Catch a very interesting conversation with Ramon and myself!
Catch a very interesting conversation with Ramon and myself!
Check me out in the MTV Staying Alive Documentary.
As a student who is majoring in Sociocultural Anthropology, I can attest that I have read many ethnographic studies and sat through numerous lectures that support the argument that human cooperation fuels productivity and community development. When people work together to establish a community, a majority of the time positive outcomes are achieved and goals are met.
We see more and more developing communities out there to promote positive behavior change in efforts to increase HIV prevention. Can it work and is it working? Let’s take a look.
“It takes a village…” is a long old saying that you probably hear from your grandparents and parents today. And yes, although it may be cliché to say, it is totally true! Community-based organizations (CBOs) are in place for peoples to come together to achieve a common goal. Let’s take a look at the National Minority AIDS Council (NMAC). NMAC is one of the largest non-profit HIV/AIDS advocacy groups that is dedicated towards helping minority groups gain access to HIV treatment and prevent HIV to those who are uninfected by increasing access to testing. Let’s look at one of their programs in particular: The Youth Initiative to End HIV/AIDS in America Scholars Program. This program hosts about 30 youth scholars per year to attend the U.S. States Conference on AIDS to increase their personal awareness about the pandemic and learn how to combat the pandemic in their own community with tools learned at the conference. At the end of the conference, the scholars are expected to report back to NMAC every several weeks about their progress to help “End HIV/AIDS in America.” This program is near and dear to my heart, as for I was selected as a 2013 Youth Scholar. I am in constant contact with my fellow scholars as for we brainstorm new ideas and share networking opportunities to get involved with community-based organizations to ultimately help end the pandemic. NMAC has created a community for us, which gives us the opportunities, and networks needed to create positive behavior change and increase HIV prevention.
Left to Right: Victor Yang and myself at the U.S. Conference on AIDS in New Orleans, LA, September 2013
Our lab has conducted a study, called the Harnessing Online Peer Education (HOPE) study, in Peru last year to increase HIV prevention. What is significant about the study is our creation of “peer leaders.” These peer leaders were used to educate on HIV prevention and mentor the participants—who were also African American and/or Latino MSM. Peer leaders had experience with community and social media outreach. Peer leaders were trained on discussion and role playing exercises to integrate basic knowledge of HIV/AIDS, awareness of sociocultural HIV/AIDS issues in the age of technology, and communication methods for effective, interactive social media-based HIV prevention.
But mind you, there was no established social hierarchy. That’s why we had the same population, just different responsibilities of each subpopulation (participants and peer leaders). In this way, we created a community for MSM to promote healthy sexual behaviors amongst one another.
On the flip side, when we think of a community, is there always a positive connotation linked to it? Not necessarily. For example, what if a young fresh-out-the-closet young gay man from the Midwest (where the homosexual community isn’t the most prevalent) came to an urban center (L.A., New York, Atlanta, etc.) and joined the community of young gay men there. We need to realize that the gay community in big urban centers has a high prevalence rate of substance abuse and HIV. So in this case, would him joining the community be a positive thing? No. He would be very likely to try to fit in with the community and therefore be exposed to these negative behaviors. How can we create more positive communities for the LGBTQ population?
What are your thoughts on community building and HIV prevention? What does your CBO do to build communities? Let us know by tweeting us @DigitalHBX or sending us a Facebook message at www.facebook.com/digiitalhbx
Derek Hernandez is an undergraduate at the University of California, Los Angeles, with a major in Sociocultural Anthropology. He is a Research Assistant at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine where he studies the behavioral aspects of HIV-positive men and researches new implementations of HIV prophylaxis via social media. Derek is passionate about the dynamics of LGBTQ Healthcare and ensuring accessibility and retention of care for patients, especially HIV/AIDS patients. He is notably proud for holding two Student Intern positions at UCLA Health System and currently at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center where he works alongside physicians and nurses to ensure patient safety and adherence to quality measures. Derek plans to ultimately earn his Doctorate in Nursing Practice Degree and purse a career an Acute Care Nurse Practitioner.
The following blog entry was from my blog on TheBody.com
Now officially into my second year living with HIV I take time on World AIDS Day, the day I was told I was HIV positive, to reflect on still being here to see another year.
I will never forget noticing how much weight I lost, the thrush alongside my tongue that I scraped off due to denial, and that cough I ignored. I had always seen myself as invincible or perfect, and never able to be infected or at all affected by anything like HIV.
Finding the strength I decided to pick up blogging and soon after did my first YouTube video, titled “How I Found Out I Was HIV Positive,” where I talked about my lack of knowledge and concern that I had for the virus. My feelings of perfection and misunderstanding as a young gay man at great risk to contracting HIV led me into an abusive relationship with a cheater. Also, I had no idea just how vulnerable I really was to a virus that affects so many individuals worldwide. At that time those things were the most I was ready to discuss.
Now two years later, with boundless therapy, discovering and loving who Patrick is, and focusing on my dreams and goals, I am no longer afraid of what others think. You see, the reality of my situation is that I was also taken advantage of against my will. That very well could be the reason I have HIV. What people who are blinded by stigma don’t realize is that many infected with HIV are forced to have sex against their will: fooled by one’s thought of a monogamous relationship; having unprotected sex to be able to survive on the streets after being kicked out of their home; or in an abuse relationship that has no room for negotiation of condom use.
While many people have unprotected consensual sex, many of those who did not have a choice are forgotten and called words from lips I would never kiss my own mother with. People who are sexually assaulted like me are forgotten about and placed under the description of “over-sexualized homosexual.” I strive very hard to break that thought process. The reality of the situation is that it does not matter how one was infected with HIV but what they are doing to take control of the situation and better their lives.
Too many times have I found out that friends have gone off medication and have given up, simply due to listening to someone’s conspiracy theory surrounding HIV and how it is not real. So many times have I received an email in the middle of the night from a parent who is desperate for help because their child has been either exposed or harassed over social media because their HIV status was leaked for one’s sick enjoyment. We people living with HIV need to take the necessary time to focus on building back up our confidence and our armor that protects us from the stupidity of stigma so that we can be strong enough to show people that living with this virus does not define who we are or what we may have done in our pasts, but what we are doing to stay empowered, adherent to our medications, and reaching our goals of having an undetectable viral load and a fabulous quality of life.
On this World AIDS Day 2013, I acknowledge that work still has to be done with me. I will create new goals that will ensure that I will have continued success with having a suppressed viral load. Also, I will challenge myself by moving forward with my work to reduce stigma, educate those who simply need more knowledge, and encourage those affected to stay in the winning war against HIV.
Patrick is a gay African-American male who is living with HIV. Patrick was diagnosed December 1, 2011 (World AIDS Day). Never the kind of individual to accept defeat, he has worked hard to spread awareness, education, resources and support to his community.
Patrick will be sitting down and talking with Jahlove who is a youth and HIV advocate, Drag Queen, and Dancer. Tune in while we discuss his work in the field of HIV and discuss disclosure and dating. We will be answering questions so tune into youtube.com/pozlifeofpatrick or Facebook.com/pozlifeofpatrick to ask your questions
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