Once upon a time I was in a very successful relationship. A partnership in where I thought that person was utterly perfect for me. Sure we had our arguments but the thing about it was that we were able to put our issues aside and agree to simply disagree. He was as slow and our relationship moved at a glacial pace in the beginning. We went on multiple dates, hung around each other’s friends, had long hours of deep meaningful conversations, and truly fell in love with each other. We had both been through very abusive relationship so when we found that trust within each other it was unbreakable. Then I found out my diagnosis and overnight things started to change. I was being blamed for putting him at risk, I had to watch him go on PEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) before I started my own medication, seeing our sex life decrease tremendously, and just a new negative energy making its way into our relationship.
Things soon folded during the fortnight of Valentine’s Day and I was left all alone and untrusting of guys. Sure I dated, had sex and even thought about having a relationship; however, there was no spark or X-FACTOR in terms of having the same feelings I had before. Flings would last for a week or month but it honestly wasn’t anything I truly valued. I guess you can say love at first sight is a bitch. Well back in May I really decided to put myself back out there and really date. It’s discouraging to think that someone could be the one for you only to find yourself waiting by your phone or be given the run around. With my new job I thought it would be perfect to date and just have fun with guys from around the world (take the word fun how you want).
Surprisingly I’ve found that guys from other countries are willing to hang out with me, go on a date, chat etc. More importantly they understand HIV and know of the ways to reduce chances of transmission even without the availability of PrEP in some countries. Real talk even having sex abroad and in places that are a little more liberal and willing to have productive conversations about sex and HIV/STI status (say California, NYC, Miami) creates for a more enjoyable and less worrisome experience. It is already difficult having to disclose your status but then having to receive 30 texts and calls after the deed is done about concerns about transmission, STI status and if one should go on PEP If they are negative just turns me off from hooking up in the first place. It is enjoyable not having to answer 100 questions or give a brief HIV 101 course prior to going on a first date or into the first round of sex with a stranger.
With that said I recently found a guy I am very interested in. Although I like to now keep my personal life more protected I will say that I am happy that someone is enjoying me for me. It is refreshing to just be able to remain who I am without having to change my appearance or demeanor for someone else’s enjoyment. I have talked about the importance of staying vulnerable and affirmative before and this too is no exception. In life we all go through troubling times and it can seem like you have no one around to hold you or care; however, keep your faith, family and true friends close. Being lonely is no joke. It can suck seeing your social media friend booed up or being that third wheel. My advice is just continue to stay your authentic self, don’t compromise just to be cuffed (cuffing season is among us) and most importantly work to improve you. We all should have a set of short-term and longterm goals that we are constantly working toward. Where are you at when it comes to achieving your goals?
So in life we as humans are constantly growing and evolving. It’s an attempt to better us and strive to achieve the unthinkable. So many times I have caught myself being ok with the status quo and being surrounded by those individuals who didn’t have my back or best interests. Being diagnosed with HIV in 2011 really forced me to go through a sort of metamorphosis and reassess my life.
Recently many folks have been asking, “Did you go and decide to end ThePozLife.com?” The truth is that I decided to do some serious soul searching and adult decision-making. Believe it or not I used to fly before for a regional airline; however, I was sexually assaulted on an overnight and that scarred me so much flying and overnighting in hotel rooms were never the same. That night in Chicago I learned to stop being so naïve and trusting of others. Since then I had gone to working within the for profit sector before transitioning to non-profits and finally a state health department. Since being diagnosed with HIV I have been seeing a mental health professional, discovering who I was, pushing myself to go outside of my perceived limits, and then going back to accomplish my dreams. While working in the HIV field I honestly became disgusted and annoyed. I felt as if I was in a remake of the movie Mean Girls and was among folks who were in the market of making themselves “famous and notarized,” by their work rather than letting the work speak for itself. I found myself surrounding by cliques of academics, community mobilizers, social media gurus, and socialites and began to lose my identity and purpose. That was not Patrick. I was far from my roots of just posting long ass YouTube videos where I’d vent and just aimlessly talk. More importantly I lost focus and connection on the actual experience of living with and moving through life with HIV. I was now in a place where I was talking at people rather than sharing my experiences. Am I bitter how individuals in the field treated me? Yes, however I have had so many great experiences with a handful of folks who have given me so much more than a clique can; therefore, the positive experiences outweigh the negative ones.
