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Our Stories, Our Voices

Our Stories, Our Voices

Written by Bryan Jones, C2EA Great Lakes Regional Co-Chair

Empowering people living with HIV/AIDS has been a platform of mine for a long time. That’s why I am very grateful for the opportunity granted to me by Ms. Christine Campbell of Housing Works and Mr. Kali Lindsay from the National Minority Aids Council. Presenting alongside them only reinforces what I’ve known in my heart to be true all along, that we as Positive People do matter and that we do have a voice that is just as important as statistics.

Presenting at the United States Conference on AIDS in New Orleans as well as the North American Housing and HIV/AIDS Research Summit in Montreal, Canada have been very inspiring and influential experiences in my advocacy. Christine and Kali have given me that extra boost to continue fighting by giving me these opportunities. This experience has made me realize that I’m definitely on the field playing the game, and not just in the bleachers watching.

In Ohio where I’m from, as well as other locations around the country I’ve been, PLWAs are often pushed aside and not utilized to their full capacity, nor are they added to the equation when it comes to prevention. I once heard someone say at a conference (and you know who you are), “THERE SHOULD BE NOTHING ABOUT US WITHOUT US,” and that message resonated to my very soul and began to be part of the foundation of my advocacy.

It’s funny that at the Housing Summit all the presentations were filled with statistical models, peppered with the latest buzz words, blah, blah, blah… Don’t get me wrong, the data and stats are very much needed to convince those naysayers that housing is prevention. But the piece that was missing from almost all the presentations except a few was the inclusion of actual people living with HIV/AIDS, their stories, their voices. That one element needed to take the stats and data off the page and make it real human.

One exception was the presentation on Mass Incarceration, Housing Instability and HIV/AIDS (of which yours truly was apart). After our presentation, many people came up to me and commented that to hear a real story integrated and supportive of the material was refreshing and more impactful than a lot of the data that was presented. They also felt that our (wow that feels good – “our”… let me say it a little louder – OUR!) presentation had the perfect balance of strong data, strong recommendations, and a very moving human element.

The message I send out to my peers is to start telling your story, because just like mine yours too can make a difference. Thanks to Christine and Kali who I saw firsthand are very committed to People Living with HIV/AIDS. It will go down in history (at least in my history) that at the North American Housing and HIV/AIDS Research Summit and the United States Conference on AIDS our PLWA voice was heard.

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Posted on October 1, 2013 at 10:39 am