Ennis is the Outreach Assistance for the Allen Temple AIDS Ministry of Oakland, CA, directed by Gloria Crowell. Black Treatment Advocate Network (BTAN) representative and an African American HIV University (AAHU) participant under the Black AIDS Institute. He is a member and minister at City of Refuge UCC of San Francisco, CA under the leadership of Bishop Yvette Flunder.
Ennis finished the (CMS), Certificate of Ministry Study Program of Pacific School of Religion. He finished the ASCEND training with AIDS Alliance. His training and education has made him a HIV/AIDS educator and advocate. Ennis aspires to be a writer. He has a writing in the book, Tapestries of Faith, entitled "Finding Me".
He has been working in the field of HIV/AIDS since 2005. He has worked as the testing clerk, case manager for those living with HIV at a transitional house. He has performed HIV outreach. He has and does facilitate groups for those living with HIV/AIDS, HIV prevention and education. He has served as chair of the Consumer Advisory Board, (CAB) for two years.
Ennis has a passion for people's wellness and his heart goes out to all. With his seven years of service to the community he strives to educate and inform all those he comes in contact with. It is his desire to see people make wise and safe informed decisions about their sexual behavior and help remove the stigma off HIV. He has been on KFAX, and RMG radio stations, along with doing a few blog talk radio shows, talking about being gay, Christian and HIV positive.
Ennis believes that talking about HIV/AIDS should be as easy and common as saying to a person with high blood pressure, you don't need that salt.
I got the best text ever today from my daughter with a picture attached.
The picture was of her finger with a band-aid on it. The text said: I just had a HIV test!
Wow what joy.
I have been taking HIV meds since 2008. It has been a growing and learning experience. I sat an alarm on my phone. I have kept my meds on the refrigerator. Keeping them on frig and sating the alarm helps me to see them and in turn take them.
But to keep people out of my business I would change my HIV meds from the medicine bottle into an old vitamin C or some other type bottle. So when people came over, they would see those vitamin bottles not knowing there was HIV medication inside. It worked for traveling as well. I would put enough meds for my trip in one of my vitamin C bottle. There has never been an issue. There was never a second thought.
I went over a buddy of my house and my alarm went off. I was not by my phone when it went off. My buddy was. He saw on my phone, take meds. He said time for meds! I said okay. I went into my travel bag and pulled out my vitamin C bottle. He says, where are your meds. I said, in here. He said why. I was like um, um huh. He asked again why are your meds in that bottle. Why don’t you just keep them in its bottle? Why go through all that and change the bottle. Because I had done it since 08, I did not know really how to answer nor respond. But it did make me think about it and want to write this blog. There is no conclusion but this is what came up for me.
How can I be completely out about my HIV positive status but be so private about taking meds? Does taking meds make me less than. Does taking meds put me in a different class or group than those that are not on meds? Why do I still in this day and time put my HIV meds in a vitamin bottle? Other than because that is what I have always done. I do not know why. But when I think about why I did it in the first place. I know it was because of shame and embarrassment. Am I still ashamed? I am still embarrassed? Am I hiding the meds or is it convenience. I may not have answers to these questions. I can say. I change my HIV meds from its medicine bottle to a vitamin C bottle.
Sitting in the middle.
On a flight from DC to Los Angles I sat in the middle seat of three. It just so happened they both where talkers and engaging. But oddly enough, only one at a time. When I was talking to one, it appeared as if the other one was not even listening nor interested. Only to find out that was not true.
The one to my right started talking first. As it always goes; what do you do for a living, came up in conversation. I explained; I do HIV education and prevention outreach. He was impressed. He admitted that he did not know anything about the transmitting of HIV nor what risk he was exposing himself to. He began to ask questions and I tried to answer them the best I could. I gave him a crash course on my understanding of high and low risk behavior. I explained the main ways of transmitting. I shared with him safe sex tips. He seemed to have understood and thanked me for sharing.
Because I am a talking and believe in engaging with anyone close by I kept looking to my left to bring him into the conversation. But he seemed so disinterested and detached from our conversation I left well enough alone. But as time went on the person to my right fall asleep and the person to my left started talking.