It’s very frustrating to work among people who had no passion or drive to really touch people’s lives. More importantly among people who use HIV and people living with it as a tool to gain personal profits and increased social status. I had a coming to Jesus moment where I had to really think about my future. Did I really want to wake up one day 60 years old and had been totally committed to ending the epidemic of HIV that I was not able to pursue my dreams, work within my dream job and primarily being surrounding by people who were in the same situation. Or did I want to break back into a dream job that I loved doing where I could utilize all of my talents. At that point I was close to a decision to go back to being a flight attendant.
The final straw that broke my back was being at a conference in Atlanta earlier this year where someone tried to tell me to look and carry myself a certain way when around people of power and influence. I was very confused at to why I would be invited to become part of an organization but then forced to change to be the ultra conservative, suit wearing, name throwing, and inability to have humility that they had. It wasn’t my thing and seeing how particular folks can be really changed my perspective on the colleagues in the field I worked with.
Since leaving I have not heard from many folks in the HIV and Public Health field and if I have heard from them it is honestly for something they want. I am not writing that to complain but to let you know that in life you come across people throughout your individual journey to greatness and you may not take them to you. It is ok for them to come and go. This is simply apart of the human experience. It is so important to focus on your dreams and the necessary people you either have to knock over or get through to get to the finish line. The other important thing is to make sure that you keep those valuable friends and allies on your side. These folks will support you when you are up or down in the dumps.
Being a flight attendant for one of the greatest airlines in the world is a blessing. The experience of living with HIV within a Fortune 500 company is different but I am ready for the challenge and blessed that I am able to share every moment I can with you. Remember living and with HIV is a unique situation. We have many ups and downs the others will never know about. I just keep my faith and positivity that things will work out. This ideology has not failed me yet.
“Im going back, back, back to my roots
Where my love can be found and my heart rings true
Im going back, back, back to my roots
To the time and the place, coming back to you.” – Rupaul
On the Daybreak this morning, Noel Cayasso-Smith and guest speaker Thomas Davis talk about CAF’s mission.
Mr. Davis’ presentation will focus on the stigma and discrimination with persons living with HIV/AIDS.
Mr. Cayasso-Smith says that there’s so much discrimination and that it has stopped people from getting tested.”It’s a community awareness thing with the stigma and awareness that we are trying to break,” he said.
Mr. Davis shares his story of when he was diagnosed with HIV in his early 20′s. He also said education is important and that not educating young people can cause more harm than good.
This is the third year that CAF has hosted this event.
Like it or not but HIV related stigma can be seen everywhere. From the entertainment industry all the way to our phones. Mobile networking apps or as I like to call them “FCK or Hookup apps,” carry much of the stigma. Many of these companies like Grindr, Scruff, Jack’d, and Adam4Adam do provide ways for AIDS Service Organizations/Community-based organizations to advertise services, and is a great opportunity to outreach to our community. Many of these applications allow for you to share your status, and even note your last testing date if you are positive; however, we are still turned down, blocked, or face ridiculous comments when we disclose our status to people or reach out to them as a openly positive person. So here goes a list of the SHIT IGNORANT GUYS SAY TO POZ GUYS Online:
“Are you clean/DDF?“
Let’s face it before you can even get into saying what you are into or what your favored dick size is you are faced with either reading this in a profile or after a light exchange of messages. What tickles us is the fact that folks common sense would either be confused by what someone means by clean or not disclose one’s STD and HIV status in order to bust a nut or avoid being discriminated against. Let’s not mention the fact that many are positive yet just do not know it. How about saying something like “I frequently test and currently negative for all STDs including HIV. How about you?” We are all clean. Let’s stop using cleanliness to describe status and keep it in the hygiene category.
“Sooo… can you still fuck?“
I take it that the lack of comprehensive sex education and just lack of contact with positive guys attributes to this. It is really sad that guys think that an HIV positive diagnosis means that we have to give up our sexual pleasure. Yes, guys who are positive can have sex and lots of it. Many use the term “undetectable to share that they are virally suppressed and on top of the virus.” Studies have shown that an undetectable viral load means a significant decrease of being infected with HIV if exposed.
“Why are you still having sex and/or bare backing if you are positive?”
The answer is simply because I can. Just because someone is HIV positive doesn’t mean they have to confine themselves to a life of celibacy nor only have sex with positive guys. It’s all about sex positivity. If both parties are cool with it then so be it.
