While the DJ on the Salesforce float thumped music and blasted bubbles, and Amazon’s employees, dressed in shirts that said “Glamazon,” danced beneath a rainbow-colored mockup of an Alexa smart speaker, a much quieter trolley waited for its turn to enter the parade. Amid all the noise sat 59-year-old Norman Tanner, calmly holding a sign that said, “I am proud to be me,” scribbled with a blue Sharpie.
Tanner was among the hundreds of thousands of people, proud to be themselves, who poured onto Market Street on Sunday for the Pride Parade. In sharp contrast to the partying, politics and countless tech companies that used the parade as a way to gather positive attention, the quiet San Francisco AIDS Foundation trolley carried people like Tanner: a gentle man who was given six months to live in 1990 after being diagnosed with HIV.
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As a treatment advocate, I actually think we need to do a better job at separating HIV treatment and Pride. There are many many days throughout the year to advocate for equal access to health care, medication, and positive treatment outcomes for people living with HIV but I don’t think Pride is the place to do it. I think by continuing to lump the two together it reinforces the stereotype of HIV as a “gay” disease. This is unfortunate because it diminishes the emphasis on prevention and treatment for people who do not identify as LGBTQ, and does not acknowledge the huge strides made within the LGBTQ community to prevent HIV among those who self identify as part of this community. While HIV disproportionately affects men who have sex with men and trans identified individuals, Pride should be a distinct event celebrating the culture of LGBTQ communities, the phenomenal political and social advancements that have been made in the (almost) 50 years since the Stonewall riots, and promoting self identity and inclusivity. If I were to advocate for treatment, my emphasis would be for PEP and PrEP access as a valuable resource to prevent HIV infection that unfortunately many people still don’t know about. I think this is a way to be sex positive, gender inclusive, and relay broad messaging that applies to everyone who is celebrating Pride and not just a select few. Happy Pride everyone!
During pride season I would hope to communicate that there is no shame in being positive and the only way we can get treatment and care is if we get tested. We, at Exponents, host a Kiki lounge every other Tuesday evening. There is time set aside for education and program promotion. I would like to see more of the youth get tested so that they may get into care. The more we speak up and out, the more we can combat the stigma that stands between a person and his or her diagnosis.
As a Treatment advocate, my message for Pride season would be to Live, love and laugh… Live like it is your last day on earth… Love like you have never loved before… and Laugh at all the ignorance, the stigma, the shame. I would say that we are here, living, we are healthy, and we are striving. My message would be to go out and be your best you. Do not be defined by the culture we live in, do not be defined by what we have now deemed a chronic illness, defy the odds. We have every opportunity to be great and to do great things, take advantage of the opportunities that are afforded to us to stand up or just take a stand. We will not be defined.. We will be the best that we can be at whatever we decide to do. We can take our meds and become undetectable, a relief to us as well as potential partners you may encounter. We no longer have to hide in the shadows, we can walk with our heads held high. We can say, “Yes, I am a son, a father, a Case manager, a spokesmodel, yup, I am certified as an HIV and Harm Reduction Counselor, and by the way in my spare time I am HIV positive also.” I would say dictate the terms you want to lead and live by, it is your life, you are the director, editor, and star. It is your story you decide how it begins, who the main characters are and how it ends. Be great, Be you, Be Grateful. We may not be where we want to be, but we are miles away from where we used to be. I plan on getting my message across by continuing what I am doing now, through advocacy, through meeting people explaining what the campaign is about and what it means to be. I will continue to share my life experiences with my peers. I will be out during Pride participating in various events to let people see that I am me and this is who I am. This is what I am about, I am dedicated and thru my dedication I will allow others to see my commitment to my wellness and maybe ask if him then why not me. I am passionate because I am you and you are me.
As a treatment advocate the message I hope to communicate during Pride season is to embrace who you are. Pride is a time to celebrate every aspects of ourselves. My message is to be liberated in whichever way liberated means to you. But it is important to take care of your health. Get tested, ask about PrEP/PEP and ask questions. It is so beautiful to see the community come together and celebrate who we are individually and as a community. I am very grateful to work at Pride For Youth where I can use my voice and communicate and share my personal message and join the many voices who are also shearing their stories.
As a treatment advocate my message for pride season is to be still. Take time to smell the roses, take time to understand yourself, be aware of the beauty that lies inside the beast. Be patient with yourself and have patience with others. Live in the now, it is 2018 know your status, get tested and if necessary get into treatment, and then get on with your life. Always be true to yourself by making healthy decisions that will not affect your overall wellness . How I plan to do that is by reaching out to the LGBTQ community, going to events and speaking at tabling event, using the platform that the HIV STOP WITH Me campaign has giving me the chance to do.
