National Heterosexual Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day Petition

Help support heterosexual men living with HIV by signing the petition, click here

There are approximately 36.7 million people in the world living with HIV and 1.2 million people in the United States alone. A significant percentage of those living with the virus are heterosexuals including many straight men who struggle to find their voice within this pandemic. Straight positive men, like myself, are living with a condition that is highly stigmatized and believed by the general public to only happen to already marginalized groups within society; namely gay men/msm, sex workers, and IV drug users. This has greatly contributed to many of them living in silence, shame, and fear. Therefore, contributing to a decline in treatment adherence, negative lasting impacts on mental health, and disclosure challenges.

The creation, recognition, and implementation of August 16th as, National Heterosexual Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, will help break the barriers of stigma and give a sense of community to a group of people living with HIV/AIDS that is all too often left out of the conversation. Will you help the cause today by signing your name and urging the CDC to take this step in support of heterosexual men across the country living with HIV?

 

Cada 40 Segundos (Version en Español)

Cada cuarenta segundos

“Necesitamos crear conciencia de la otra epidemia-depresión”

Por Joshua Middleton

Este es una translacion literal de un articulo que fue escrito y que es propiedad de  A&U:America’s AIDS Magazine : El enlace original del articulo se puede encontrar aqui. Translacion cortesía de Kraus en fivver.com 


Soy VIH-Positivo y, si, también vivo con depresión. Es correcto, lo he dicho. La gran palabra con “D” que nadie quiere decir. Permíteme compartir contigo mi perspectiva sobre una epidemia posiblemente mucho más grande que cualquiera que hayamos visto antes.

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Joshua pedaleando a través del Golden Gate en un viaje reciente a San Francisco. Foto cortesía de J. Middleton

 

En un viaje reciente, mientras pedaleaba sobre el puente del Golden Gate, la realidad de lo que se ha vuelto un tema tan tabú realmente cobró sentido. La obra maestra arquitectónica que es visitada por enjambres de turistas anualmente también se ubica arriba de un cementerio donde miles han sucumbido a la aparentemente interminable batalla contra los problemas mentales, en específico la depresión.

Mientras el lecho marino empieza a levantarse, me asomé a mi derecha hacia otro icónico pedazo de historia en el Área de la Bahía, la infame prisión de alcatraz. Imagina estar encarcelado en tal lugar. Cuatro paredes confinándote de la libertad con solo un vistazo del mundo exterior. Un lugar que tiene entradas y salidas, pero, a pesar de saber cómo salir de él, no pareces ser capaz de lograrlo. La felicidad y alegría son tomadas de ti y la realidad es la extensión de tiempo que esta frente a ti. Parece que solo estas siguiendo la corriente. La peor parte de ello es que, nadie habla acerca de lo que estás pasando; como si no existieras. Se te deja con un sentimiento de aislamiento, rechazado por la sociedad. Ahora sabes cómo es para alguien que vive con depresión.

Irónicamente, ambas están localizadas en San Francisco, una ciudad que ha estado afectada mayormente por el virus desde el inicio de la epidemia de SIDA. Aunque algunas estadísticas muestran que el sesenta por ciento de los individuos que están viviendo con VIH también están viviendo con depresión y que somos tres veces más probable que nos deprimamos, la sociedad como un todo no le importa hablar de ello. Es incomodo, extraño y lejano a ellos que no lo han experimentado.

Sus efectos en alguien viviendo con VIH van desde casos extremos de suicidio a otros problemas como una disminución al apego al tratamiento, abuso de sustancias, y una reducción en general de la calidad de vida.

¿Sabías que el suicidio es una causa principal de muerte? Tan solo en 2014 hubo poco más de un millón de muertes al año, lo que se reduce a una muerte por suicidio aproximadamente cada cuarenta segundos. En dos-tercios de los casos, la depresión fue un factor subyacente al momento que terminaron con sus vidas. Por el momento que termines de leer este artículo en teoría cinco más se habrán ido porque no pudieron aguantar más. Fueron fuertes por demasiado tiempo.

Así es, fuertes. No leíste mal ni hay errores. Soportar la depresión requiere fuerza. No es un signo de debilidad y es el mismo estigma que nos dice esas cosas y que está manteniendo a tantos en las sombras del silencio. Necesitamos un nuevo enfoque sobre como miramos esta condición. Necesitamos animar a la gente a hablar y buscar ayuda cuando sea posible.

