All posts tagged black

22 Posts

Rewriting Your Inner Scripts

   Like many this week I read and discovered that Kid Cudi checked himself into rehab for “depression and suicidal urges.” It is intriguing that at 32 years of age this Black man checked himself into a place that will address his mental health. This is fantastic if you ask for my initial thoughts. Folks of color need this because realistically “we,” do not address much of the trauma (mostly mental but some physical) that we endure throughout our lives. In the Black community, showing any form of weakness is taboo. African-American men are especially taught to be strong and not give any indication of weakness. Many hide such vulnerabilities behind fortresses that prohibit any emotions from breaking out. Addressing mental health within the Black community is much more important today as we still face racial inequality, police brutality and other barrier that prohibit us from reaching our full potential in society.

When I was a flight attendant for a regional airline I was sexually assaulted on a layover. I was drugged and taken advantage of by two men and still to this day cannot identify them; however, their smell and voices still are glued into my head only to haunt me. I just recall waking up in extreme pain and a sight that still gives me nightmares.  I did the only thing I could do, which was to clean myself up and go to work.  The trauma led to more issues as I unknowingly infected my boyfriend at the time with an STI, which led him to believe I was cheating on him. This led to physical and verbal abuse, which only made things worse on my end. I never reported the rape because I never believed that the police would believe me nor understand how to deal with a gay man being raped. I was messed up internally and based off of the trauma the only way I dealt with it was through the only outlet I felt at the Photo on 1-31-13 at 8.16 PMtime was reasonable…. sex. The amount and types of sex I had to this day is a blur. I can tell you there was so much of it and even to this day I run into people online or in person who expect me to remember them and our encounter and I am completely clueless. As I was starting to phase out of the addiction of sex I was faced with another event, my HIV diagnosis. This sent me into a deep depression and a rise in my anxiety. I called out of work, stayed in bed, was not in the mood to eat, contemplated suicide and did not even open my blinds or turn on lights to give myself light. At one point I took a handful of pills in hopes that my life would end. I thank God that I am still here today. I credit my initial medical provider and caseworker at Whitman Walker for saving me as they directed me to a therapist. Much time was spent addressing my PTSD, depression, panic attacks, and anxiety through sitting down on a nice futon styled couch or by taking additional pills to my regimen.

Friendship, fellowship and being vulnerable to allow people into my
life worked just as strong as the treatment path I was on. Having people who acted like the roots to my tree provided stability, nutrients and the necessary affirmations needed to bring me back from a very dark place. In the beginning of this year while on a trip I was hospitalized due to viral meningitis. While sitting in my hospital room the doctor, who was an intern, came in and said “I feel so sorry for you.” She went on to explain that what was causing the meningitis was a strain of HSV-2. “You are 26 years old, black, HIV-positive, and now with another infection that is cAusten by sex you have so much life to live but you just are wasting it away,” she said with judgement. Although I was able to tell her that I stay affirmative and focus on my health and moving forward, deep down inside I was shocked, disappointed and angry at myself. I was replaying the rape, finding out my HIV diagnosis in the nasty way I did and feeling dirty. I hate when people use the word CLEAN to identify their STD status; however, I just felt filthy and wanted to scrub myself raw in hopes that I would be able to remedy myself of this new information I obtained. I ended up falling back into another deep battle with depression and feeling the anxiety creeping back in. Back at work I felt like I had to be this Ice Queen because if I would open up about my life then people would immediately know I was Poz and HSV-positive. I would check my entire body every day and night to make sure I was not breaking out anywhere. When people would try to get close I would simply push them away.  Every time my back or neck started to get tight or cramp I would immediately call my doctor and beg him to run more tests. I was a mess but I forced myself into therapy to help work through the issues. She encouraged me to try to push myself past my comfort zone, be social and try to make new friends while maintaining the friends I left behind.

I’ve been blessed to have good friends that continue to check on me although I may not reciprocate as often. My good friend in Florida always calls me to check to make sure I am doing alright.  My gay dad in San Francisco always sends positive healing vibes my way.  Being accepted by three amazing queer men of color at my job for who I am and the social awkwardness that comes with me makes me feel worthy of continuing
this journey that is life. On the trip we worked together they included me in almost everything.  We even purchased makeup together and also had a spa day and gave each other facials.  Having my bestfriend call me when she has not heard from me and when I pick up says “Where you been ho!”sounds silly and borderline offensive but just immediately places a smile on my face while making life just a little more bearable. Although I still remail closed off to much of the world, especially where I am at presently I still try my hardest to be vulnerable about my feelings, be willing to receive hugs, say I love you and mean it, and appreciate the calls to check-in on me. I share my story because we all go through shit and acquire so much trauma through our lives. We shouldn’t be afraid to seek a mental health professional, talk to friends and other support structures and be willing to take the necessary steps to take care of the issues we are dealing with. Cudi described himself  exactly as I feel at times which is “a damaged human swimming in a pool of emotions everyday in my life.” As someone who continuously deals with depression and PTSD from my sexual assault and diagnoses it is nice to see a Black man speak up transparently about his own mental health.
My therapist is on speed dial. Although I am in a good space right now I still work hard to see her. My therapist and medical provider are critical pieces to my puzzle toward greater holistic health. NEVER be afraid to see someone to help you work through the internal struggles.

