Creating Safe Spaces: My Evolution Into HIV Prevention

I would like to share with you all a question I was asked a few days ago. I went to brunch with a few friends of mine, and we got into the topic of employment, and someone asked me how I got involved in the type of work that I do.

This new friend of mine is someone who just started hanging out with us because they are dating someone within our friend circle. All my friends know that I am living and thriving as an HIV positive man.

Getting involved after diagnosed

I was for certain that this new individual did not know this about me. I quickly responded and said that I started volunteering at organizations that focused their work on HIV prevention right after I was diagnosed.

I then saw this person's facial expression change right away. I noticed the change and proceeded to ask what was wrong. They then apologized for asking me and told me that I did not need to share if I did not want to. I simply chuckled and let them know that I am an open book when it comes to my diagnosis and no question would make me feel uncomfortable.

Getting involved in HIV prevention

I felt the energy at the brunch shift because this new person felt bad for bringing this topic up at the table. I decided to joke with the table and ask, "You know how we always ask Daniel for advice on homes because he is a realtor?"

The table then proceeded to say yes, so I said, "So, feel free to ask me all the sexual health questions that you want because this is my area of expertise." The table all laughed, and the mood was not so serious anymore.

I continued sharing with the table the reason why I got involved in public health, specifically around HIV prevention. I knew that after I found out that I was HIV-positive I would not be able to find safe spaces to connect with people, so I decided to create the safe spaces for myself and my community.

I knew that I did not want others who are living with HIV to feel as alone as I first did when I was diagnosed. My whole mindset around HIV quickly changed from thinking it was something that could not affect me to having to take a pill every day which is a constant reminder of my diagnosis.

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This is why I do what I do

Moments like these are what makes me stop and think about why I do the work that I do. Moments like these are what make me proud that I went back to school to receive my degree in public health.

I want to ensure that my friends and community do not feel uncomfortable about sexual health and HIV prevention. I want to continue to be a stakeholder within my community and continue sharing my triumphs and tribulations.

I have now been working in the field for over 8 years and I hope to continue for many more years to come.

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