The Impact of HIV: One Person’s Story

Patient InsiderOh hey,I’m ToniPrEP helps me livelife on my terms.

HIV patient insider Toni Bryce

I learned a lot walking in these heels

Like you have to protect your peace. My soul always knew who I was. It’s why I coined the term “soul wise.” It’s a way of honoring the wisdom my soul has always known. At a young age, it felt like every move I made, every word I wrote was “like a girl.” Even though I’m now in a place where I’m proud of my divine feminine self, I’m not always met with acceptance or compassion from others.

So what’s a girl to do? I’ve maintained boundaries to honor my gender identity journey. And, darling, you can absolutely do the same!

No, baby, we can all come in contact with HIV.

Inspiring art turns into driven action

Big musical theater nerd over here! My high school musical theater program really fueled my love for acting, and, without it, I’m not sure where my acting career would be today. A musical that changed my life? I bet you can guess. Yep, Rent.

Rent not only inspired me when it came to acting. It lit the flame for my passion for HIV advocacy and, by association, PrEP treatment. I wasn’t even thinking about sex at the time. But watching people living with this condition, I felt a calling to do the work that no one else seemed to want to do. My research began with documentaries, YouTube, all of it.

My time in college put the reality of HIV in front of my face. I became involved with Ballroom, a queer subculture in which people “walk” for trophies, prizes, and glory at events known as balls. My Ballroom parent lived with HIV and lived through the AIDS epidemic. I was so inspired by his story.

I began leading and planning testing events – where I would willingly test myself first – to encourage others to shed their shame and become empowered to know their status. These testing events occurred on different awareness days throughout the year, including National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.

The stigma of HIV motivated me, and I was driven by one simple idea: the importance of individuals knowing their HIV status to move forward.

Looking for tips? I got you, boo! Here are a few of my thoughts on living authentically.

A Black woman of Trans experience

I remember the first time I heard this phrase. It was during a radio show. “A woman of Trans experience.” My identity was validated after I added the Black part. I decided you meet me as a Black person first. Then as a woman. And if you discover it at the moment or I choose to share it with you later, my Trans identity comes third. It’s this identity that deserves recognition in the HIV treatment space. I recently saw my face on a mobile HIV testing bus. I'm really proud of that visibility. We need to be included and represented in the conversation.
radio illustration
Authenticity comes from healing and protecting what's been healed.

How PrEP found me

I still get nervous when I test because you just never know, child. I was introduced to PrEP in 2017, the same year I started having sex. It was actually a Black woman of Trans experience that introduced me to this life-altering treatment. She herself was diagnosed with HIV and felt compelled to share the importance of prevention. Her words rang in my ear, and I decided my body was worth protecting. An injection in the butt – that’s it! I’m so grateful that I do not have to take a pill every day. I remember that all too well from my hormone replacement therapy days. For me, PrEP is an added layer of protection should I want to venture out and do whatever I want to do in the world. I mean, the resources are there – and there are plenty of ways to get tested and treated anonymously. Your body is your temple, and it’s worth preserving. Find local agencies and supportive spaces. These safe communities are built with you in mind, and it’s up to you to find them.