¿Cómo podemos esperar que la gente se adhiera al tratamiento cuando tomar una pastilla parece tan difícil como subir una montaña? ¿Por qué no estaría al alta el abuso de sustancias cuando la gente se siente tan mal en sus vidas que encuentran un modo de estar temporalmente bien y enmascarar su dolor? ¿Cómo podemos decirle a la gente a que vea lo positivo de la vida cuando el mundo parece estarse desmoronando tras ellos?

Entendiblemente, el VIH es un diagnóstico que cambia la vida. Es un virus que ha sido estigmatizado desde el principio y por varias razones puede activar depresión. Un cuidado integral tanto de la salud física como mental desde el inicio del diagnóstico es vital. Hay ayuda ahí afuera, pero la gente solo la busca cuando están listos, pero son frecuentemente retenidos por el estigma.

¿Qué puedes hacer tu para ayudar a alguien con depresión? Escuchar. Sí, es así de simple. Date cuenta que un oído imparcial y que no juzgue es crucial. Una que no esté ahí para ofrecer opiniones no solicitadas o consejos pero que solo ofrezca una línea simple de comunicación y dar un abrazo cuando sea necesario. Con este paso sencillo. Habrás validado los sentimientos de ese alguien en saber que no hay vergüenza en decir, “tengo depresión y está bien hablar de ello”.

¡Si vamos enserio acerca de alcanzar nuestra meta cero entonces debemos empezar por hablar de depresión!

El cambio inicia con una conversación y reconocer el problema – ¡Eso empieza aquí!

¿Estás buscando servicios por salud mental/abuso de sustancias? Llama la línea directa nacional SAMHSA gratuita al 1 (800) 662-HELP. ¿Estas experimentando una crisis de salud mental justo ahora o te sientes suicida? ¿Necesitas a alguien con quien hablar? Por favor, llama gratuitamente al 1 (800) 273-8255.

Joshua es un blogger de redes sociales, educador y orador público que aboga por crear conciencia del VIH y salud mental. Como alguien viviendo con VIH y depresión el mismo, él sabe lo difícil que puede ser, pero también cree firmemente en el impacto de relatar y apoyarse entre sí por medio de compartir su propio viaje personal con el mundo. El ayuda a inspirar esperanza en otros a través de este blog, www.pozitivehope.com, al mostrar consistentemente a la gente que “el cielo es el límite: hay vida más allá del VIH”.

#MyPozMsg Campaign / Campaña de #MiMsjPositivo

For years now, Kevin from RiseUptoHIV, has continually provided a platform for anyone living with HIV/AIDS to share their story. Wether it be the No Shame Campaign or #MyPozMsg campaign, RiseUpToHIV is touching hearts of tens of thousands across the world. I decided to participate in this campaign because it is my hope that through sharing my story it will inspire that same hope in the hearts of others to come to a realization that HIV is truly what we make of it. Will it define you or will it refine you? To view the entire video please click below. For the hearing impaired please click my YouTube Channel here .

Whats your #MyPozMsg? Share it by emailing Kevin from RiseUpToHIV at kevincaresusa@gmail.com or message him on facebook.

Por años, Kevin de ElevateAlVIH ha continuado dar una plataforma a las personas viviendo con el VIH/SIDA para compartir sus historias. Si es la campaña de #NoVerguenzaEnSerVIHPositivo o #MiMensajePositivo, ElevateAlVIH esta tocando los corazones de miles de personas en el mundo. Yo decidi participar en esta campaña porque yo quiero brindar esparanza a las personas positivas para que se dan cuenta que el VIH no nos hace sino es lo que hacemos con el virus. Te delimitará o te refiniará? Puedes encontrar el video completo en espanol abajo. Para la comunidad sorda y personas con discapacidad auditiva visita mi canal de YouTube aqui para verlo.

Cual es tu #MiMsjPositivo? Compartalo con Kevin via su email en kevincaresusa@gmail.com o mandale un mensaje en el FB.

Bow Ties and Butter Knives: Fighting Stigma Within Our Own Community

Speechless… That was my first reaction when I glanced down at my laptop screen and saw the following comment appear on my Twitter feed.

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It was in response to a photo I had posted in support of The Bow Tie Movement Campaign; a grassroots initiative seeking to raise awareness for heterosexual HIV positive men. The words that first caught my attention were knife and neck. Was this someone reaching out for help or yet another stigmatizing comment from someone looking to put others living with HIV down? Then I looked further and what I found shocked me.

