Posts Tagged ‘ybmsm’

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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: http://blog.aids.gov/2014/08/the-truth-about-my-positive-experience.html#sthash.1A8VLl08.dpuf

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Meet the 2014-2015 YBGLI Organizing Committee Members

The Young Black Gay Men’s Leadership Initiative continues to grow in a number of different ways. This week, we are excited to announce the addition of four new members of the Organizing Committee or OC: Barry SappNoël Gordon, Leo Moore, MD and Patrick Ingram. Existing OC Members are: Anthony Roberts, JrMatthew Rose, and Christopher Shannon. The 2014-2015 Executive Committee officers are: Blake Rowley – Chair, Dashawn Usher – Vice Chair and Marvell L. Terry, II – SecretaryDaniel Driffin is Chair EmeritusRead YBGLI Chair, Blake Rowley’s “Welcome” blog post to learn more about his vision and plans for the Initiative in the coming year.

“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

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This year The Red Door Foundation will host an exciting symposium planned that includes different activities involving presenters from various interdisciplinary fields, including HIV/AIDS and STD fields on both local and national levels. Speakers include:  Dr. Mitchell Wharton (University of Rochester), Daniel D. Driffin (University of Connecticut), Michelle Allen (Georgia Department of Public Health), Dr. Leo Moore (Yale University School of Medicine), DaShawn Usher (New York Blood Center- Project ACHIEVE), Jonathan Paul Lucas (FHI360), Noël Gordon (Human Rights Campaign), Anthony Roberts, Jr. (ARJR, LLC), Justin Tyson (The Academia Society, Incorporated), Steven Martinez (AVAC), Dr. Shanell McGoy (Tennessee Department of Health), Marvell L. Terry, II (The Red Door Foundation, Inc.)  and Blake Rowley (National Association of State and Territorial AIDS Directors).  To see a complete list of confirmed speakers and their bios, click here.

Thursday, June 5 and Friday, June 6 will be the Black Gay Men’s Technical Assistance Meeting. The technical assistance workshops is designed for traditional and non-traditional stakeholders working with Black Gay Men in a effort to improve their overall health outcomes.  Workshops include topics such as Culture Sensitivity, Faith & Black Gay Men, Bio-medical Prevention,  Mental Health, Exploring Sub-cultures and Building Rapport with Black Gay Men, to name a few. 

  Plenary discussions during the 2014 Saving Ourselves Symposium will be hosted by Young Black Gay Men’s Leadership InitiativeAVACIntimacy & Colour and Gilead Pharmaceuticals.

SpeakOut will be the topic for the Twitter Town Hall Meeting on Friday night, June 6, 2014.  SpeakOut will convey the need for black gay/bi-sexual and same gender loving men to speak out about their relationships, their health and for their communities in the South.  This discussion will be interactive by using #SpeakOut on twitter.

  Saturday morning will involve community level workshops on topics such as PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis), Finance Management, Interpersonal Relationships, Spirituality and Sexuality,  Self-Care, Social Media Activism  and Leading with Passion.

Sponsors for the 2014 Saving Ourselves Symposium are Southland Park Gaming and RacingTennessee AETC, James Anderson Lester, King Rose Consulting, Positively AwareWellsConsultingFamily Safety Center,  and the Human Rights Campaign. Sponsorship opportunities and vendor space is still available. Contact trdfmemphis@gmail.com to request information.

 

Deadline to book rooms at the host hotel under the conference rate of $91.00 is Friday, May 16, 2014.  For Lodging/ Venue, Registration and Theme Information visit www.trdfmemphis.com.  

 Credit to original news source: HIVmemphis.org

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RECENTLY I HAD BEEN struggling with my career decision, doubting whether or not the work I am doing is affecting change. There are few young African American men who have sex with men (MSM) in Columbus who are in key positions in the field of HIV prevention, policy and advocacy or who have a desire to mobilize the African American MSM community. I often felt alone and without support in my struggle, but all that changed on April 2 when I became part of the Young Black Gay Men’s Leadership Initiative (YBGLI). I dedicate this column to them.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention announced an alarming 48 percent increase of new HIV cases among young African American MSM between the ages of 13 – 29. As a result, the National Black Gay Men’s Advocacy Coalition assembled five dynamic young gay leaders to strategize to address the need for increased peer-based community mobilization and activism in combatting the HIV epidemic. In the spring of 2012 the five leaders created the YBGLI.

The initiative is led by an organizing committee of  young black men who have sex with men (YBMSM) under the age of 30 with professional backgrounds in research, community mobilization, policy and advocacy. Membership consists of young African American gay, bisexual, and/or same gender loving men from different areas of the country. The initiative’s mission is to address the issues disproportionately affecting their peers, particularly related to HIV prevention, care and treatment, through leadership mobilization and policy efforts.

In 2012 the YBGLI hosted its first Policy and Advocacy Summit in Washington, D.C. Fifty-three African American MSM came together to discuss the HIV/AIDS epidemic and different ways they could contribute to the fighting it and to address other disparities within the MSM of color community. Members also participated in discussions on research, policy, advocacy, leadership, health disparities and mobilization.

I applied to and was accepted to attend the recent 2014 YBGLI Policy and Advocacy Summit in Atlanta, Georgia. The summit was one of the most inspiring, motivating and educational experiences in my life. I was surrounded by like-minded men who shared the same passion I have for mobilizing YBMSM to become mentally, physically and emotionally empowered. It was so refreshing since it was so different from what I have experienced in Columbus or in Ohio.

This year’s summit also included 58 of the most passionate and determined YBMSM. We were chosen to be a part of the summit based on the work they were doing and the potential we had to become better leaders within their communities. We gathered to discuss HIV/AIDS, policy, advocacy, Obamacare, the African American church and homosexuality, stigma and ways we can mobilize our communities. To be able to be in a room with so many diverse and inspiring men was simply amazing.

From the moment I stepped onto the plane to Atlanta, I knew my life would change. Prior to attending the summit, I was struggling with the fact that there are very few African American MSM who are open about their sexuality to look up to as leaders in Columbus, and I was continuously looking for others like myself who I can look up to for advice, affirmation and lean on for support. I now know that I am not alone. It is empowering to have a group of supporters throughout the nation who I can call on and look up to. I no longer struggle; instead, I am stepping up to be one of the few YBMSM leaders in my community. My passion for the work I do was reignited by the summit and I left knowing that the work I am doing is needed and supported. No matter what challenges that I have or will face, I will never give up.

 
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

Great work by Venton Jones and the Aids.gov team! Check out http://blog.aids.gov/2014/04/swallow-a-pill-for-hiv-prevention.html for more information