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Jamar Rogers: Behind the Voice -- A POZ I AM Radio Transcript

Highlights From an Interview by Robert Breining and Jeromy Dunn

March 7, 2012

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On Disclosing on Primetime Network TV

Robert Breining: Jamar, one of things that actually blew me away about the whole process of how you were invited to audition for The Voice -- at least how they showed it on TV: Carson Daly hand-delivered the invitation to you and gave you a hug. For him to do that to somebody who is HIV positive, to me, just showed so many people that you don't have to be afraid of people who have HIV. Because so many people have that stigma. Just that simple action of him handing it to you and hugging you in person, I think, really helped break down a lot of stigma.

Jamar Rogers: I went home and cried like a baby, just so you know! I was so touched on that day. It really, truly was a surprise. I had no idea he was coming to meet me. I just knew that the camera crew wanted to kind of follow me around, doing what I do; and then he popped up out of nowhere. That was the best surprise.

I really didn't understand the momentousness of him actually reaching out and touching me, until I read what you had written. And I was like, "You know what? He's absolutely right." He did hug me. And so did Cee Lo. And I'm hoping that by the rest of America seeing that these celebrities are not afraid of that, they'll begin to see: OK, maybe everything that I've thought about HIV was wrong. I'm really hoping people just start to ask questions, and to start to change people's minds on things.


Robert Breining: I think you're definitely changing a lot of minds. I think it brought a lot of conversation. At least it gave an opportunity for parents to have conversations with their kids about HIV. It opened the door for them. Now, did they take it? Who knows?

Jamar Rogers: Another thing that I really like with The Voice: They didn't really make it a sob story. They didn't bring out the violins. I really appreciate them for that. I said it and then we left it alone. You know, they didn't make a really big deal out of it. It was like, OK; here's this guy who can sing who happens to be HIV positive. I really appreciate NBC and The Voice for not exploiting it. And they promised me that they wouldn't. But they did a really good job of handling the story, I must say.

Jeromy Dunn: It does kind of get tiresome when they play the sad, sappy music, and they turn it into this whole Dateline thing, and everybody's crying. It's like, oy vey. It's really nice to see a -- and the pun is intended here -- a positive role model who's not hiding behind his HIV status, who is using his powers for good, and not evil. So that's really inspiring and really nice to see.

Jamar Rogers: Wow, thanks so much. That was the nicest thing!

Jeromy Dunn: Oh, you're welcome.

Robert Breining: You know what else is interesting that I'm thinking about now, Jamar: You're the first person who is on network television who has come out as HIV positive, that I can remember. Because you know, Mondo and Jack Mackenroth both came out on their seasons of Project Runway; Ongina from RuPaul's Drag Race came out. But they were on cable channels. They weren't on a major network like NBC. And for you to do it, it's amazing.

Jamar Rogers: I believe you are right. A producer told me that same thing -- that no one's ever really talked about it on a primetime television show, which scared the mess out of me when they told me that. I was like, "Wait. I don't want to be the first!"

Then I became OK with that. And I began telling other contestants while we were preparing for the blind auditions. I figured I'd get my feet wet and see how they would take it. The other contestants have been so super-cool. I didn't have any roommates that were like, "I can't room with you."

This experience has been super rewarding. It sure pays off for the nonsense that I did. It's so funny that the one thing I was so completely petrified of is the one thing that's kind of getting me some attention. I think that's so funny.

On Being Single -- By Choice

Jamar Rogers: As far as being single, officially I have been single for about a year and four months; that's because I made a conscious decision to focus on my music full time. And I call it dating God, almost. Because the time that I would have invested in getting to know someone and taking them out and lavishing all this attention on them, I just get to know my Creator. And in getting to know Him, I get to know myself.

So I'm not saying that I'm opposed to dating and getting into another long-term relationship. It's just right now is not the time. I have so many great things going on for me right now. I don't want to be distracted. That's just where I am right now.

On Family

Robert Breining: One thing I wanted to talk about, Jamar, was your mother. The way you talk about your mom, and your mom being there when you got picked to be on Team Cee Lo, and talking about how proud she was of you: That's incredible! I don't cry, and I was brought almost to tears. Because that is something that every son, every person who is HIV positive, wants their parent to be, or say to them. And it was just a blessing to see.

Jamar Rogers: The true miracle is that there were a few years that my mom didn't even know where I was. She didn't have a phone number for me; she didn't know how to get in contact with me. I was completely strung out, and I wasn't trying to reach out to her. The true miracle is the reconciliation of our relationship.

I ran away at 17, you know, cursing her and my stepfather. I didn't want to abide by the rules. She cried a lot for me; she worried a lot for me. And the great thing is, right when my wife and I found out that I was HIV positive, my mom was the first person that I called. She cried with me on the phone, but she never once was weird about it. I think that she kind of learned as she went along, but she has just been so freaking supportive. I love my mom. And if she's listening: Mom, I just want to let you know that I would not be where I am today without your love and acceptance of me. So, thank you. Thank you. That's all I want to say.

Jeromy Dunn: And really, without her, you wouldn't be here.

Jamar Rogers: Very true. She reminds me of that often.

Jeromy Dunn: I bet she does.

Jamar Rogers: She's really super talented in her own right. I hate to say it, but I get my personality it from her. I'd never want to be compared to my mother but we're both very jubilant. We're both very exciting people. And we both love to encourage people. My mom . . . man. I can talk about her all night.

Jeromy Dunn: So, you're doing The Voice. Tell us what it's like living and rooming with all these folks.