The man to my left went into, I heard what you said you do for a living and I think it is great. My dad died of HIV with AIDS. He shared openly about his dad, how he experience him and his passing. I just listened. I was really touched and moved by his what he shared. Can I just tell you? I was blown away.
Where as the one to my right knew nothing, the one to my left had a personal encounter with HIV. To hear the questions and the experience around HIV, really help me to appreciate sitting in the middle. It helped me realize how we never know who we are sitting next to nor their experience. I can honestly say, that sitting in the middle was a joy.
The joy of self disclosure part 2
Not telling anyone about my HIV status brought on so much stress. I would be wondering if they could tell I was HIV+. I would wonder if they could see HIV on me. It would cause me not to enjoy parties and sets I would attend. I would feel so uncomfortable and weird. I Just knew by the way they were looking at me and keeping their distance from me that they knew I was positive.
Every feeling I was experiencing was all internal. When I publicly self disclosed my status I did not have that stress. I would go to a set feeling good about how me and show off how a person HIV positive could look and be happy and healthy. It brought me so much joy to become the face of what HIV+ look like in my circle.
After I self disclosed when I would get funny, stand offish looks would not think it was because I was positive. That allowed me to enjoy myself and not feel uncomfortable and weird. I was able to let go of all those internal feelings of insecurities and live.
Self disclosure freed me from negative internalize feelings. I was able to have joy internally. I stop spending time thinking that people could see something on me that I had not shared. When I shared it made me happy about me.
I have found myself in situations where I have engaged in safe sex and high risk sex activities where I did not disclose my HIV+ status with my partner. In those moments I find myself feeling many things and thinking even more than that. I am so not able to enjoy the sexual moment because my mind, body and emotions are all going in different directions and doing its own thing.
I would feel bad for not saying anything before we engaged in any activities. I know what is at risk. I know how some people process and feel about being exposed to HIV. And for me to take the option away from them to say “it’s cool” or “I’m cool” because I did not disclose would make me feel really bad.
I would go into a place of wonder. Wondering if they are positive and they did not say anything. Wondering how they would feel if they knew I was positive after the act. Wondering if we would have gotten to this point had I told them I was positive. Wondering should I tell them before the high risk behavior. Wondering is it to late to say anything now.
I would feel shameful for being HIV+. I would think to myself how it is a shame that I am HIV+. Not only me but exposing someone else to it. I would feel a shame that I had HIV. The shame of how nasty and deadly HIV “was”. Oh the shame I felt after having sex and I not told them. Then the shame I felt for telling them after the act.
But then I started disclosing my HIV+ status before I engaged in any sexual activities rather safe or high risk. And can I just tell you, it freed me. I got so free. I am able to fully engage with my partner. I am able to be fully presents. I am able to enjoy the moment. All because I self disclosed my HIV+ status before sex. No more wondering, shame nor feeling bad. I have such joy and peace when I self disclose my HIV+ status.
From denial and faith to acceptance and belief.
It has been an interesting road being HIV Positive. I went from a place of denial and faith to acceptance and belief. Its interesting how I have transitioned from each level. When I first was told I was HIV Positive I went into denial and great faith.
In 89/90s there was a look for those that were HIV+. You could look at someone and tell they were positive. When I was told I was positive, I just knew I wasn’t. There was no way I could be HIV+ and look the way I looked. I was not sick. I did not have any symptoms. My skin color was not gray and chalky. I did not have any sores nor rashes. My hair texture stayed the same. I went into as place of denial in thinking that I was not Positive. I went for several years having a test as if I already did not know the answer.
I would have a test thinking that if I was HIV+ then God was going to heal me. And surely one of these test would could back negative. My faith in God was so deep I never stopped believing that he was going to heal me. Mind you I never really thought I was positive in the first place. But if I was, then God! I went several years living a lie.
It was just a flat out lie. I lied to myself. I lied to others. When I engaged sexually I did not disclose that I was positive. When I had a cut and bleed, I allowed people to attend to me without gloves nor protection. When I was dating the love of my life. I told him after just having a test that I just found out. I live in a state of mind that was not healthy nor fair to me nor to those around me. I am happy to say that I no longer live in denial nor in great faith under the umbrella of a lie.
