How has HIV affected my life and what motivated me to become an advocate?
When I was growing up as a young gay kid in West Virginia in the 1980s – the images of AIDS in America affected me deeply. Scared of identity and expression, I would move through the world with those shadows. When I tested positive – the feelings conflicted with the event and I became determined to unpack and translate this experience. After speaking with others about their experiences – the narratives of Persons Living with HIV, it is difficult not to be an advocate; I became one because my community needs us.
What would an HIV cure mean to me and my community?
Conceptualizing a cure for something that has become such a part of my sense of self is difficult. If a cure wipes away the disease, will the illness remain? Will a cure be something that we all have access to and is delivered to us in a way that disrupts the traditional disparity-ridden care systems of today? An equitable and accessible cure would mean the ultimate opportunity to reshape the relationship of communities with their healthcare system for generations.
What scientific and community engagement work excites me most about the DARE Collaboratory?
I am most excited about how the work translates into community behavior. When we know more about how this virus interacts with us mind, body, and spirit, we are able to better approach the interaction with wisdom and knowledge. I am excited to see how the cure research is intersecting with the role of research in balancing forces of social injustice.