“But you’re such a good guy.”
I’m still a good guy. Being HIV positive doesn’t change who I am as a person.
“I prefer my guys clean or DDF.”
Yet if no one even mentioned HIV you wouldn’t have brought it up or asked when the last time I tested (or cared if it was more than a year). So many put clean or DDF in their profile yet don’t understand you are basically saying anyone who is not STI or HIV free is dirty. Plenty of times you wouldn’t even be able to know a person’s actual status based of off window periods. We need to learn to have healthy conversations surrounding current STI and HIV status.
How did you get it?
HIV isn’t something you just pick up off the sale rack at TJ MAXX. Everyone’s experience with the virus is different. More importantly, it’s probably not your business. There are some people who are willing to talk about their own story, but that doesn’t mean you should assume it’s okay to ask other poz people the same question. It could be a difficult conversation for some people to have based off of past negative or traumatic experiences . Don’t be that person who reopens old and unhealed wounds.
“Who gave it to you?”
Who gave you Herpes? Oops was that too much? I mean it’s like asking someone what they went to jail for. Let the person tell you that information when they feel comfortable around you. Again there is such a thing as too much information.
What does someone who has HIV look like? Remember we are now in 2015 not the 80s. Due to the available and much needed medications, research, medical services, behavioral health services, prevention options, and so many other programs we have the necessary things to stay healthy. Folks living with HIV keep their viral loads down, their CD4 counts/percentages up, and overall holistic health flourishing. Some people don’t look like total a-holes but hey looks can be deceiving, am I right? Listen, people with HIV look like you or me or him or her or them. HIV doesn’t look any specific way. Did you think I’d be wasting away? That we’d be frail and sickly little things? On the contrary, there are lots of hot guys out there living with HIV! (See thepozlife.com and this article for perfect examples.)
“Isn’t it like you just take a pill and everything is good?”
If only that was the case. Folks who are positive deal with so much stuff that goes beyond just taking a pill. Remember the fact that stigma creates barriers to staying adherent to medication and add a host of other mental and social issues. I hear horror stories of how people hid their meds in over-the-counter bottles, take their meds in secret, or even suffer from behavioral health issues. I have even been open about my own chronic depression and PTSD, which can cause huge barriers socially and to medication adherence. It takes those who truly understand the nature and severity of what people living with HIV are going through to understand that it isn’t just like a antiretroviral HIV pill(s) can fix things. So much time is spent with a mental health professional and a medical provider always checking to makes sure things are well.
“Do you think I need to be tested?” Only you can answer that question. I would say if you haven’t tested in 6-12 months and have been potentially exposed to HIV then yes you should. In addition, if your local health department has contacted you or Disease Intervention Specialist (DIS) and they confirm you may have been exposed then testing would be advantageous.
“I was tested for HIV last year?”
This is a tricky one. When I provide HIV counseling to many people who happen to be young and old alike I have to remind them of the window period, the need to frequently test, and the fact that based off of things like the amount of sex and number of partners may create the benefit of screening multiple times within a year (3-6 months). I tend to recommend HIV and STI testing every 3-6 months for folks who are highly sexually active
Chile boo. I am not going anywhere. As long as I take my meds as prescribed, go to my doctors visit, and live an overall holistic healthy lifestyle I will be just as old if not older than you. Yes! And so will you! I’m assuming most guys mean to ask; will you die due to HIV related causes? C’mon guys. Great strides have been made in enhancing treat and the lives of those living with the virus, and discovering out how to control it in order to live a full life. As long as a poz person stays in care and/or sticks to their medications then there’s hardly a reason that their lifespan is decreased BECAUSE of HIV.
“But you’re such a good person.” Sooooo everyone else that has HIV are terrible people? No my friend HIV doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t care which walk of life you come from. You could be the biggest sinner around or a total saint! You could have a purse so heavy making Oprah dollars or dirt poor. Keep your pre-conceived judgments to yourself.
“How did you get it?”
The same ways HIV is transmitted. Did you want some elaborate story? Well that depends on how comfortable the poz guy you’re talking to is up to sharing.
“Who gave it to you?” Again this is probably not your business and probably not the most comfortable conversation to have. Also, does it matter? If you’re worried about knowing who has “it,” and who doesn’t so you can know whom to avoid, then you probably should be taking other precautions. Like, I don’t know, talking about the matter with your intimate partners, condom use, and even PrEP?