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.

YBGLI’s Policy & Advocacy Summit

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.  


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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.

2015 Policy & Advocacy Summit Application

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

  1. African American/Black, and identify as
  2.  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 summit@ybgli.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?

Contact the YBGLI Organizing Committee at leadership@ybgli.org for additional opportunities to stay connected. In the meantime, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

YBGLI October Policy Hangout with Members of the CDC

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The Organizing Committee of the Young Black Gay Men’s Leadership Initiative (YBGLI) are pleased to welcome distinguished members of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to the YBGLI October Google Policy Hangout on Air scheduled for Thursday, October 30th at 7pm EDT.

REGISTER HERE

Dr. Eugene McCary, Mr. Lamont Scales and Dr. Dawn Smith, MD are the panelists chosen for this discussion. These individuals are committed to engaging with young black gay, bisexual and same gender loving individuals about what the CDC does and can do for our community. Register and join us. Don’t miss your chance to ask CDC your compelling question and get answers.  This is a perfect opportunity to be engaged and be an advocate for the community so share this very exciting event and let’s make it a great turn out!  Besides, it’s not like you have an opportunity to engage members of the CDC about young black gay, bisexual and SGL folks.

USCA 2014: Reflections of 3 Black Voices Bloggers – From Blog.AIDS.GOV Post

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

The Poz Life Live

Check out our last show where we discuss grieving and HIV.

BLACK VOICES: INDEPENDENCE FROM HIV by Venton Jones

Last month, the White House Office of National AIDS Policy hosted the much-anticipated meeting on HIV in the Southern United States. Federal stakeholders, policy makers, national and regional venton-e1396560969818advocates were in attendance to outline the current state of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the South and identify solutions for reducing the impact of HIV in this region of the United States. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the South has the highest number of people who are becoming infected and the majority of the people who are living with HIV in the South are people of color. During this important meeting, I had the opportunity to share my perspective as a person from the South living with HIV and also share recommendations for addressing the existing challenges around eradicating HIV in the South.

I am originally from Dallas, Texas. I grew up with a passion for health care as most of my family were involved in various aspects of health-care service and delivery. After obtaining my Bachelor of Science in Community Health from Texas A&M University in 2006, I moved back to my hometown to start my career in public health. I then completed my Master of Science in Healthcare Administration. My primary area of interest was health disparities and understanding its impact within communities of color. This led me towards an interest in HIV/AIDS and its disproportionate impact on Black gay men and men of other races who have sex with men (MSM). Early on in my career, I realized the stigma and fear that was associated around addressing the needs of this population.

During my time in Dallas, I was involved with a number of local and state-level HIV groups, including the Texas HIV/STD Community Planning Group. One of my first jobs in HIV prevention was working with United Black Ellument Exit Disclaimer. This project, funded by the University of California’s Center for AIDS Prevention Studies, aimed to adapt the Mpowerment HIV prevention Exit Disclaimer intervention for young, Black, gay and bi-sexual men, between the ages of 18-29. Throughout my work, a major challenge I faced while living in the South was around getting health systems to understand the unique social and structural challenges that act as barriers to effective HIV prevention, care and treatment efforts within populations of Black gay men and other MSM. These include, but are not limited to: racism, homophobia, lack of culturally competent service delivery and a lack of Black gay men in leadership positions throughout the community, HIV/AIDS organizations and government.

This part of the country is directly in the cross-hairs of challenges that persistently contribute to increased HIV infection rates and low rates of viral suppression. I believe in order to get the HIV/AIDS epidemic under control in the United States and ultimately, to move to an AIDS-free generation, we must continue our intentional focus on the issues facing Black MSM.

How are you focusing your efforts on those issue facing Black MSM? People in the South?

– See more at: http://blog.aids.gov/2014/07/black-voices-independence-from-hiv.html#sthash.PD0u8gjU.dpuf

Open That Closet Door Fashion Show – Time To Take It To The Cat Walk!

