I have been working in the field of HIV prevention for six years. I started volunteering with Magnolia Medical Clinic (MMC) in Greenwood, Ms. in 2006. I attended HIV 101 classes ,HIV 101 community presentations at local colleges under the supervision of MMC, and educated the community on Sexual Transmitted Disease and HIV/AIDS epidemic. I work with EnviroCare Crisi Center, Inc. providing HIV and STDs community presentation at the local Churches and Community Centers in Washington, Sharkey, and Issaquena counties. The Mississippi State Department of Health certifies me as STD/HIV Instructor, HIV Prevention Counseling, HIV Prevention Counseling Address Issue of Youth, HIV Prevention Counseling Address Issue of Clients Who Test Positive, Comprehensive Risk Counseling and services, and Partner Counseling and Referral Services.
Over the past four years, I have worked at My Brother's Keeper Inc. as a community outreach worker, Trainer/Facilitator and at this present time Project coordinator. it has given me the opportunity to share my story of living with HIV to others and given hope to those who been newly diagnosed with the HIV disease.
I have done a presentation on conducting a HIV Positive Support Group at GA Carmichael Medical Clinic. I have work on the Young Health Intervention for Men (Yhim) project implementing (POL) Popular Opinion Leader as a Trainer/Facilitator, and the 3MV (Many Men Many Voices) project as a Trainer/Facilitator. I facilitated the only HIV positive support group in Washington County. I facilitate the only African American MSM (Men Who Have Sex with Men) living with HIV/AIDS Empowerment Support Group in the state of Mississippi. In 2010, I was appointed co-chair for Jackson BTAN (Black Treatment Advocates Network.
What kind of information do our black youth have about sex, STI's, and HIV? As a parent, that’s a question to be asked. A few week ago, some of the staff of My Brother’s Keeper travel to one of the community colleges in the Jackson MSA to do a community presentation with black youth, mainly boys. Upon doing the presentation, we show some slides on HIV and STI’s. One of the slides asks the question, “Can HIV be transmitted by mosquito “? The young boys age range from 14 to 19, they was divided into two groups with about 20 in each group. In each session that question was ask and in each session half of them said yes. Also, in each session at least 4 out of the 20 talk about how frequently they had sex and theses were not the older boys of the group these were the 15 and 14 year old.
The school systems in Mississippi no longer have Sex Education classes like in the day when I was in school. Parents it’s up to us to teach our black youth about sex, STI’s and HIV. More and more of our black youth are having babies, contracting STI’s and HIV. I will ask this question again. What kind of information do our black youth have about sex, STI’s and HIV, where are they getting their information from?
Black Women and HIV
Growing up in a single home with my mother and three sisters I always had to be the man and take care of my women. Later becoming a father of two daughters and now a grandfather of two granddaughters I really have to put on my gloves on and fight. There is such a disadvantage for women in this world, most women have to raise their kids alone, work to support their family and sometime but herself at risk of many thing just to survive.
When you hear of how women are infected and affect by HIV, it really breaks your heart. They cook, clean, and care for a man that won’t be true ful to them. They put them self in harm’s way by selling their bodies to make sure they eat. We have begun to fall back on the issues surrounding women and HIV. We have become so focus on Black Men, and forgetting that some of these Black Women are being infected by these men. Black Women are the back bones to our families; let’s continue to stand for Black Women.
Black Gay Men
I remember when I came out to my mom of being gay, she replied, “boy what you doing gay, don’t you know that’s a sin, boy I already knew and I love you anyway”. It took me 31 years to tell her that, because of fear from rejection I didn’t want her to know. That’s one of the issues black gay men have today, fear of rejection. Because of that fear they put themselves at risk for many things including HIV/AIDS.
Two years ago a black gay man in the area to which I live, contacted me through one of the social network. He told me he had HIV and knew it for two years , but never went to seek treatment. He was in college and didn’t want anyone coming to his room and see the medication. The problem was this man had been rejected by his mom and other family members because he was gay. Now how can he tell them he was HIV positive? He didn’t want that kind of pain again and he felt all alone. He got in to treatment, but his HIV was now AIDS. So many black men have that same fear. The lack of love they get from family members, the stigma, and the pain pushes them in dark places. Why are black gay men at such high risk for HIV? Ask our family members and our religious leaders.
Six years ago I laid in a bed at Baptist Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee not knowing if I was going to live or die. Having the doctor to come in the room and tell me that I had AIDS, I wondered, what will I do now? Will anyone ever love me again? Why me? These are the question I ask myself. I had heard of people dying from AIDS all across this country and the world. I did not know much about AIDS at that time. How it was affecting this country and people living with AIDS, how much the medication cost, the number of doctor visits a person living with AIDS would have to take. The time in that hospital change my life, it was at that moment I decided I was going to fight, but didn’t know how big the fight was.
After getting out of the hospital, and regaining my health and strength, I began to educate myself and advocate. Finding out about the number of people living and dying with AIDS in my state and in my country was unbelievable to me. Now I ask the question, what are the leaders of this great rich country doing about this epidemic? The fight got harder, the AIDS Epidemic began to hit home hard. More and more of our young black gay men, in the state of Mississippi, began to be infected and affected by this epidemic, coming to the conclusion that their lives was about to end. Do our leaders not heard us, is there anybody out there listen, we need to end the AIDS Epidemic in the United States and the World.