“I prefer my guys clean.” Hey good for you! Some like ’em clean, some like ’em smelly! STOP equating being negative to being clean! If negative is too difficult of a word to type out, use “neg,” maybe? It’s also only one syllable!
“I’m so sorry for you.”
And I am so sorry that you are ignorant as hell. No one asked for apologies. Why? Who died? Is my dog okay? Dude, where’s my car? I kindly reject your invite to the pity party. Instead of feeling sorry or sad for me, you could try to support the HIV community by broadening your horizons and giving back. Educate yourself and start the conversation with your friends. I’m only sorry that people still cringe at the acronyms HIV and AIDS.
Why does it have to be anyone at all? Why do folks think that HIV only goes after a certain look? Although certain populations are impacted greater than others anyone can be HIV-positive. It does not matter how you look, your socioeconomic status, the amount of followers or likes you have, or even if you identify as a top or bottom. Trust there are some positive tops out there.
Patrick Ingram and Adrian Castellanos are two awesome gay men of color living with HIV sharing their experiences. Please share, spread the word, and continue to keep in touch with ThePozLife.com. For media inquiries please contact Patrick@thepozlife.com
ViiV Healthcare Announces $10 Million Initiative to Accelerate Response to HIV/AIDS Among Black Gay and Bisexual Men
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.
This year has been a big one for me. Firstly, in late march I learned my status as a positive person. A few months after, the caseworker that did my intake told me about the NMAC Youth Initiative. I applied and was awarded a scholarship to attend the conference in October. It was an amazing experience to be surrounded by like-minded, young, professionals and individuals. While at the conference I had the pleasure of meeting Thomas, Patrick, and Benjamin. It was an honor to be brought on board to ThePozLife. After I returned home I had many ideas and seeds to plant for my community. In late October I met with the executive director of the Valley AIDS Council, James Judkins, and a caseworker to discuss some ideas I had for our area. One of those being to launch a support group targeted to but not exclusively for HIV positive people in the Rio Grande Valley: VPOS, Valley Peer Outreach and Support. VPOS is one of my projects for 2015 and I am eager to get that up and running strong for the New Year. I created a Grindr and Jack’D profile to conduct my own outreach and to answer any questions my community might have regarding HIV and resources in the Valley. I started these profiles early November and have received a positive, no pun intended response from the men in my area that have approached me. Through these outlets, I’ve been able to reference some of these men to testing centers and provide basic and detailed knowledge of the virus. On World AIDS Day, December first, I had the pleasure of attending our local AIDS Memorial Quilt presentation at the University of Texas Pan American and met a few more members of the Valley AIDS Council. Who presented me with a job opportunity as a Risk Reduction Specialist where I would be conducting HIV and STI screenings, providing counseling to members of the community that reach out to us, and conducting outreach activities. I’ve applied for the position and have made it to the final round of interviewing; I am anticipating a decision sometime early January. In looking forward to 2015 I have also applied for a scholarship to attend AIDS Watch in DC and am waiting for a response. You can learn more about AIDS Watch here: http://www.aidsunited.org/AIDSWatch-2015/Scholarship-Information.aspx
2014 has been such a roller coaster, sometimes difficult, but I’m happy to say that I not only survived, but thrived! I’m very excited to see what I can accomplish in 2015. Especially now with all that I’ve started and alongside the boys at ThePozLife.
This year has been HUGE for me! I am truly grateful for every experience I’ve had. I started the year releasing my video of me “coming out” as HIV positive. I wasn’t sure what it would look like to be openly living with HIV but I knew it was something I wanted to do. After sharing my video I attended YGBLI summit in Atlanta and connected with Patrick Ingram and Adrian Hobson. I then got more involved with Aids Project Los Angeles and their young men’s group Empowerment. As the year progressed Empowerment changed to R3VNG, which stands for Reshaping 3 letters for the Voices of the Now Generation. In addition to changing the name APLA also provided funding for R3VNG to create a talk show focused around HIV education and other issues that surround gay men of color. Towards the end of the year I attended USCA in San Diego as a Youth Ambassador, which was an AMAZING experience! At USCA The POZ Life team expanded to get a wider range of representation. After returning I worked on a project with Reach LA where I choreographed a dance that told a story about the struggle between two people to deal with HIV being introduced into their relationship. It’s the first piece in what I hope will be a series of creations centered on living with HIV. I was also picked by The Human Rights Campaign as a youth ambassador and will be involved with them until 2016. This past December I spoke at an event for World Aids Day at the New Testament Church here in L.A. For the past few weeks I’ve been prepping to speak at Time To Thrive in Oregon at the start of 2015. Most recently I was featured in Healthline’s Portrait of HIV. Outside of my involvement with HIV I’ve spent the last year teaching at Lula Washington Dance Theater and training/touring with the professional company in preparation for their 35th anniversary in 2015. This past month I also started touring with a company called The Lucent Dossier Experience and did a performance in Las Vegas.