 

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Nova Salud put on another amazing event as myself and other individuals who are affected by HIV took time out of their schedules to model amazing clothes by Juan Jose Saenz-Ferreyros and his line Ferreyros Couture Company.  Thank you all who came out to give back to Nova Salud as they continue to provide excellent services to the Northern Virginia region.  Also, a huge thank you for all the sponsors and O Mansion for making this event happen.    

 

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For more information on Nova Salud click here.  

Meet the 2014-2015 YBGLI Organizing Committee Members

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.

Shade: Necessary or Not?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Adrian Neil-Hobson

Plus and Minus: How I found myself dating someone HIV- Positive

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KenLikeBarbie and Patrick Ingram behind the scenes photo shoot for AIDS.gov (and no folks this was just for play-both are not together).

[This was brought to you by one of our guest contributors who wanted to share their story.  Want to share your story then click here!]

    If one were to ask me six months ago my thoughts on being in a relationship with someone who was HIV positive, I would have responded that it wasn’t an option. From a young age, I always imagined myself having the ‘fairytale’ ending. Well, the fairytale that always seems to be portrayed in media, at least. The handsome, well-groomed, great mannered gentlemen; three kids, two dogs, luxury cars, a four-story house with a green carpet of grass…all concealed by the security of our bordering white picket fence. For years, I’ve been daydreaming of the fantasy. Being a gay black male, however, my parents found it necessary to remind me that life was going to be hard enough considering I would already have those ‘three strikes’ against me. With the silent whisper in my mind, I made it a point to never involve myself, or get caught up with something that could potentially put my fantasy lifestyle in farther reach. As simple minded as it may seem, I always assumed that contracting HIV would be equivalent to putting a loaded gun to my head and pulling the trigger. Death to the luxurious lifestyle; a suicide to ravish reality. An HIV negative and HIV positive persons could never coincide together, I would tell myself. Looking back, I realize that it was a mere lack of education and knowledge that brought me to this elementary conclusion.

            It wasn’t until three months ago that my ideologies began to quickly change. I met this amazing guy who seemed to have all of the qualities that I was searching for, and countless more. He made it a point to be very open and honest about his lifestyle, and quickly shared his status of being HIV positive. It may seem odd, but the mere fact that he was willing to be so open and honest shortly after our introduction was very reassuring to me. Just in that one statement, he showed more self-confidence than I could ever hope to have. It was in that instance that I knew it was time to be more open minded, trustworthy, and take a chance on love…a chance on true happiness. A few weeks later, it was apparent that he was becoming a much-needed positive – no pun intended – influence in my life. He was patient with me, showing great interest and care in my well-being, as well as his own. This allowed me the time to take into consideration all that would entail in being involved in a sero-discordant relationship. Engaging in conversation and activity with someone who was HIV positive, which once seemed like a detrimental mask, was only a small blemish – per se – in realizing that my real life fairytale was coming true.

With a quick press of the fast forward button, I am grateful to say that he is still in my life; with hopes that he will remain forever. Being an advocate for HIV awareness, he has educated me tremendously on the pressures of living with HIV. While we have not yet had any backlash of negative stigma surrounding our relationship, I feel the time may be approaching for me to be open with my close friends and family about our sero-discordant relationship. A part of me still feels a sense of anxiety, wondering how others will view us, or quickly pass judgment. I contemplate on a daily basis over when is the ‘right’ time to share the news. But knowing that I have him in my corner to help weed out the negative opinions of others is making this internal battle all the more easier. When I look at him, I don’t see or think about HIV; I’m simply reminded of all the characteristics that make him a wonderful individual. I know this is only the beginning of the journey, but I couldn’t think of anyone else I would rather take this adventure with.

Moving forward, we have made it a point to maintain open communication in all aspects of our relationship. Staying on top of one another about getting tested regularly, maintaining healthy eating habits, and staying active are towards the top of the list. We have also been discussing methods of practicing safer sex. Aside from the frontrunner of condom use, PrEP has been a big part of the discussion. If used correctly, PrEP can greatly reduce the risk of contracting HIV. After recent discussion with my doctor, as well as, educating myself on the costs and benefits of using PrEP, I think this will be a major benefit for our relationship. My only advice for those who find themselves in a similar circumstance is to keep an open mind, but be honest with yourself about the struggles of the future. Educate yourself, as well as others, because with knowledge, each day is another step forward in winning the battle of the HIV epidemic. Be kind to others, as you never know another individuals feats and triumphs. And finally, stay humble and be fortunate for all that you have been blessed with.IMG_0225

 

Upcoming Community Event: 2nd Annual Saving Ourselves Symposium

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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