Greater Than AIDS and partners brought together 25 gay men ages 25 and younger from across the U.S. to record their personal #SpeakOutHIV stories. The videos they created offer an intimate and revealing look at HIV that is not often seen. The young men’s passion for change is inspiring.
Kendall: Growing up, I didn’t know anyone black or gay, so there were a lot of things that I went through. Gay was synonymous with sin. It was synonymous with hell. It was silent.
Maliek: For over a year, I lived my life in silence. Mario: As I was a child, you know, growing up, I’ve experienced a lot of different injustices, just being a gay man of color in this country.
Robbie: HIV and sex were seldomly talked about, growing up in my Wisconsin Lutheran family.
Edric: Everyone around me was pretty much white and straight.
Kemar: The homophobia that I have to deal with within my community is very intense.
Kenneth: Growing up, closeted on the res, wasn’t easy. And there wasn’t a lot of information on sexual health or homosexuality.
Richard: All I knew about being a gay black man was HIV. It was synonymous.
Kenneth: I don’t even remember when or why or how I learned about HIV. But I do remember being scared of it.
Kemar: I’m afraid that being gay will cause me to lose a lot of the people that I care about.
Devion: Sometimes there’s people in my life that are important to me but they may not understand what I’m going through as an HIV positive person.
Jose: One time, I went to get tested with one of my partners and his result came back positive and mine came back negative. But that was a wake-up call.
Darion: It was like I was looking into a mirror of myself, exact same age, exact same background, exact same goals in life, but yet it made me ask, “Why not me?”
Kendall: The – I was hurt because he was going through something that he couldn’t disclose to me.
De’Andre: Here I am in this field, you know, being an advocate for this, and my brother had it the whole time and never told me.
Abraham: What I hated most about HIV was disclosing my status because when I disclosed, I then became Abraham with HIV, instead of Abraham, the premed student.
Bryan: Not knowing myself and being unable to speak my truth, to share my vulnerability with someone prevented me from understanding who I was, and what I deserved.
Devion: I just needed to have that constant affirmation, and I didn’t even realize that it was me needing to talk to my mother until I actually told her.
Maliek: I psyche myself out to believe, to believe the stigma. Ocie: I have HIV, HIV doesn’t have me.
Adonis: My past doesn’t determine my future, and living with HIV doesn’t determine who I am.
Justice: I mean, I just feel like that I should have died a long time ago.
Otis: Everyone has a calling. Whatever it may be, just have to dig down and try to find it. The battle of HIV isn’t really over. This is just the beginning.
Justin: And everything that I’ve been through, the people that I’ve come in contact with, my mentors, my friends, who’ve been affected, they’ve all been the reason as to why I speak out.
Justice: But the reason why I work so passionately, the way that I do, is because the people that I service, the people who are close to me, those are the people that deserve that type of environment. Those are the people who have given damn near anything for it.
Richard: When I was 20 years old, I remember three people close to me, admitting to me that they were, disclosing to me that they were HIV positive. It greatly affected me, even though I wasn’t infected, I was really affected. And in that moment, at that time of my life, I really became more educated.
Daz: I’ve started practicing safer sex, I started pre- shit – practicing what I preach.
John: Ask your partner about their HIV status, know your own status, and let’s kick the stigma associated with people living with HIV.
Daz: So, now, as I look back on the things that I’ve done before, I’m much more happier.
Edric: A happy healthy queer community to me really needs to embrace all of themselves, so that we can fuck the way we want to fuck, so we can love the way we want to love, and so that we can be respected by our, by our own standards, and nobody else’s.
Josh: I deserve to be healthy. I deserve to know my status.
Jason: The most important thing is I have a story, and that story matters.
Mario: Speak out because we’re important, our lives are important.
Antonio: I speak out for people of my past, people of my current, and people of my future.
Kendall: I speak out because I don’t want other people to suffer in silence.
Mickey: We need to stop having silent sex. We need to talk, we need to shape, we need to be verbal, we need to get dirty.
De ‘Andre: We are going to make a change that this world needs to see.
Kemar: In the end, I know that there are a lot of others out there who’re also afraid, and that’s why I speak out.