This tweet was published not only by another heterosexual HIV advocate, but also one well-known to the public eye. Dick Donato also known as @EvelDick, a reality TV star that appeared on Big Brother and Couples Therapy, shared his two cents on what he thought of the campaign in a series of tweets.

 

I won’t sugar coat it, his responses upset me. But more than the anger was a feeling of disappointment. As advocates people who follow our lives look up to us. We are being watched constantly and our words have a profound impact, whether we know it or not. I’m a believer in the age-old saying, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”.

If the man isn’t a fan of bow ties. Ok, I get it. But to put down a campaign that’s focus is to eliminate stigma by tweeting out stuff like this, makes me feel like we have taken ten steps back in the progress we’ve made to date.

To begin with, the idea of using a comparison of self harm to wearing a bow tie is just not right. Call me hyper-sensitive or say that I am overreacting but as someone who also advocates for mental health awareness, it’s just not appropriate. There is nothing humorous about it. I’ve written in detail about the mental health crisis we are in as seen in some of my previous blogs here and incidences like this don’t help the situation.

The conversation then began to shift…


I learned early on in advocacy that it’s important to stay focussed on one thing, why I wanted to share my story to begin with. Sure, it’s great to know that what I’m doing truly is accomplishing my mission by helping others. But it doesn’t mean that because I haven’t reached 133,000 people, that indicates what I am doing is worthless. What kind of message is that sending? That numbers are what are important? These are people’s lives we are talking about here.

Wether it’s one or one hundred thousand lives, a blog viewed by a couple hundred a month or a show viewed by millions, we all can play a part in this fight. Let’s not put each other down but rather build each other up. This isn’t a competition and the minute that it becomes one it is time we take a serious step back to analyze the situation.

A key component of being an advocate is being humble. While I commend Dick for the work he has done in HIV advocacy, I believe he dropped the ball on this one. Heterosexual men face an enormous amount of stigma and often stay in the closet due to this stigma. We expect it from the outside world that is uneducated and ignorant to our struggle but not from one of our very own.

If I was just starting into advocacy or thinking about speaking out about my status, this would have deterred me. A heterosexual male is going to look at this and say “Whoah, if that’s the reaction the HIV community, how will others react?”

The whole point of this campaign isn’t about bow ties. It’s about saving people’s lives! I am so thankful for the love and support I have received from fellow advocates, friends, and family. I truly do wish Dick the best and hope that this will serve as a learning experience that we can all grow from.

Advocacy isn’t about reality TV but rather real life. Lets put an end to the drama and focus on ending the trauma induced by the stigma that has followed this virus for decades. Wether you are straight or gay, like to wear bow ties or would never be caught in public wearing one. Let us never lose focus; reaching zero and a HIV/AID’s free generation.

 

 

 

 

5 Valuable Tips to Bridge the Gap with your HIV Healthcare Team

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Left: Laura (RN/MA), Left Middle: Joshua Middleton, Right Middle Dr. David Redfield (MD), Right: Kathy (RN)

Bridging the gap with your healthcare team can seem like a daunting task. After all, they are the experts who spent years of life in school and have all the answers. Right?  It’s natural to sense an us vs them mentality however this is not how the relationship should function. As the old saying goes there is no “I” in team and this is especially true in the world of healthcare.

Each individual member of your healthcare team has a unique role. From you the patient to the doctor, nurses, and medical assistants. Similar to a recipe, one cannot expect the finished product to come as desired if any ingredients are missing or not mixed together properly.

Here are 5 valuable tips I have found helpful in my time living with HIV and it’s my hope they can be useful to you as well. Since we live with HIV we tend to find ourselves at the doctor a tad more than our HIV negative counterparts. By taking these simple steps we can make the most out of our experience and continue to strengthen the physician – patient relationship.

1. Find a doctor that is a good fit for you

This may seem like a no brainer but believe it or not I have many HIV positive friends who stay in care with a doctor with whom they just don’t click. It’s more than just looking at a doctor’s experience in the field of HIV.

Maybe you prefer a male or female doctor? Possibly you would like a doctor who is older or maybe younger? Depending on your sexual orientation you might also choose a doctor that is LGBTQ friendly. Do you prefer someone who is more hands on or someone who is more laid back?