Jamar Rogers: Well, you know, I haven't seen them in a while. And the next time I go back out we're filming the battle rounds. But we've become family. I talk to most of them a lot. The support that I've gotten from them since my audition has aired has been ridiculous.

Obviously, not everyone makes it. But we spend three weeks preparing for that. So you're spending a lot of time with some really talented people. I was kind of intimidated when I first got there because everyone had their guitars out, you know, by the pool at the hotel. It was kind of like a Kumbaya session; everyone was singing and showing off a little bit. I was like, "I am not opening my mouth around them! I am not going to sing in front of them.

I ended up not only just making great friends, but meeting other weird artists/musicians that are just as strange as I am, you know? It's nice to belong to a community.

Caller #1: I heard your story on there and I said, "Man, oh, man. This guy has been on the same path I've been on." It was just the courage you showed, and the advocacy, on behalf of other people, without even realizing that you're an advocate.

I guess my question is: When did you have that spiritual awakening that told you, "Look, I'm tired of doing the same old thing and expecting different results. I want to do something different"?

Jamar Rogers: It was a number of things that finally made me just go, OK; enough is enough. One: I didn't realize I was positive before I got tested. Obviously I didn't know. But I kept getting boils, really bad boils, every time I used meth -- which was, like, every day -- and found out it was MRSA. A lot of guys that use crystal meth were experiencing MRSA. But I didn't know that they were also positive.

The hospital didn't test me for HIV; they just kept lancing the boils. When I first heard that, I put two and two together: Obviously, meth is causing the boils, and this is painful. So that was the first sign that I should stop.

The second thing: Believe it or not, I was in the process of getting married. I don't know how she dealt with me, because she got clean way before I did. I had actually done some meth in the hospital bathroom where she was giving birth. The baby is not "our" baby, but it is a baby that I did raise as my child. And my hands were shaking so badly that I couldn't cut the baby's cord. And I think that that was like my real big A-ha! moment. I remember thinking, how on earth am I going to take care of this baby if I can't even take care of myself?

It was shortly after that I found out I was positive; it was shortly after that we moved to Wisconsin. So it was like a domino effect. It was a bunch of things that, finally, led to my saying: I really can't live like this anymore.

Caller #1: Well, keep doing what you're doing, man. Stay blessed.

Jamar Rogers: Thank you, brother. I really appreciate you keeping up with me, and you supporting me.

Caller #1: Well, you got that spirit. You just kind of pull people in, you know? You just got that voice.

On Disclosure and Finding Support

Danielle Rogers [calling in]: This is Jamar's mom, Danielle Rogers.

Jamar Rogers: Oh, my God! That's my mom! That's my mom! That's my mom! I know that voice!

Danielle Rogers: I had to respond because you said, "If you're listening, mom . . ." and I want you to know I've got your back, son. First of all, I just want to say I love this, your radio show, the format that you all have. It was something similar to this that really, really helped my son. And for everyone that's listening, from a supporter point of view: When Jamar told me he was HIV positive -- he didn't tell the whole story -- his attitude was upbeat. He said, "This is what the doctor says I have, but I know that I'm going to be healed."

So when you hear it from that point of view, it wasn't the doom and the gloom; it wasn't a death sentence as we previously all thought it would be. But it was, like, "This is what they say I have; but it doesn't have me." And that's why I was able to respond as positively as I did. So I don't want him to paint me as this great, wonderful mother. You know? I mean, I am. Don't get me wrong. I really am.

If anybody is really struggling with telling a loved one, I just encourage you to use Jamar's story as your platform. But when your delivery is as positive as it can possibly be, then your supporter will actually support, as opposed to, "Oh, my God. Now what are we going to do?"

I jumped on the bandwagon. "OK. Well, come here to Milwaukee. Let's get you all taken care of. And we're going to move from there." So hence we have this great contestant on The Voice, becoming such a great positive face for anyone struggling with HIV and any disease that supposedly claims your life. So, yay, son! I love you.

Jeromy Dunn: Yay!

Jamar Rogers: Aw, thanks, Mom.

Jeromy Dunn: Tell us a little bit about your support network. You've got your mom, obviously. Who else? When you are down, who do you go to?

Jamar Rogers: I go to a number of people. I know a lot of people, and I really care for a lot of people. But there are very few people that I truly genuinely trust and love. I have a couple of friends that I will call, that know me, that won't lie to me. They won't tell me what I want to hear; they'll tell me what I need to hear.

But I have my mom, my sister. Once upon a time, my wife: She went to all my doctor's appointments with me in the very beginning. I don't even know if I would have been as OK with it if it wasn't for her. She was the one that went on and did all the research. She's the one that took care of me the first week I started my meds and was feeling kind of woozy. She was really great.

I'm sorry, I'm going to digress just a little bit: I know it's really hard. And if there's anyone listening that is kind of struggling with telling a loved one, it's not necessary for you to tell everyone. It's really not. There are some people that just aren't ready to hear that. But I really believe if you feel them out, if you feel out what they're saying, you can kind of sense if they are ready to hear that. And I have to second what my mom said: If you approach the situation with facts; if you come armed with facts and say, "Hey, you know, back in the '80s this was a death sentence. But now it's so completely manageable," then you've educated them.

Instead of seeing yourself as a victim, see yourself as a victor, and see yourself as an educator. It's not going to be the end of you. And I don't know who I'm talking to right now. But I just want to let you know it's not going to be the end of you.

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This article was provided by TheBody.
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