I am HIV EQUAL – Your Friend David

We all have a status. In this binary screwed up world we have been told that we are gay or straight, republican or democrat, dirty or clean, positive or negative. It’s the way the world seems to want to keep our voices in check.

You won’t fit in if you aren’t one or the other. You will never be clean if you’re dirty. If you are positive for HIV you can’t be clean. It’s disgusting.
Shortly after my diagnoses of HIV I felt that stigma in spades. I lost friends, and family. My whole life revolved around the notion I was less now. I’d never have a loving relationship again, not with anyone who wasn’t as dirty as I am.

I bought into it too. I let my friends go; I let my family say their ugly statements. I fully believed I was never going to be anything but a diseased outcast. That is what the world told me. That is what I believed.

I woke up one morning in a panic attack. I was gasping for air, and for sanity. I felt all alone and negative about everyone and everything until I had the epiphany. I was not HIV positive, I was just positive. I am a positive force in this world. I will not let HIV define me; I will define it to me. I took control.
From there I spread the news. Do not fear a positive life, even though they will tell you their uneducated truth. It’s not your truth, you know better.

I became an activist and advocate because of this.

I just gave a presentation on what it means to have an undetectable viral load and how that is empowering and freeing. You cannot transmit the virus if you are in good care, and your viral load is undetectable. U=U became my mantra. And it has served me well.

But I want more. I want to be the man I was. How can I learn to live in a different way, and then I ran across this message online. It was the very thing I wanted to know and hear. We all have a status. We are HIV equal.

What is HIV Equal and what does it mean?
“HIV Equal is an international multimedia campaign that aims to end HIV stigma and promote HIV testing by creating a social art movement that changes the way people think about HIV and which reopens the national dialogue about HIV.” (http://www.hivequal.org/campaign)

I saw these folks taking back their life all that HIV took. They are saying to HIV “You don’t get to define me anymore.” We are no less important and loved than anyone else. I can love, and be loved. I can live and have a full life. I can finally let go of the fear.
We are all HIV Equal. Equal in our love, our pain, and our lives.
“HIV Equal” is really an art campaign that aims to change the way we discuss the issues related to HIV. New science and better medicines make PLWHIV no different from a person with diabetes, or high blood pressure. We can stay in treatment, and take care of our bodies, and be just like anyone else. No one has to even know what your status is. Your status is EQUAL.
I am no less than you. In your pain, I see my own. In your love, I see my love. In your equality, I see equality for myself. I am a lot of things, but I am not binary. I don’t even know if I am truly even gay if you really need to know. I am human, and I deserve respect just as you do.

So today choose to be a force to end the stigma and lets all change the dialogue.

We are the Undetectable Generation, and we are HIV Equal.

Check out http://www.hivequal.org/ and add your pics. We are more than HIV!

Your Friend David
And I am HIV EQUAL!

 

U=U My story about HIV treatment

I was diagnosed HIV positive in 2012, well after the scare of HIV being a life sentence. I acquired it from a partner that I trusted and loved. I have a few lifelong issues that put me at a higher risk of being infected. I believe I had HIV from 2004 onward. I was completely sick, all over my body and scared for my future.

I walked back into my apartment, after the long trip out of town to get the test, terrified of the future. I had a new life partner at that time, one who I infected because I did not know my status. I felt like I put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger. I was a criminal in my own mind and I felt that cold hand of death on my shoulder. I knew I was going to die, I just knew it. And I knew he would too.

So, we soon got into treatment and soon we recovered. We learned about “viral loads” and “CD4 counts”. We were educated that if the medicine were to work, that the virus could be killed from our systems and our immune systems would begin to recover. We were never told exactly what that meant, other than the medicine was working.

Years went by, I recovered well, and so did he. We became undetectable in about 6 months. It was a miracle to me, I survived! That cold dark death was off my soul. I could try to be normal as I could.

I was told all my life that once you were HIV positive you would never have the same kind of sex life, you could never be a healthcare worker; you were never going to be truly well again.

It’s like being told all your life that bunny rabbits were evil, and would kill you on sight. That they were the worst things on the planet and you should never be in contact with them. You could die, and your family could die. When that is what you hear all the time, you begin to believe it. No one said otherwise and so I completely believed the stigma.
So we tracked our progress, and celebrated the success, but I never felt like I could be with him again. I could reinfect him. I could cause a super infection and just the thought of human contact became a trigger for panic attacks and depression.

