My Pride Remembrance & Reflection, Part 2
Editor's note: In part 1, Steven shared how the LGBTQIA community supported him after coming out as gay to his family. In this piece, he reflects on the positive impact a local LGBT center had on his life as he navigated an HIV diagnosis and getting started in the field of public health.
This LGBT center is also the place that gave me my reactive HIV test result. Now that I think about it, the LGBTQIA community has really helped me along the way of both me coming out as gay and HIV positive.
Starting my own support group
Slowly, after learning about being HIV-positive, I was able to start my own HIV-positive support group at the Center that I was going to for years.
I was able to create a space for young, HIV-positive men to come together and reflect on themselves as well as their diagnosis. This group not only helped others within the community but also helped me become more open and honest about my status.
From volunteer to group facilitator
Shortly after starting the group as a volunteer, I was asked to be a part of the team and that is when I started my career in public health. The group I was leading was on a volunteer basis and was every Monday from 7 – 8:30 pm and I realized that it was exactly like the other group I use to attend.
We would also have group and hang out afterward except this time, I was the facilitator and it was a group of young, positive men.
Becoming an HIV tester and counselor
As soon as I started the new position, I was able to get certified to become an HIV tester and counselor.
The crazy part about it is that I was doing the HIV testing on individuals inside the same testing room where someone else tested me and gave me my reactive test result. It is weird to say but I found that very empowering, especially to continue the work that I do.
In their seat not too long ago
There were times in the testing room where I had to give a positive test result and calm the individual down. I would really have a genuine and honest conversation about how I was sitting in their seat not too long ago, looking for answers or help, too.
I would disclose my status to them and make sure they knew that I would still be there for any questions or concerns that they may ever have now and after they leave the testing room.
Going back to school for my passion
I then decided to go back to school to get a Bachelor’s degree in Public Health from the California State University, Long Beach. I decided to go back to school because I finally found what my passion was and that was HIV prevention and working with the LGBTQIA community.
LGBTQ support impacted my whole journey
Until I was writing this, I did not really stop to think and realize that my whole journey started because of my community and what I wanted to give back to my community.
The LGBTQIA community has helped me as an individual in being more comfortable with myself and the way that I express myself. This community has also shown me that I must always keep my head held high and move forward with confidence in being a proud, gay HIV-positive man.
I cannot wait until things get back to normal to where we can all celebrate Pride together again.
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