One year ago this month I made a resolution that 2014 I would go “All Out”. Since then almost everything in my life has changed.
A year ago I was okay with the normal daily routine in the organization I worked for. Now everyday when I wake up for work I find myself all over again and pursue my passion every day. A year ago I was content with my life. Now I’m living a meaningful life. A year ago I wasn’t speaking out, let alone blogging. Now I’m proud to be apart of ThePozLife, as well as other endeavors. A year ago I had few people reading my words (other than some vapid work emails). Now I have over 100,000 active followers, and my work have been read by over half-a-million people in 151 countries this year.
A year ago my inspirations were Angelina Jolie, Laverne Cox, Pedro Zamora, Janet Mock, and others like them. And I’m still inspired by them. A year later I’ve been in meetings guys, been featured on international websites, and established organizational relationships with them and dozens of similar people who have helped shaped the lives of those living with HIV in meaningful way.
A year ago I hadn’t presented anything. Now I’ve presented 20 presentations: 5 abstracts, Facilitated 2 nationwide panel discussions, and featured on 3 magazine covers.
A year ago I had a spreadsheets full of goals, and I would beat myself up when I didn’t achieve those goals. Now I live with one goal at a time.
A year ago we strived to make everything perfect. Now we embrace the imperfection of my daily life.
A year ago I was a dorky guy living in South Florida. Now I’m given the opportunity to travel the country and meet young advocates like myself and collaborate with the most amazing people I’ve ever met. I’ve given away hundreds of free hugs on this tour so far.
A year ago there was a considerable amount of discontent in our lives. Now I’m happy, and when we I look in the rearview mirror everything is different.
A REASON FOR THESE STATS?
I’m not trying to impress you with my “accomplishments.” Rather, I want to impress upon you the power of a year. As human beings, we often overestimate what we can accomplish in a short period of time (e.g., six-pack abs in two weeks), but we drastically underestimate what we can accomplish in a year or two.
Most of the above mentioned “accomplishments” weren’t goals I developed at the beginning of the year. They just happened, organically, as we worked hard to add value to other people’s lives. Thus, I’ve discovered that when we add value to other people’s lives, everything else tends to fall into place. The big life changes don’t happen overnight. Give yourself some time. Put in a lot of effort and keep at it. You’ll be surprised with what can happen in a year.
2014 has been a year of progression, beauty, success, and identity. This year started with trying to discover a way of growing PozLifeofPatrick to be faithful to my goals from my resolutions for 2014. After the Young Black Gay Men’s Leadership Initiative’s 2014 Policy and Advocacy Summit I discovered how that would look. PozLifeofPatrick took the necessary steps and evolved to ThePoz+Life.
By bringing on the unique personalities and positive attributes of others living and affected by HIV we are now able to reach places we have not been before. At this year’s USCA we asked the tough questions, networked, educated people on what we do, and really worked alongside other young people to have our needs and issues addressed. At the ViiV Community Summit in Miami, FL we learned about the great community work ViiV Healthcare does, new information on advancements in the work to end the HIV epidemic, and the work that is taking place in our communities. We were apart of their 1st Youth Summit were we refined our leadership skills, fellowshipped with other great young leaders and influencers, and gained new collaborations which will start in 2015.
In 2015 we look forward to working alongside great organizations, projects and individuals who are ready to see the end of the HIV epidemic. Personally, I am very excited to have been able to represent the many Young Black Gay Men living with HIV through a variety many projects. They took the form of filming a commercial, interviews, magazine features, Op-Ed pieces, being apart of “Black Voices,” and even being featured in a photo exhibition aboard. This year has been full of challenges as I have continued to battle depression and PTSD, working full-time, being a full-time student, having people relying on me as a primary source of support, managing the newly formed ThePozLife, and trying to live my own personal life. Although there were many challenges trying to balance all of these responsibilities the rewards have been fruitful and the fact that I can touch and connect with people who are both HIV-Positive and HIV-Negative continues to speaks volumes.