I am an internet savvy guy. I researched how to help the ARV I was taking work better. I learned about diet and exercise, I learned about meditation and behavior modification. I assisted in my recovery in every way. It paid off, I’m healthy now, but somehow I was still scared. My lover became distressed and the relationship fell apart. I couldn’t even hold him anymore. I was truly terrified.

So when one day I begin to hear on the interwebs that being undetectable was not just the goal of treatment. Undetectable could mean that I might not pass it on to another person ever again. As long as my treatment was successful, I was now safe. I didn’t believe it.

Rabbits are the enemy and they will kill you, but they are cute and they may not all be evil. Some may even be friendly and might just love you back…. Blew my mind.

The noise became a cacophony of science. Countries started to disseminate information that I thought was quackery. Could I be safe now that I was undetectable? Was it time that I embraced this notion and move on? Was this the good news I needed my friends and my family to know, that they were never in any danger, and now even less danger?

Effective ARV treatment means bringing down the viral load in your system. This I knew and trusted. More and more countries were adopting this Undetectable = Untransmittable message. But the US had not just yet got there. I chose to believe in the science from my own country, a world power, the forefront of medicine.

And then one day, years later in 2017 I was scrolling through my Facebook groups and blogging and researching and I saw the most amazing thing.

The CDC posted new information. They now knew the Undetectable meant I could not transmit this virus anymore. As long as I kept up the protocols, I would never have to deal with that fear again. I printed the information and took it to my doctor. I needed him to tell me this was true.

He initially didn’t. Initially he was a skeptical as I was. Now he treats all STI infection so he will always say that I need to use protection, but he continued to worry about confection and risk.

I kept researching and I kept seeing more and more countries accepting the new facts. Those damn rabbits were being elusive and maybe they might not be as dangerous as we all thought.

This brings me closer to now. Just about 6 months ago I walked into my doctor’s office, and sitting there pinned to the scale to measure my weight was a sign.
U=U was all it said, but it said more to me than anyone knew.

The discussion changed. The exciting news was overwhelming. I fell into tears. I could love again! I could have a happy and meaningful sexual relationship with a partner and I could lose the fear that my allergy to latex and my choice of enjoying sex without a condom only meant that I could catch something else, or pass something else on. NOT HIV!

I needed to tell the world! I started to tell my HIV community, where I was met with their fear. They were more than skeptical of this info even though the source was sound. They refused to believe the medical staff, and the many advocates that brought all the info they could read to educate themselves.

I believed now. The rabbits are harmless, it was all a lie, and I bought it. You bought it. We all bought it. And well it was totally and completely wrong.

When you are told that something will kill you all your life, you will learn to believe it and it will take much time to change that opinion. This post will not be enough to change some of your minds and I know this, but I am a rabbit, and I am cute, cuddly and an herbivore. I don’t want to kill you and I never did.

Being undetectable means you can never pass the virus to another partner no matter how you choose to love.

This is my story. This is my new life given back to me. It’s your story tooNever choose fear over science. Never give up on the facts for the stigma. Bust the stigma and spread the word! We are FREE!

So, today I need you to convince your friends that those vicious rabbits are not what we were told. We need to focus on testing and treatment, not continued fear and stigma. It’s a win! And we need to celebrate it!

I encourage you, if you are in the Central Brevard area to come to the Central Brevard Sharing center. Twice a month they offer confidential testing to anyone who walks in. Once you are tested and you know your status you can begin treatment, and once you begin treatment you are on your way to freedom. You will soon be undetectable, and then you will be untransmittable.

Science not Stigma, Facts not Fear! We are the Undetectable generation. We are stronger than HIV.

If you need more information or you want to talk about this please comment and share this post.

You can find me on Twitter @CrimsonAdvocate, or on Instagram @CrimsonAdvocate. Check out my Facebook page @CrimsonAdvocate. Shoot me a message and I will help you to understand.

With unconditional love, and no fear in my heart!
Your Friend David

HIV Testing at The Central Brevard Sharing Center – Your Friend David

Another beautiful day!

Today I will volunteer for the Central Brevard Sharing Center again. Thursdays, they need office help and I am eager to learn the processes and procedures. As always, if I am too overwhelmed or it just isn’t what I expected, I have been asked to just wander and find a place to work.