An HIV specialist should be someone that cares about you in the fullest sense and utilizes integral care to focus on both your physical and mental health. They are someone who listens, is punctual, has a good bedside manner, and has your best interest at heart as a person; not simply as another patient on his or her list of daily appointments. Although it may take time to find the physician right for you, when it’s all said and done, it will be well worth it.

2. Build trust and understanding

Any relationship in life requires trust and this  particularly rings true for the connection that doctors and patients build together. Although it can take time to build; it starts with an honest and open conversation with your physician. HIV is often a subject that involves topics sexual in nature and ones that understandably you do not discuss outside of the bedroom. It’s important to know your privacy and confidentiality are protected by HIPPA laws and that your doctor doesn’t need to know this information to pry or make you feel uncomfortable; but rather to provide you the best care possible.

It doesn’t mean you need to give over your black book of hook ups throughout the years or go into vivid detail of every sexual act you have ever engaged in however you should reach the point where you feel comfortable in talking with your doctor about your sexual health.

Take it a step at a time, however after awhile, it’s been my experience that it becomes much like a friendship. You can talk to anything with a good friend because you have that trust built. The same goes for your HIV specialist. They are a non bias third party and if they are not, get a new one.

It’s not just a one way street either where you spill the beans and are left feeling empty. Take some time to get to know your doctor. It doesn’t mean that you need to know their favorite color or who they rooted for in the last Super Bowl but even a quick minute spent together talking can make a big difference. It continues to help bridge that gap and sense of awkwardness that one naturally feels when visiting their physician. Doctors are people to and we often forget that.

3. Ask questions

Have you ever left your doctors office with more questions than answers? Did you have questions in mind you wanted to go over in the appointment but somehow along the way you didn’t get to them? Well, this tip is for you.

It’s vital that you ask questions. It helps me to have a list written down and that way I can go through them one by one with the doctor. I akin it to a job interview that much to people’s surprise, should be more like a conversation rather than a one person monologue. Don’t be embarrassed to ask or fall into a thinking trap but take the leap and let the words flow out. Chances are you aren’t the first person that has ever asked the same thing.

4. Get to know your support staff

The first person you see when you go into your HIV specialist’s office is most likely not the doctor. It may be a medical assistant, nurse, or other healthcare professional who’s duty is to assist the doctor. Since you will be dealing with them on a regular basis whether it be setting an appointment, requesting lab work results, or relaying messages to your doctor; take a moment to build a relationship with them as well. There is a lot of behind the scene work done by them that you don’t necessarily see but building connections with them is important if you want to get the most of the relationship with your healthcare team.

5. Become your own patient advocate


We have to become patient advocates because we are in control of our own health, not our doctor. This starts with educating ourselves about what we are up against. It doesn’t take a biology major or rocket scientist to understand the basics. Your doctor can help educate you and if you do your own research as well, then you are setting yourself up for success. www.thebody.com has some great resources and even a Q&A section that can help you learn more about HIV.

Advocating for yourself doesn’t  necessarily mean taking an aggressive approach but rather an assertive one. I learned this practice myself a couple years ago due to my personal experience with the debilitating side effects of a certain HIV medication. Although it worked great numbers wise, I could no longer take the negative impact on my quality of life. I demanded a change from my doctor and assured him after over a year of trying to let my body adjust, it was now time to try something new.

Engaging with your doctor and using effective communication to address your concerns is going to help you both in the short and long run. We don’t just let doctors treat us. We have to teach them how we want to be treated.

 

Undetectable = Uninfectious Campaign Video

When I was diagnosed with HIV at only 22 years of age, I was at a crossroads in my life. From the very get-go, I engaged in taking a proactive stance against the virus and started on antiretroviral therapy, achieving an undetectable viral load shortly after. As someone who is in a mixed-status relationship where treatment as prevention (TaSP) is our chosen form of protection, I felt it was important to participate in the Undetectable = Uninfectious project (U=U) of the new Prevention Access Campaign.

Through my work as an HIV advocate, my influence as a social media blogger and my passion to help others, I feel it’s my duty to get the correct information to the masses. We are living in a time where other safe sex strategies exist for HIV prevention.

TaSP is revolutionizing the HIV prevention arena as we know it. Instead of fighting it because of fear, we need to take the opinion out of the conversation and accept what science has and continues to prove time and time again: Undetectable truly does equal uninfectious, and that’s why I’m part of the U=U campaign!

*** TheBody.Com Article ***