In 2015 I have a few request.
- Let’s focus on not always bragging about what we do but instead give your platform to someone else for five minutes
- Seek self-improvement and self-development
- Give back through volunteering and donating to causes specific to one’s you are affected by
- Stop being selfish and collaborate with others, also support social justice movements that realistically impact us all
- Share the work of ThePozLife and always keep us in your prayers and thoughts
The most important piece of this all is to understand that regardless of how you feel or think that your voice and lived experiences does matter!
See you at NAESM in January!
Positivity is everything
So after sending Joshua Rogers, the writer/director of Pickup, a message on Instagram I was happy to receive a response from him.I am so elated that Joshua was able to take time out of his busy schedule, promotion of the short film and fundraising to talk with ThePozLife. I have stated my frustration with the fact that we do not tend to see many movies out there depicting the HIV experience in this new era of the virus; therefore, this movie naturally excites me. Check out my interview below and remember to head over and donate toward the cause of seeing a movie surrounding gay characters that are HIV-positive and portraying that experience comes to fruition
What was the thought behind doing a movie that was focused on HIV?
Joshua Rogers – I’m always looking for unique stories that haven’t been told before. I started writing this particular one, about a gay man telling a potential partner that he’s HIV-positive for the first time, when a friend came out to me as positive and I realized that I’d never seen that on film before. I never saw it as a coming out story. The more we talked about his fears and struggles, the more I understood how interesting his story was and how important it is that it’s told. Just to clarify, this is not my friend’s story, but he loves the script and I have his full support.
Are any of the actors HIV positive?
Joshua Rogers – Two of the three major roles have been cast, and I honestly don’t know if they’re positive or negative. All I know is that they embody these characters brilliantly and both are extremely passionate about the project.
There is a severe lack of focus on HIV in a positive light within film. How is your film and its cast helping to address HIV and have much needed dialogue?
Joshua Rogers – The purpose of this film is to start a dialogue. I want people to relate to the characters and situations and walk away thinking about what they just saw, talking about it with their friends. I agree that there is a severe lack of focus on HIV in a positive light within film and we want our movie to put a stop to that. We want to reach the widest audience possible so everyone can see a realistic, honest, and heartfelt portrayal of an HIV-positive person who’s happy, healthy, and looking for love, just like everyone else. This is our positive love story.
Why is donating to your film important?
Joshua Rogers – In order to reach the widest audience possible, we need to make the best movie possible. A film that looks and feels like something everyone will want to see. It’s difficult to get this kind of film made in Hollywood, which is why we choose to raise the funds on Kickstarter. We knew it was a film people would want to see made. This way we can make sure from beginning to end, that the story is authentic and true to the subject matter.
What was the biggest challenge with the film?
Joshua Rogers – Raising the money is the biggest challenge so far. We’re filmmakers who know how to make a great film, but haven’t had to raise money ourselves before. We’ve all been working really hard to get the word out (the last day to donate is December 16, 11am PST) and we’re all proud of what we’ve accomplished so far and learned so much about fundraising.
What will the audience take away from Pick up?
Joshua Rogers – They’ll be taken on a journey few have been on before. They will be introduced to a character and a situation only a few have ever experienced. Hopefully they will come out of it with a little more empathy, a little more understanding, and maybe it will be a step towards stopping the stigma associated with HIV.
Is there anything you would like to mention or say?
Joshua Rogers – The reception so far to the script and to the kickstarter campaign has been incredibly humbling and encouraging. I’ve had the unique pleasure of hearing some really amazing stories from HIV-positive people from all over the world who want this film made. Thank you to everyone who’s donated so far and everyone who will continue to help us reach the goal! And thank you to everyone that’s reached out, offered their help, told us their story, and reminded us of why we started this project.
Also, I learned by reading a recent post by Josh Robbins from ImStillJosh.com (Friend to ThePozLife) that in early 2015 auditions for a third important role will be taking place out in Los Angeles. So for those actors preparing their dialogues and stage presence good luck and may the odds be forever in your favor.
