So this weekend was a very interesting one indeed. Last week I was invited to attended an event called R.I.S.E ( which stands for Rewriting Inner Scripts Everyday). Before I attend any events I always have to research what I am getting myself into. I was invited by a guy who works at NOVAM (Northern Virginia AIDS Ministry) who I met at an AIDS Day event I spoke at for the organization (now the Prevention Collective). Since being diagnosed with HIV I now want to give back even more to my community. I think it is crazy on how certain life events can cause people to become almost obsessive on an issue that closely affects them. I am a face-to-face speaker and through this program I go into schools and other organizations and tell my story on how I got HIV. I also discuss how my life has forever changed so it is pretty much like my life story (just mentioning HIV). Anyway back to the retreat. I woke up Saturday morning and made my way to the retreat. There I was super nervous because there are people who were negative influences in my life. There was a point in time in which I was a very dark and messy person. That part of my life I blacked out and therefore I was praying to God that I did not run into anyone. Also, I was fearful I would run into someone who I had a sexual encounter with (let’s be Frank in my past I was having sex) who was not aware of my status for whatever reason. Walking in I was super anxious but put that aside as I talked to a few people. Quickly I realized that I would definitely be forced to open up my walls and make new long lasting friendships.
At the RISE retreat and through my research I learned it was an intervention that was intended for African American men who have sex with men (MSM) between the ages of 18-29. It was structured to spread knowledge about HIV, build self-confidence, and reduce the feelings of feeling of oppression in the gay African American community. Our facilitator told us from the jump that we would be pushed well beyond our limits. It was always explained to us that this is a an intervention for us to truly look inside ourselves for issues that we are dealing with, recognize them, and begin the process of repairing what has been damaged (these things cannot be fixed over the weekend). The program is intended to help with break the feelings of homophobia and its negativity. RISE also helps to reclaim our personal power.
I recommend that if there is any program like this in your area you should definitely look into attending. I am not going to go into much detail about it however I can say that at the end of the day we discussed issues that our prevalent in the LGBT African American Community and came up with solutions to the problem. What I can say to everyone is that we need to spread awareness about HIV/AIDS and stigma related to both HIV/AIDS and being an even greater minority overall by being Black/Latino and LGBT.
At the end of the day I feel like it is the responsibility of individuals who are educated to help spread the word and the solutions to break the cycle of oppression and negativity in Black America. We are the key, the solution and by working together we can help dramatically decrease new HIV infection rates, reduce STDs, and help dissolve the different shades of stigma that are still present today.
Together we can do it !