend next year and take away more information and connections that will help my community better address and fight and HIV epidemic.

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My Interview with Patrick Ingram: Living with HIV.

 

 

An awesome interview done by Mayra Bitkso.  Enjoy!

Catch a very interesting conversation with Ramon and myself!

Check me out in the MTV Staying Alive Documentary.