This year has been a big one for me. Firstly, in late march I learned my status as a positive person. A few months after, the caseworker that did my intake told me about the NMAC Youth Initiative. I applied and was awarded a scholarship to attend the conference in October. It was an amazing experience to be surrounded by like-minded, young, professionals and individuals. While at the conference I had the pleasure of meeting Thomas, Patrick, and Benjamin. It was an honor to be brought on board to ThePozLife. After I returned home I had many ideas and seeds to plant for my community. In late October I met with the executive director of the Valley AIDS Council, James Judkins, and a caseworker to discuss some ideas I had for our area. One of those being to launch a support group targeted to but not exclusively for HIV positive people in the Rio Grande Valley: VPOS, Valley Peer Outreach and Support. VPOS is one of my projects for 2015 and I am eager to get that up and running strong for the New Year. I created a Grindr and Jack’D profile to conduct my own outreach and to answer any questions my community might have regarding HIV and resources in the Valley. I started these profiles early November and have received a positive, no pun intended response from the men in my area that have approached me. Through these outlets, I’ve been able to reference some of these men to testing centers and provide basic and detailed knowledge of the virus. On World AIDS Day, December first, I had the pleasure of attending our local AIDS Memorial Quilt presentation at the University of Texas Pan American and met a few more members of the Valley AIDS Council. Who presented me with a job opportunity as a Risk Reduction Specialist where I would be conducting HIV and STI screenings, providing counseling to members of the community that reach out to us, and conducting outreach activities. I’ve applied for the position and have made it to the final round of interviewing; I am anticipating a decision sometime early January. In looking forward to 2015 I have also applied for a scholarship to attend AIDS Watch in DC and am waiting for a response. You can learn more about AIDS Watch here: http://www.aidsunited.org/AIDSWatch-2015/Scholarship-Information.aspx
2014 has been such a roller coaster, sometimes difficult, but I’m happy to say that I not only survived, but thrived! I’m very excited to see what I can accomplish in 2015. Especially now with all that I’ve started and alongside the boys at ThePozLife.
Patrick participating in youth-led session at 2014 USCA
Reviewing the CDC’s HIV surveillance report for Texas in 2013.
Hanging out in the Youth Lounge at 2014 USCA
AIDS Memorial Quilt at The University of Texas Pan American on World AIDS Day.
This year has been HUGE for me! I am truly grateful for every experience I’ve had. I started the year releasing my video of me “coming out” as HIV positive. I wasn’t sure what it would look like to be openly living with HIV but I knew it was something I wanted to do. After sharing my video I attended YGBLI summit in Atlanta and connected with Patrick Ingram and Adrian Hobson. I then got more involved with Aids Project Los Angeles and their young men’s group Empowerment. As the year progressed Empowerment changed to R3VNG, which stands for Reshaping 3 letters for the Voices of the Now Generation. In addition to changing the name APLA also provided funding for R3VNG to create a talk show focused around HIV education and other issues that surround gay men of color. Towards the end of the year I attended USCA in San Diego as a Youth Ambassador, which was an AMAZING experience! At USCA The POZ Life team expanded to get a wider range of representation. After returning I worked on a project with Reach LA where I choreographed a dance that told a story about the struggle between two people to deal with HIV being introduced into their relationship. It’s the first piece in what I hope will be a series of creations centered on living with HIV. I was also picked by The Human Rights Campaign as a youth ambassador and will be involved with them until 2016. This past December I spoke at an event for World Aids Day at the New Testament Church here in L.A. For the past few weeks I’ve been prepping to speak at Time To Thrive in Oregon at the start of 2015. Most recently I was featured in Healthline’s Portrait of HIV. Outside of my involvement with HIV I’ve spent the last year teaching at Lula Washington Dance Theater and training/touring with the professional company in preparation for their 35th anniversary in 2015. This past month I also started touring with a company called The Lucent Dossier Experience and did a performance in Las Vegas.
Patrick and I at USCA
The boys of R3VNG
One year ago this month I made a resolution that 2014 I would go “All Out”. Since then almost everything in my life has changed.
A year ago I was okay with the normal daily routine in the organization I worked for. Now everyday when I wake up for work I find myself all over again and pursue my passion every day. A year ago I was content with my life. Now I’m living a meaningful life. A year ago I wasn’t speaking out, let alone blogging. Now I’m proud to be apart of ThePozLife, as well as other endeavors. A year ago I had few people reading my words (other than some vapid work emails). Now I have over 100,000 active followers, and my work have been read by over half-a-million people in 151 countries this year.