This day, Project Response, a local HIV/STI organization will be there to administer anonymous HIV testing. This makes me so excited. I specifically asked if I could somehow be involved in the process, and as long as I just let them work, I can rub as many elbows as I need to.

This is where I need to be, on the front lines, with my people. I really hope that today turns into a win for me in some small way. I just want them to know I am here and I want to know what I can do to help their cause.

I have a separate application for volunteerism with them directly, but I haven’t heard back. This way I might actually meet someone and explain what my goals are.

Today The Crimson Lifeline will be promoted in person. The revolution will be televised!

With the effectiveness of proper ARV treatment, people living with HIV are starting to live normal lives. The medicine will take the virus out in close to 6 months. Once you are undetectable to the blood tests, there is no way to transmit the virus anymore. The onus is on testing now.

Many people live with HIV and don’t even know their status. It literally takes longer to wait on your coffee and Starbucks than to wait for results from an HIV test. Once you know, then you can do something about it. Care is available and very effective.

Being newly diagnosed brings terror and loneliness. I hope to soothe the fears of the ones who walk out with a burden that they can’t understand. I know where they can get the help, and I know how it feels to be helpless.

So come today to the Central Brevard Sharing Center to get your free HIV test today. Don’t go on more day not knowing what could be killing you. I say again, there is help and there is effective treatment. You can have a normal and full life. Just get tested.

Please call: 321-631-0306 for details on when and where they will be on the property.

Come to the office at: 113 Aurora Street Cocoa, FL 32922

We will be happy to help you in any way we can, and while you wait stop into the community kitchen, and check out the thrift store. Many other services are available for you.

Tell them “Your Friend David” sent you!

See you there!

Your Friend David

Volunteer or Donate today to the Central Brevard Sharing Center

Visit the Central Brevard Sharing Center: sharingcenter.org

Yesterday I had the distinct pleasure of starting my first day of volunteering with the Central Brevard Sharing Center. And it was so wonderful to be there.

 

The Central Brevard Sharing Center provides many services to the underserved and homeless in the Central Brevard area. People come to take advantage of their food pantry, to get needed medicines and first aid kits, hygiene products. They operate a soup kitchen and a thrift store.

 

I was hired to do office work, but I decided to work all over the center. I helped people get food, sorted donations, helped load trucks and cars with thrift store finds. I was in heaven.

 

I love being able to help my community in any way I can. This is a great experience builder and networking tool. I was originally asked to volunteer just one day a week, but in about three hours the staff understood I am an all purpose volunteer.

 

So instead of just Mondays I will be there in the office on Thursdays as well. I want to be there on Thursdays because Project Response comes to offer anonymous testing on those days and I want in on that action. I am an HIV advocate and a strong supporter of all HIV/STI treatment and education. I need to find a way to slip on in. I’m sure I will.

 

Now that I have talked about how it felt to give, now I need to ask you to give too:
The Sharing Center is in desperate need of donations of all kinds. From baby diapers and pull ups, to toothbrushes and deodorant. It only takes 5$ to give and individual the chance to be clean and fresh. This may be the difference between getting a job, or being judged.

 
There are showers on site for the people who need it, and laundry you can use. Both have limits to use so please call before hand or stop into the service office for cheerful and useful advice.

 
Please consider either donating money or product. Both will help many children, mothers, and homeless.

 
For every 1$ you give to the pantry, our partners give 9$ to match. That is 10$ of food for the price of 1$. Give 10$ and you have 100$ worth of food.

 
The Sharing Center needs volunteers as well. Here are links that will help you to find what needs to be met and how you can be a part of saving the poor and underserved get the help and the love they need in their hard times.

 
To donate:
Please visit this web site for more information on donating any items. Needs are food, hygiene items, and they also take lightly used furniture.
They accept:
• Nonperishable Foods
• Clothing & Shoes
• Furniture
• Books, CDs, DVDs & Magazines
• Toys, Games & Sporting Goods
• Home Décor & Linens
• Kitchen items such as cookware, dishes & utensils
• Small appliances such as, coffee makers, blenders & toasters in working condition
• Flat Screen TVs in working condition
• Electronics such as lamps, MP3s, iPods & clock radios in working condition
• Computers & Cell Phones in working & non-working condition
• Tools & Lawn Equipment if gas has been removed
• Personal Hygiene Items
• Baby Supplies

http://sharingcenter.org/programs/donate

You can also donate your time in many areas of interest. If you have a special skill or you think you would be a fit for any of the services that they provide you can visit their volunteer page for more info.

