Oak Park 22-Year-Old Putting a Face on HIV; He's on Tour to Warn Teens
October 27, 2006
Oak Park, Mich., resident D'Jaun Black, 22, is one of six HIV-positive youths from across the United States participating in "Operation Get Tested." Beginning Oct. 15 and continuing through Dec. 1, the young people are riding a tour bus from New York through the South and on to California. The bus stops at colleges and universities so the riders can tell their stories and encourage others to avoid contracting HIV.
Black, who learned he had HIV at 19, said, "I want to put a face on HIV and let people know, 'Hey, I come from a background like yours. I'm young as well and thought I was invincible, too.'" Black said he had assumed he did not meet the criteria for HIV/AIDS patients. "The stereotype was promiscuous people or people that use drugs, or commercial sex workers got it. I didn't do any of those things."
Tour organizer Tom Donohue said many teens find it difficult to relate to longtime HIV survivors: "When they don't see someone their age or who looks like them, they think it can't happen to them," he said. Donohue is founder and executive director of Who's Positive, a Pennsylvania-based organization devoted to lowering HIV/AIDS rates among young adults.
According to information released Oct. 5 by the Michigan Department of Community Health, about 1,480 HIV-positive people from Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Monroe and Lapeer counties learned of their status when they were between ages 13 and 24, said Monique Jones of the Horizons Project in Detroit.
"To anybody living with HIV, I just say, 'Take it one day at a time,'" Black said. "Everything is not going to get better overnight, but there are resources available to help."
Detroit Free Press
10.22.2006; Sharon Gittleman
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.