As a HARDCORE Treatment Advocate, I hope to convey a simple message during the Pride season. That message is to be sexually responsible. Many people are traveling to several different cities and being anonymous. Therefore, it is important for all of those who are participating in this year’s Pride events to consider their alcohol intake as well as other recreational activities and how that may lower one’s inhibitions. Regardless of if you are negative or positive; being sexually responsible applies. Knowing your status, adhering to PrEP and or ART, carrying a few extra condoms with you, and more importantly having honest conversations with those persons who you may engage with. The way I am getting this message out is through my YouTube channel and other social media. I will also be present at Pride Events sharing my story and having conversations and offering tips and tools to address the topic of safer sex.
I just want to communicate what I always want to communicate: that HIV is not a death sentence, that knowing your status is critical and that taking your meds saves not only your life but others. That educating others about this disease is important. I want to communicate the stuff I always try to communicate. To educate yourself and ask questions. Arm yourself with the knowledge so that you can help end the ignorance, the stigma. I plan on doing this by tabling at Binghamton’s Gay Pride this month. It’s a huge event and a great opportunity to reach as many people as possible with my message. That’s my plan and that’s my goal for this month.
As a treatment advocate the message I personally plan to communicate during Pride season, is the message of inclusion. For decades ( maybe for centuries) a person who identified as LGBTQIA was not afforded the same rights or protections as a cisgender person. Even today as societal norms have evolved, the LGBTQIA community has been consistently under siege, many have been murdered and justice has been denied over and over again. On June 10th 2018, I will march in Albany’s Capital Pride Parade. I am also going to learn more about LGBTQIA advocacy. My goal is to become a hardcore treatment advocate for PRIDE as well as for #HIV STOPS WITH ME and be a powerful PRIDE ally while educating others to do the same.
As Pride approaches I hope to bring education and support to those that may be struggling in their sexuality. Or if they are HIV positive giving support where I can.
This pride season I hope to communicate to folks that it is possible to live a healthy and fulfilling life REGARDLESS of HIV status. The emphasis should be placed on health overall, not just HIV status. HIV positive or negative, do you have health insurance? Are you seeing your primary care physician and any specialists on a regular/recommended basis? Are you eating a well rounded diet, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly? Are you making personal and professional strides that are aligned with your personal needs and desires? More importantly, are you enjoying life? Is life fulfilling for you? I challenge all folks, regardless of status to strive to lead holistically healthy lives. This means acknowledging and honoring everything that contributes to your well being and doing away with those people, places and things which only bring about negativity.
So for Pride Season I hope to be able to inspire anyone that is having doubts about having a child because of his or her HIV status. My pride and joy is me being able to be a mom to a HIV negative child. How I plan on doing this is by telling my story by showing what a handsome young man I have as a son, how I was able to have a healthy boy by getting into TREATMENT. Taking my meds was the only way I was able to have a healthy child not passing the virus, it is possible to have kids and for me that is the proudest thing I have done.
As a Treatment Advocate the message that I want to communicate during Pride is how important being tested is to everyone. We all should take the time to know our status. In general I want others to know that being HIV positive is not the end of the world. After 24 years of being HIV positive I have finally come to accept my status because I was willing to get the information. My own experience has shown that as long as I continue to take my medications and see my provider on a regular basis I am able to live a very productive life. I have raised my children, I have graduated from college, and I have a job that I love where I am able to help others with my shared life experience. I want others to know that it should always be important to get tested and get the information, not just during Pride. As a spokesmodel I continuously speak to others of how important being tested is. I talk to people every day of my experiences and how difficult it was in the beginning to share my story but today I know that I must be the voice for those that are still carrying the shame and guilt. I am here to let them know that they are not alone, and together we can overcome anything.
My message for pride is, Be yourself and enjoy life. Seek new opportunities and be proud of who you are, where you came from, your HIV status positive or negative. This summer be more aware and vigilant of others who might need that empowerment. Either to get tested, linked to care or just playing safe in their community. Taking a proactive approach is key to being a hard core advocate.
Pride season is a wonderful time to share love and tell the world just who you are. As a Treatment Advocate it excites me to share with my community the wonderful benefits that has come into my life. Being HIV positive has its ups and downs but in order to have a healthy life and lifestyle one must have a treatment plan. With a solid plan in place and a team of supporters to help you along the way you can do anything. One thing I was taught is that I am the head of my treatment plan and I began to apply this method to every other part of my life. When I started to look deeper into my own life and connect my mind, soul, and body things became clearer. I recently started my own company that focuses on self care and living in your truth. This pride I am dedicated to communicating the importance of self care and pride. I plan to do this by opening my space to host classes and workshops and being a living testament in my home and in my community.
My goal this pride year is to showcase my treatment as an example of one who could continue to live a happy and healthy lifestyle. Living in your true color has become the theme for Rochester and what better way to shine the light right here and show all of those different walks of life living with HIV, while determined to empower people who might be struggling to get on treatment.