HIV & Me

Personal Stories

When we allow others to learn from our individual experiences we become stronger as a community.

Project I Am is committed to educating members of the community about experiences that place young black men at an increased risk of HIV infection. Young black men are at the highest risk of HIV infection, and these personal stories provide a way to understand the journey of these young men through photos and personal stories. It is our hope through a deeper understanding of these experiences, everyone can learn from these young men what is needed to make our community stronger.

If you would like to participate in this project and have your image and story displayed click the link below to contact us.

Problem that can be solved
What I didn't know
Glimpse into the light
Thoughts in process

I Am Randy

I work in the health care industry and I am openly gay. In 2010 I was diagnosed with HIV but before my diagnosis I knew nothing about HIV. After I started treatment I decided that I needed to learn more about the medication I was taking and the disease itself. I began attending HIV support groups and that’s when I realized how big of a problem HIV is. During the support groups I also realized that it doesn’t have to be. I learned that HIV positive people can still live a normal life when they take their medications and take care of themselves. HIV truly is a problem that can be fixed.

I Am Ryan

The first time I remember hearing the term HIV I was a sophomore in college. I remember being shocked that it never came up in any of my high school courses, doctors’ appointments or any of my freshman seminars. I wasn’t shocked because I didn’t know something; I was shocked because the instructor was telling us that young black men who have sex with men were at the highest risk for HIV infection. I was a young black man and was having sex with men. I felt completely uninformed and was convinced that I was going to get this horrible disease. I began learning everything I could about HIV to find out if I had it or how I could keep from getting it. I finally had to talk with someone about it so I went to our school health clinic and talked to a counselor. The counselor talked with me about how I was feeling and let me know that I wasn’t at risk because I was black & gay, I was at risk because of my behaviors. He helped me work out a safer sex plan and I took the test. The counselor just pricked my finger and in a few minutes I had my results. I felt ten times more relaxed when I got them and I knew that I could stick to the plan we worked on to keep me safe. I’ve told everyone I know to get tested since then. Who wants to get sick just because they didn’t know any better? If you find out you have it you can get help. If you don’t have it you can keep it that way. Everybody has a few minutes to find that out

I Am Langston

After recently finding out that 3 of my close friends were infected by the HIV virus, as an African American male from Kansas City, I’ve always had a fear and risk of contracting the virus myself.
I came out at a young age of 19 and really didn’t know anything about the gay lifestyle except the negative perceptions the media, people, and society put on the community as a whole. At 24 years old and counting, I was still a virgin and trying to hold on to my virginity until I was married. It wasn’t until I went to college and began to get educated by forums that talked about HIV/AIDs health and awareness, as well as the conversations with my ‘experienced’ friends.
I can say that through open communication and educating myself, I no longer have the fear of not only contracting the virus or STDs, but that I will practice a safe and healthy lifestyle. Through my friends slip ups and them being overprotective of my, I don’t view people or the virus in a negative perspective , as I have learned that you even if you have the virus, you can take steps to living a healthier lifestyle; its no long a death sentence.

I Am Christopher

I lost a former partner of mine to HIV. I met him during high school and at the time I was under the impression that he had no idea I even existed. A few years had passed since we were both in high school and we began to get re-acquainted. We began to date and began to see each other regularly. Prior to the both us getting together I had noticed through facebook there was a time/period where he had been severely ill and had to become hospitalized, but by the time we had begun dating he had made an almost complete recovery. Well as we began to grow closer in our relationship the curiosity of his illness began to grow stronger but I always strayed away from asking him any questions about it directly because I did not know how comfortable he was discussing his past. It wasn’t until a few months later, after I found out I was HIV positive, I told him immediately. A day later he final told me he was HIV positive as well. We finally had a discussion about his time in the hospital, what brought on his illness and how becoming HIV positive played a key role in him being susceptible to his rare form of Fungal Meningitis. I did want to clarify that I did not become HIV positive due to any interaction I had with him. I realized due to timing of my diagnosis and the time of my last sexual encounter it could not have been any fault of my boyfriend’s I became HIV positive. And although he did not disclose his status to me up front and although he did not disclose to me until after I found out my positive status and told him, I do not resent him for keeping something like that so private. What I was able to take away from this situation, what my boyfriend really wanted me to learn from his mistakes was to take my medications, make my doctor appointments and keep them, follow any and all directions and special dietary regimens my healthcare providers prescribe and above all take HIV seriously from day 1. I think one of the last stitch efforts my boyfriend wanted to teach me was to make myself and my health a priority. He told me that the mistake he made that probably could have saved his life and caused him a lot less pain during his illness was not taking the disease seriously, not talking to his healthcare team and not taking his medications. This is why I wear this necklace, it is the only thing I have which belonged to him and every day the necklace is a constant reminder of not only him but of the important life lessons he left me with.

Facts

Sometimes you have to face them...

There have been some amazing things happening in HIV treatment research in the last few years. People with HIV are living longer healthier lives and people that are HIV negative have more ways to protect themselves than ever before. With all of these changes there are still a lot of people that have some incorrect information about HIV. We might not have all of the information we need but we do know a few things to be facts.

  1. One quick test makes a huge difference.

    If you are sexually active consider getting tested for HIV (and other STI’s) at least yearly. When you decide to get tested for HIV ask about the “Rapid Test” which can give you
    preliminary HIV test results in the same visit! Be sure to learn your results and talk about it. If you test negative ,ask about ways that you can stay HIV negative. If you test
    positive ask what your next steps should

  2. Labels belong on clothes.

    Feeling bad about the things people say about you or the things they do to you because of who you are is common. The labels people give us can keep us from taking simple steps to protect ourselves from HIV infection. Knowing who you are and feeling proud about it is one of your strongest weapons when fighting off stigma.

  3. It’s what you do that puts you at risk for HIV infection

    HIV doesn’t discriminate based on who you are. HIV is transmitted through having sex & sharing needles. Anyone who is having unprotected sex or sharing needles is at risk for HIV infection. Knowing you & your partner’s HIV status, using condoms & abstaining from needle sharing reduces your risk.

  4. Wrap it up.

    Knowing where to get condoms and how to use them correctly drastically reduces your risk of HIV infection. It’s simple! Use a latex or polyurethane condom that fits and a water or silicone based lubricant. Carefully remove the condom and throw it in the trash when you’re done! Talking with your partner and planning ahead increases your chances of success!!

  5. Open sore = Open door

    Pay attention to any signs or symptoms of a potential sexually transmitted infection (STI). These could include drippings from the penis or anus, burning during urination or any changes in color or texture of the penis. Having an STI increases your chances or contracting HIV. Don’t make excuses for not seeing or talking with your doctor about your sex life. Catching an STI early can better your sexual health.

  6. Lets talk it out

    Communication with your partners is an important step when trying to avoid the transmission of HIV. You may not have enough confidence to talk to him about his status, but it’s better to get over the embarrassment rather than
    become infected. Although it may be difficult to talk about HIV having the conversation gives both of you the option to have safer sex. Use I statements and be as honest as possible. Wouldn’t you want him to do the same?

  7. Share the love

    Encourage your partner and friends to get tested. Support each other making decisions that will keep them and others safer. Looking for support groups, educational programs or other HIV prevention efforts are all ways to get involved & help build a healthier community!

Ask an Expert

because knowing is half the battle...

Most of us have heard the saying “There is no such thing as a stupid question.” but some of us find it hard to take the leap and ask a question that ‘everyone should know’. The reality is if you’ve been wondering it, someone else has been wondering it as well. We’ve collected some of the most frequently asked questions and placed them here!

If you have a question that we did not answer below you can email us.