Posts Tagged ‘youth’

catharsis dec. 14

 

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Catharsis: A World AIDS Day Event

Date: Monday, November 30, 2015

I am Thomas John Davis an NMAC Youth Scholar

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

Target Audience and Importance

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

 

The agenda for the evening

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

                                                                                    

Why dance?

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

The Long Wait

Choreographed by: Thomas Davis

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

 

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Initial Investment to Help Research, Identify and Apply Innovative Solutions in Baltimore, Maryland and Jackson, Mississippi – Two of the Cities Hardest Hit by HIV/AIDS 


 Research Triangle Park, NC – February 4, 2015 – ViiV Healthcare today announced the launch of a four-year, $10 million initial investment to fuel a concerted community response to the HIV epidemic among Black Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) in Baltimore, Maryland and Jackson, Mississippi, two U.S. cities hard hit by HIV/AIDS. The goal for this new initiative named ACCELERATE!, is to help speed up community-driven solutions to increase access and engagement in supportive HIV care and services by Black MSM. ACCELERATE! aligns with the National HIV/AIDS Strategy and its imperative to focus on communities most disproportionately impacted by HIV/AIDS.

In recent years, there have been increased efforts to address health disparities and social drivers that contribute to the disproportionate impact of HIV/AIDS in Black communities. However, the data continue to tell the story of an enduring and persistent epidemic among Black Americans, and Black MSM in particular. A recent study in The Lancet found disparities across the HIV Care Continuum –

the series of steps from when a person is diagnosed with HIV through the successful treatment of their infection with HIV medications – with 1 in 3 Black MSM found to be HIV-positive, compared with less than 1 in 10 White MSM. The study also found just 24 percent of Black MSM stay in care and 16 percent achieve viral suppression, compared with 43 percent and 34 percent respectively for White MSM.[i] These devastating data, along with the stories of individuals, families and communities affected, mandate the urgent need for new, community-driven approaches and solutions.

“As we commemorate National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, we are proud to announce our ACCELERATE! Initiative, conceived in collaboration with national and community partners to help address the toll HIV/AIDS continues to take on Black communities,” said Bill Collier, Head of North America, ViiV Healthcare. “It’s our ambition that this investment will help build innovative, community-driven solutions to help reduce the HIV epidemic among Black MSM, and strengthen services and communities to support them.”

The ACCELERATE! Initiative leverages what ViiV Healthcare has gleaned from a range of community stakeholders and builds on available insights, community dynamics, best practices, evaluative measures and the conditions that present persistent challenges in Baltimore and Jackson.

Consistent with other ViiV Healthcare-supported programs conducted over the last five years, this initiative began with a convening of a wide range of stakeholders. The Baltimore meeting was held at Johns Hopkins University and included community representatives, allies, state and local health officials, healthcare professionals and academic researchers. The Jackson meeting was held at the Mississippi State Department of Health’s Office of Epidemiology and included a similar range of voices. These discussions, and other conversations with Black MSM and key stakeholders, confirmed the collective will and commitment to accelerating the response.

David Holtgrave, Ph.D., Professor, Department Chair, and Co-Director of the Center for Implementation Research at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, welcomes the ViiVHealthcare community innovation investment. “The disproportionate impact of HIV among Black MSM in our city is a truly urgent public health issue, and there are unmet public health needs that must rapidly be addressed. We welcome an accelerated response to HIV/AIDS in our own backyard, and appreciate this unique opportunity to participate in a discussion with our colleagues and friends in community organizations, health departments, other academic institutions and those with allied concerns, to help conceive, apply and evaluate innovative and evidence-based services so that we can urgently address this critical health disparity.

“Jackson, Mississippi has alarmingly high rates of HIV infection among young Black men; our city’s infection rates are among the highest in the country. We applaud ViiV Healthcare’s commitment to investing in innovative programs to reduce HIV/AIDS-related health disparities in Jackson. We believe that participation from the private sector is an important complement to our local efforts and programs to reduce these disparities,” said Leandro A. Mena, M.D., MPH, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease and Director, Center for HIV/AIDS Research, Education and Policy at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

The first phase of the ACCELERATE! Initiative will include ethnographic research with Black MSM and community members to identify gaps, assets, challenges and priorities, along with an intensive mapping process. ViiV Healthcare is in discussions with academic centers in Baltimore and Jackson for the Initiative’s research, monitoring and evaluation activities. The insights obtained will help determine the right approach and inform the next phase of this initiative in the effort to reduce the HIV epidemic among Black MSM and affected communities, and strengthen the systems that support and sustain programs that work.

About ViiV Healthcare 
ViiV Healthcare is a global specialist HIV company established in November 2009 by GlaxoSmithKline (LSE: GSK) and Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) dedicated to delivering advances in treatment and care for people living with HIV. Shionogi joined as a shareholder in October 2012. The company’s aim is to take a deeper and broader interest in HIV/AIDS than any company has done before and take a new approach to deliver effective and new HIV medicines, as well as support communities affected by HIV. For more information on the company, its management, portfolio, pipeline, and commitment, please visit www.viivhealthcare.com.

As of 2013, AIDS has killed more than 36 million people worldwide (1981-2012), and an estimated 35.3 million people are living with HIV, making it one of the most important global public health issues in recorded history.So ThePoz+Life is calling for everyone to join us on November 29th at 1:00 PM EST via Google Hangout, YouTube, or ThePozLife.com for, ThePozLife: Nationwide Call to Action for World AIDS Day! For this to be successful we need you to share with your social networks, organizations and other news platforms.
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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

We are so excited that Adrian C. decided to join ThePozLife.  This took place at USCA in Patricks room as he asked for Thomas and Adrian C. to come so that we all could chat.  After inviting and having Adrian so graciously agree to come on board Patrick asked him if he ever wanted to share his story.  Adrian at 12am pacific time responded, “how about now?”  Hours later after interviewing, talking and sharing experiences the film was completed and the team worked hard to prepare for the debut of Adrian Castellanos.  Well without further delay we want to share with you his story.

3v4wylje“I’ve decided to share my story because it’s time HIV positive folks began living sin verguenza. Without shame or fear. I feel that an important aspect of ending this pandemic is engaging in dialogue. I hope that my story will get people talking and educating themselves. Knowledge is power and in this case it will be the end of the virus. I am excited to be a part of ThePozLife.com because I will be putting a face, along with my new colleagues, to the epidemic. We are bringing the issue of HIV out of the shadows, and facing it head on. I am happy that we are creating a space for people like us, people of color, to be comfortable enough to talk about HIV and AIDS. I never really thought of myself as an activist, but the moment I heard that I am positive I knew I had to get moving.” – Adrian C.

You can find more information about ThePozLife Crew here!

IMG_1223We would like to welcome Adrian Castellanos to ThePozLife!  Thomas and I were blown away by Adrian’s drive, ambition, determination, and advocacy efforts at USCA 2014 and we found it necessary to bring him onboard.  We feel as if he will be a great voice for the Latino community, youth and individuals affected by HIV.  For more information on Adrian check him out here.
Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us and agreed to join alongside us in our goal to spread awareness and decrease stigma.

-Patrick

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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

 
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