Since then, I have evolved to become a spokesman for HIV and a advocate for prevention and care. I stand proudly and say I am HIV+. When asked or not I disclose my status. I accept the fact that I am positive. I do what I have to do to protect myself and be healthy. I stay in care. I do what I have to do to protect those around me. I inform all I can of risky behaviors, safe sex practice and what is harmful and or not.
Now I believe it is my duty to help inform others of the risk they may be taking with another person. I believe it is my job to help keep my younger brothers and sons from becoming HIV+. I believe it is my responsibility to help those newly diagnosed to come to a healthy place of acceptance of being HIV+ and believing that will live and not die. I Believe I should help convince every Positive person I know to get into and stay in care.
Over the pass twenty plus years of me being HIV Positive I have grown. I have learned how to accept it. I believe I have a role in the lives of others. I no longer live in a place of denial nor faith but of acceptance and belief. It was not an easy road not short trip. But I made it and so can you.
Moving forward is going to be easy to do. It is plain and simple. I will hold on to the information that I receive this week. I will stay on top of the new data as it comes out. I will share it openly and freely to all that I come in contact with.
I cannot believe all the great and wonderful information I have obtained during this conference. I am so happy and confident that I now have information that is current and correct. I don’t have to second guess myself. I am leaving the conference clear.
I mentor a lot of young gay men and newly diagnose HIV positives. I seem to be the go to person for help and information. The next step is share all the information that I have gotten with any and all that I come in contact with.
It almost amazes me when I hear data of new infections among African Americans. The rate for women, men that has sex with men, and youth is overwhelming. It is time to have something in place to bring an end to this epidemic. I am so hopeful and excited to hear all the things that are coming forth. These few days of the conference have been so wonderfully amazing.
The pre-conference information leads me to believe that we can and will get to a generation free of HIV. The things that are in place for reducing the viral load in community are going to make a major difference. The knowledge we now have about transmitting the virus and how to stop it, is better than it has ever been before.
This HIV epidemic has been an uncontrolled issue for 30 years. I am happy to hear it is now a controlled issue and we can control it and it not control us.
I am also concerned with how it is still heard for some communities not to talk about HIV. It is my belief that talking to someone about HIV should be as easy as talking to someone that is diabetic. HIV conversations should be as easy and common as that.
The youth component is of importance to my heart. Part of me being a father, uncle and mentor is to educate the younger generation of things that will make their lives easier and better than my experience. It just hurts my heart to hear a youth (16-25 years of age) is HIV positive. I make it my business to talk about sex and protection.
When I was growing up, the only talk about sex was not to have it. We did not talk about sex in healthy and informative ways. When HIV hit the sense we did not have any information about HIV. But now we have information to get HIV uncontrolled and bring an end to it.
I am hopeful that my grandchildren will be the generation that will not know HIV outside of me telling them my story.
After being here since Thursday I have heard so much about what is coming down the pipeline for gay men in general. It will be most beneficial for black gay men. It has been said over and over again that black gay men has an high increase of new HIV infections. The new concepts and prevention methods out lined for the up coming days, will help HIV positive persons not to transmitted to a negative partners.
I am not partnered right now and I look forward to being partnered one day. One of the reason why I am single is because some HIV negative men that I meet are afraid of becoming HIV positive.
With all the new advancements and the new information that PREP suggest to have, I am hopeful that me being positive and him being negative will no longer be an issues any more.
Phil Wilson said something that was so powerful to me. He said (in my words) that we as positives need to come out. For coming out about our HIV status is prevention. Him saying that reminded me of how my parents taught me to keep people out my business because everybody does not need to be in my business. What Phil is suggesting and I totally agree with: that telling your status we will take away shame, stigma and fear away. We will help keep our communities safe and end the transmitting of HIV by telling and being open and out.
It has been said that it is hard for black gay men to access care and to adhere to treatment. If this be true I wonder what things they are going to have in place to help the black gay man to be able to access care and adhere to treatment.
Talking about Black gay man and HIV/AIDS could go on and on. But I will stop here and wait for clarity. I am so excited be getting this information to take it back to my community.