 
“Volunteers are the heart and backbone of our agency. We are always looking for volunteers to help us out in the following areas:”
For a volunteer application please visit:

http://sharingcenter.org/volunteer-application

Current needs are as follows:

·         Community Kitchen
Food preparation, Serving meals, Clean up, and Cafeteria Monitor

·         Food Pantry
Provide Emergency Groceries, Stock Shelves

·         Drivers
Pick up donations. (Must have a good driving record.)

·         Thrift Store Help
Sorting Donations, Client Assistance, Cashier

·         Office Work
Answer Phones, Data Processing, Client Assistance, Filing

“We welcome individuals and service clubs a like so come join our group of volunteers and help make our mission a success.
Please fill out and submit a volunteer application or print and bring it to our office.”
Please contact us about volunteering and/or donating.
Sharing Center of Central Brevard
113 Aurora Street
Cocoa, FL 32922
Phone: 321-631-0306

Any and all assistance with donations and volunteerism would be more than appreciated. Besides you may just get to meet “Your Friend David” in person. I’d love to see you there.

With love and even more love,
Your Friend David

 

The Sharing Center of Central Brevard – A valuable resource!

I want to share with you some exciting news on my advocacy and social outreach fronts that is literally keeping me up at night. I’m so freaking excited!!!

 
I am pleased to announce that I will be providing my services to the Sharing Center of Central Brevard, and I want you all to know what this place is and what it does to serve Brevard’s underserved and needy.

 
I found out about this organization in 2004 after the repeat hurricanes. I lived beachside and due to the damage and the length of time we were ordered to evacuate, ends just were not being met. I couldn’t make enough money to keep the lights on, the rent paid, or my mouth fed.

 

Soon I found myself receiving Ryan White services, and locally the Health Department has a contract to work in tandem, to provide food pantry services to those who are in the program and under the poverty level. This place gives so much food to our community that its hard to even get all of it home sometimes. Its amazing, and it has been a life saver in my case.

 
In 2004 they even assisted me with financial help as I was unable to even pay my rent due to lack of work and damages. They were there just after hurricanes Matthew and Irma recently and I would have not been able to make it through those disasters without them.

 
The Central Brevard Sharing Center is located in Cocoa, Florida just off of State Road 520, and Aurora Rd. They are open Monday through Friday 9am to 4pm, with a lunch break at noon to 1pm. The office is open those hours, and you will need just a bit of personal information to begin to receive services from them.

 
From the Central Brevard Sharing Centers Website:
CLIENT REQUIREMENTS:
• Reside in the central section of Brevard County – Pt. St John south to the Pineda Causeway, Orange/Brevard County line east to the ocean.
• Complete and sign Client Assistance Form
• Household representative must present a picture ID and provide an original social security card for every member in the household (every time you apply).

You will need these items for each assistance request you make. It is important to call their office to be sure you have the required information, as you will need additional information like a final notice or eviction notice, for financial services. All services are dependant on availability.
To get started call: 321-631-0306. One of their helpful staff members will be happy to assist you in receiving the help you need. If you’re lucky you might even speak to me! Id love to make your experience rewarding and supportive.

 
While were at it, did you know all it takes is 5$ to really make a positive impact?

Just 5$ can buy enough hygiene items to help a person be clean, and feel self worth. Quite a few of the people I have met only need a shower and some toothpaste, and they could be hired, and of the street. Just FIVE DOLLARS! It could make the difference.
The Sharing Center has need of money donations, food donations, and they also have a thrift store which always needs your gently used household items.
You can sign up to personally donate or volunteer here:  The Sharing Center of Central Brevard
Links to shop, donate, and volunteer are on their home page.

You can also follow them on Facebook at The Sharing Center of Central Brevard Facebook Page
I am happy that I will be a member of this organization, and I hope to provide everyone I meet with the best and brightest day I possibly can.
So, why are you waiting?!? Shop, Donate, or Volunteer NOW!
With Love and Excitement!

Your Friend David