A year ago no one was interested in following me on Twitter or Facebook or Google+. Now I have over 10,000+ people who interact with me via those platforms.
A year ago my inspirations were Angelina Jolie, Laverne Cox, Pedro Zamora, Janet Mock, and others like them. And I’m still inspired by them. A year later I’ve been in meetings guys, been featured on international websites, and established organizational relationships with them and dozens of similar people who have helped shaped the lives of those living with HIV in meaningful way.
A year ago I hadn’t presented anything. Now I’ve presented 20 presentations: 5 abstracts, Facilitated 2 nationwide panel discussions, and featured on 3 magazine covers.
A year ago I had a spreadsheets full of goals, and I would beat myself up when I didn’t achieve those goals. Now I live with one goal at a time.
A year ago we strived to make everything perfect. Now we embrace the imperfection of my daily life.
A year ago I was a dorky guy living in South Florida. Now I’m given the opportunity to travel the country and meet young advocates like myself and collaborate with the most amazing people I’ve ever met. I’ve given away hundreds of free hugs on this tour so far.
A year ago there was a considerable amount of discontent in our lives. Now I’m happy, and when we I look in the rearview mirror everything is different.
A REASON FOR THESE STATS?
I’m not trying to impress you with my “accomplishments.” Rather, I want to impress upon you the power of a year. As human beings, we often overestimate what we can accomplish in a short period of time (e.g., six-pack abs in two weeks), but we drastically underestimate what we can accomplish in a year or two.
Most of the above mentioned “accomplishments” weren’t goals I developed at the beginning of the year. They just happened, organically, as we worked hard to add value to other people’s lives. Thus, I’ve discovered that when we add value to other people’s lives, everything else tends to fall into place. The big life changes don’t happen overnight. Give yourself some time. Put in a lot of effort and keep at it. You’ll be surprised with what can happen in a year.
Patrick Ingram and Ryane Hill at the 4th Annual ADAP Leadership Awards
2014 has been a year of progression, beauty, success, and identity. This year started with trying to discover a way of growing PozLifeofPatrick to be faithful to my goals from my resolutions for 2014. After the Young Black Gay Men’s Leadership Initiative’s 2014 Policy and Advocacy Summit I discovered how that would look. PozLifeofPatrick took the necessary steps and evolved to ThePoz+Life.
“Sexy, smart and HIV+” exhibition in Zagreb, Croatia.
By bringing on the unique personalities and positive attributes of others living and affected by HIV we are now able to reach places we have not been before. At this year’s USCA we asked the tough questions, networked, educated people on what we do, and really worked alongside other young people to have our needs and issues addressed. At the ViiV Community Summit in Miami, FL we learned about the great community work ViiV Healthcare does, new information on advancements in the work to end the HIV epidemic, and the work that is taking place in our communities. We were apart of their 1st Youth Summit were we refined our leadership skills, fellowshipped with other great young leaders and influencers, and gained new collaborations which will start in 2015.
In 2015 we look forward to working alongside great organizations, projects and individuals who are ready to see the end of the HIV epidemic. Personally, I am very excited to have been able to represent the many Young Black Gay Men living with HIV through a variety many projects. They took the form of filming a commercial, interviews, magazine features, Op-Ed pieces, being apart of “Black Voices,” and even being featured in a photo exhibition aboard. This year has been full of challenges as I have continued to battle depression and PTSD, working full-time, being a full-time student, having people relying on me as a primary source of support, managing the newly formed ThePozLife, and trying to live my own personal life. Although there were many challenges trying to balance all of these responsibilities the rewards have been fruitful and the fact that I can touch and connect with people who are both HIV-Positive and HIV-Negative continues to speaks volumes.
In 2015 I have a few request.
- Let’s focus on not always bragging about what we do but instead give your platform to someone else for five minutes
- Seek self-improvement and self-development
- Give back through volunteering and donating to causes specific to one’s you are affected by
- Stop being selfish and collaborate with others, also support social justice movements that realistically impact us all
- Share the work of ThePozLife and always keep us in your prayers and thoughts
The most important piece of this all is to understand that regardless of how you feel or think that your voice and lived experiences does matter!
See you at NAESM in January!
Positivity is everything