All posts tagged hiv/aids

92 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.

S**T Said to Poz Guys Online

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?IMG_6869

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?IMG_7183

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?”  

IMG_7108 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.

 

 

 

IMG_9305

“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.”

IMG_4643Yet 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?

IMG_0683 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?”tumblr_n8qcsl5s0w1tdjuqvo1_500

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Well you don’t look like you have it?”IMG_8295

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?”

IMG_0743If 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?” IMG_9925 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?”

IMG_6565 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

“Will you die?” IMG_7275

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.” annoyed-2 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?”annoyedgif

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?” tumblr_m9ckn3wgDj1qfc8cw 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.” not-mr-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.”

tumblr_nlahy4GIv81rl3tufo4_r1_400 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 always have to be the cute guys?” small-violin

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.

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.  


ybgli pas 14 all

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.

WORLD AIDS DAY 2014: CALL TO ACTION LIVE

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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TheBody.com: Red Reminds Me

546612846fcfd-RedRemindsMe_RevisionCheck out TheBody.com and their campaign for World AIDS Day.  To participate it’s quite simple:

  • People can submit their photos and captions using the Web form below (the preferred method), on our Facebook page, or by using the #RedRemindsMe hashtag on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook from Nov. 15 through Dec. 12.
  • TheBody.com will moderate submissions and open up voting to the public from Dec. 15 to 31.
  • The three most creative and inspirational photos (as chosen by a panel of judges) will be announced by the week of Jan. 12 and rewarded with a great prize. Our grand prize includes an MTV Video Music Awards experience, with two tickets to the LifeBEat/ Time Warner Cable/ MTV VMA Concert and a $1,000 gift card for accommodations and travel. Past performers include: Sam Smith, Kesha, Maroon 5, Iggy Azalea, Macklemore and Robin Thicke. Two runner-up submissions will also be selected, and will receive cash prizes: a $250 gift card for 2nd place and $100 gift card for 3rd place.

For more information about this campaign click here!

Some examples of what entries can look like

Some examples of what entries can look like

The Long Wait

This piece choreographed by Thomas Davis is entitled “The Long Wait” and shows the struggle between two people to support each other after HIV has been introduced into their relationship. “I choose to use dance to communicate a lot of my feelings because I get too caught up in my words. I think dance is a powerful tool that can and should be used more. I hope to continue creating works to speak out about HIV and my experiences.” 

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

Capture

…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

Capture

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.

Spotlight on Northern Virginia’s Rainbow Tuesdays Clinic

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Alexandria Health Department – Photo by Todd Franson

Rainbow Tuesdays is a clinic that I started to volunteer at when I initially started working in HIV.  This clinic is every Tuesday between 5:00pm-6:30pm and offers screenings for STIs (Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, and Syphilis) and rapid/confirmatory testing for HIV. Hepatitis B vaccinations are also available as well. This clinic is run by gay, bisexual, queer, same gender-loving men and their allies.  I also find it amazing that the staff can also see individuals of the Trans experience!  Generally this clinic is not like others in the area (including some in DC that can get pretty crazy with line) and although it may not be directly off the metro you can navigate it by easily taking a bus, which will drop you just feet away from the Alexandria Health Department (7A or 7F from Pentagon Metro Station).

Debby Dimon, who is Nurse Supervisor at the Alexandria Health Department, oversees the Rainbow Tuesdays Clinic and provided us with some history. “Rainbow Tuesdays clinic started in July 2009 because of the Syphilis outbreak in Northern Virginia and the absence of stigma-free health care to meet the needs Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Same Gender Loving Men. It started as a screening clinic the second and fourth Tuesday of every month at Alexandria Health Department working in collaboration with the HIV prevention nonprofit organizations (Inova Juniper Program, K.I. Services, Inc. and NOVAM) with other organization serving on the Advisory Committee,” says Dimon.  Her personal goal is to provide syphilis testing and treatment for every gay/bi/queer/sgl man and Trans woman to stop the spread of the curable bacterial infection.  A special exclusive that we were able to gain was that Debby plans on providing Hep A/B/C testing in the new year!

The Rainbow Tuesdays Clinic Program is a partnership that fully engages the community to foster trust and awareness of services among of men having sex with men to encourage those at risk for HIV and/or sexually transmitted infections to seek services and refer others potentially exposed for services. If you are ever free, in the need for screening/treatment or want to know more about the Rainbow Tuesdays Clinic then stop by the Alexandria Health Department during clinic hours.

How I Found Out

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!