“I accept myself, but I thought you wouldn’t,” said Otis to his mother, tears streaming down his face.
Otis is a young, gay man living in Dallas. Despite always having a very close relationship, he waited a whole year to tell his family that he was living with HIV. That fear was quickly replaced with hope and love.
“You got a supportive family. We got you. And I’ll never turn my back on you. I love you,” said Otis’ mother, LaTongia, in a moving moment between mother and son captured on film for I’m Positive, a documentary about young people and HIV from MTV and the Kaiser Family Foundation.
As a teen mother herself, she knows firsthand the challenges young people today face, and has stood by her son through all the ups and downs. Keeping her son healthy and well is LaTongia’s top priority. She calls him regularly to make sure he is keeping up with his medications and taking care of himself.
“I’m not going to let him get so sick, where he don’t want to take care of himself, don’t want to go to the doctor, don’t get medicine. Get what you need. I’m behind you one hundred percent,” she says.
With the support of his family, Otis is managing his HIV and living a full life. Today, he counsels other young people newly diagnosed who themselves may be afraid to talk to their families or about what comes next.
Otis and LaTongia are using their powerful story to confront the stigma of HIV.
This summer, they joined Empire (FOX) star and long-time HIV activist Jussie Smollett on the main stage at ESSENCE Empowerment Experience at ESSENCE Festival in New Orleans to talk about The Power of Love & Family: Ending AIDS in Black America.
“This is my baby. I had him, raised him, took care of him as a child. I can keep taking care of him. I’m not going to let him fall,” LaTongia said of her son before a packed audience.
Having the support of his mother gives Otis even greater motivation to keep taking care of himself and allowed him to give support to others.
“It made me grow up. It made me realize if I don’t take care of myself, I could be gone. I have a life to live. “
For more with Otis and LaTongia at ESSENCE Fest, click here.