For more information on Pick Up check out their Kickstarter Campaign
Earlier this year Thomas, Adrian, and I had the opportunity to attend the Young Black Gay Men’s Leadership Initiative’s Policy & Advocacy Summit in Atlanta. I can tell you this is going to be bigger and better! If you are 18-29 years old and identify as a Black gay, bisexual, same gender loving, or as a man who has sex with men then apply. Below is the press release with additional answers to some frequent questions. You can reach the application here. Please share with your networks and get the word out to ensure people have the ability to apply. Applications are open until January 5 at 5:00pm EST.
The Young Black Gay Men’s Leadership Initiative (YBGLI) is excited to announce its third Policy & Advocacy Summit (PAS). The PAS will bring together young Black gay, bisexual, and same gender loving men from various parts of the United States in order to help them become better advocates and leaders within their communities.
Applicants are selected based on a proven track of individual leadership, community mobilization and/or ability to conduct grassroots organizing at the local, state, and/or regional level. The PAS will include various policy, advocacy, and mobilization -based workshops that are designed to encourage activism through new media and ongoing engagement with the community.
If you – or someone you know – would be a good fit for the 2015 PAS, please complete this application. Summit applicants are due Monday, January 5, 2015, 5:00 p.m. EST. Applicants will be notified of their application status by email no later than Monday, January 26, 2015.
FAQ’s about the 2015 Policy & Advocacy Summit
1.) What is the Policy & Advocacy Summit (PAS)?
The PAS aims to build capacity and promote leadership among young Black gay, bisexual, and same gender loving men in order to help them become better advocates and leaders within their community. The PAS will include various policy, advocacy, and mobilization -based workshops that are designed to encourage activism through new media and ongoing engagement with the community.
2.) Who is eligible to apply/attend the 2015 PAS?
Eligible applicants are U.S. citizens between the ages of 18 – 29 years who are
- African American/Black, and identify as
- Gay, bisexual, same gender loving, or as a man who has sex with men.
3.) How does the application process work?
The application is available at www.ybgli.org. All applicants are required to submit an application that includes submission of a resume/CV. No application will be considered complete without a resume or CV. The deadline to submit your application is Monday, January 5, 2015 5:00 p.m. EST. All selected applicants will be notified of their status by email no later than Monday, January 26, 2015.
4.) What is expected of my participation in the PAS?
Selected applicants are expected to participate in a pre-conference webinar shortly after being selected for the Summit. Webinar information will be included in acceptance package. Additionally, selected applicants are expected to participate fully during all PAS-related activities and to demonstrate excellent judgment and character while at the PAS.
5.) What is the cost to attend the PAS?
There is no cost associated with attending the 2015 PAS. However, please let us know if your employer/organization would be willing to subsidize your participation in the PAS through financial or other in-kind donations. This will allow us to finance more participants. Please note this information will NOT help or hurt your application, as the 2015 PAS selection process is double-blind.
6.) What should I wear/bring to the PAS?
Participants are expected to dress in business attire throughout the 2015 PAS. Participants who choose not to dress in business casual attire may be asked not to participate in PAS-related activities and/or asked to leave the PAS entirely. Participants will be encouraged to use their cellphones, tablets, and/or laptops throughout the PAS in order to utilize social and digital media. However, YBGLI is not responsible for any lost or stolen items.
7.) What will I learn/do at the summit?
Among other things, 2015 PAS participants will…
- Network with other young Black gay, bisexual, and same gender loving men from across the United States.
- Develop policy, advocacy, and interpersonal communication skills through workshops and institutes.
- Learn about issues affecting young Black gay, bisexual, and same gender loving men from respected experts in a diversity of fields, including health, research, policy, advocacy, community mobilization, and communications.
- Have fun!
8.) How many participants will attend the summit?
The 2015 PAS will bring together up to 60 participants from across the United States.
9.) Are transgender or gender non-conforming men eligible to participate in the 2015 PAS?
Yes, the PAS is open to transgender men and gender non-conforming men.
10.) Who should I contact if I have more questions about the 2014 PAS summit?
Contact the YBGLI Organizing Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org for summit related questions and to inquire about sponsorship opportunities.
11.) What is the location and date of the 2015 PAS?
The location and date will be included in the acceptance package. You will have two weeks to confirm acceptance.
12.) If I can’t – or am not chosen to – attend the summit, how else can I participate/get involved with YBGLI?