November 11, 2012
On Sunday, Nov. 11 at 9 p.m. EST we spoke with activist Jeff Allen on the POZ I AM Radio Show. Jeff Allen tested positive in 1985. He was a drug addict using heroin and cocaine and was reckless in his behavior. Jeff was homeless and living in his car for more than two months. Jeff lived in Key West with his partner of 12 years where the HIV community was small and compact. When it came to the end of his partner's life, Jeff wanted to leave and go where he was not so well known. After his partner's passing Jeff moved to Deland, Fla. right outside the Daytona Beach area. He was very frail and weak, but needed a purpose in his life. This is when Jeff first started volunteering for HIV/AIDS organizations in 1995.
Living with no T cells for three years and a viral load of 1,650,000, Jeff contracted MAC (Mycobacterium avium complex) from potting plants in his yard. "MAC" is the name of a group of germs. These germs can infect people who are living with HIV. Jeff had to go on an IV drip for five days.
Then Jeff got involved with his local Ryan White consortium (Partnership for Comprehensive HIV/AIDS Planning [PCHAP]) and ended up chairing the consortium for seven years. He then decided he wanted to make a difference on the national level. Jeff knew he wanted to get involved with the homeless in some capacity since he was previously homeless. Jeff also knew that he wanted to help improve the quality of care that HIV/AIDS patients receive. He applied for and was accepted in several different positions.
In 2011, the consortium needed to address the numbers of out-of-care clients that they have in the local area. After conducting focus groups and soliciting surveys, it was decided that the real issue was the fear and stigma that is associated with HIV/AIDS. People did not want to get tested in areas known to treat or counsel HIV-positive people for fear of being associated with having the disease or being gay. So, Jeff created the Positive Champions Speakers Bureau to deal with fear and stigma.