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Brian Datcher

By Erika Nelson

May 2006


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Brian Datcher 

About Brian Datcher



Table of Contents

HIV Diagnosis

How did you find out you were HIV positive?

I found out in 1996. I found out when I was on my death bed in the hospital.

What exactly were the circumstances? You became sick?

What had happened was that I was in a relationship for a while with my lover, my significant other, for about 10 years and he passed away from complications of AIDS, opportunistic infections. After he passed away, I was in denial for quite a long time, for at least three or four years. Then I got very sick, went to the hospital, ended up with PCP [pneumocystis carinii pneumonia] and that's where it all started.

You didn't get tested until you were in the hospital?

Exactly. I kind of figured that I was positive, but I was going through the process of losing my partner and being more concerned about him than me ... being in denial and trying not to really take care of my own health and not paying attention. I waited until I was lying on my death bed in the hospital, and I still was in denial. I had ... pneumonia, but I didn't get tested for HIV. They let me go from the hospital, only treated me for a regular pneumonia. Three weeks later I was at home at my mother's house on the couch because I couldn't move any farther than that. I got to the point where either I blacked out or I went somewhere and came back. I was like, "Please take me to the hospital." So I went back to the hospital a second time. That's when I said, "Go ahead, do what you go to do." That's when I was diagnosed.

How long do you think you'd been HIV positive before you were tested?

I would have to say it had to have been over 15 years -- or more.

Do you think you were HIV positive during the time that you and your partner were together?

Exactly.

How did you cope with losing him?

Well, with support from my family, regular friends that supported me. Then there were friends that I didn't know were my friends until that crisis happened, when they became my friends. Basically, my survival instincts just kicked in. I was numb through the whole thing, but I did what I had to do.

Do you think your partner gave you HIV?

That's what I believe, but as far as my being HIV positive now, it's neither here nor there. [Laughs.] I am positive. I'm here, and he's not here. I could assume myself to death, but I have to move on with my life, not dwell on who gave whom what. I try to concentrate on the positive things.

"At the time, I really didn't put the blame on my partner. I was more concerned that this person who I loved was going out of my life. I never really looked at this like, 'He gave this to me.' or, 'Why me?' I couldn't blame him. I had to take responsibility for my own actions because it takes two to tango."

Did you feel that way at the time?

At the time, I really didn't put the blame on my partner. I was more concerned that this person who I loved was going out of my life. I never really looked at this like, "He gave this to me," or, "Why me?" I couldn't blame him. I had to take responsibility for my own actions because it takes two to tango.

Did you take care of him while he was sick? You said you had the support of your family. Were you caring for him when he was ill?

Yes, I was taking care of him. He and I had just basically bought a condo together. The year after that, he was diagnosed. I think he was diagnosed in 1987. By 1990 he was dead.

I'm so sorry.

Life is what it is. You take the negative and you turn it around and make it positive.

When you were diagnosed, what was your CD4 count and your viral load? Do you remember?

When I was first diagnosed, my CD4 count was 62. My viral load, I really couldn't even tell you. Back then I didn't even know what my CD4 count meant. They said, "CD4 count." And I was like, "What are you talking about, CD4?" They had to explain that, too. I really couldn't tell you what my viral load was, but it had to be more than I needed. [Laughs.]

"When I was first diagnosed, my CD4 count was 62. My viral load, I really couldn't even tell you. Back then I didn't even know what my CD4 count meant."

Personal Bio

Tell me about your family.

My mother had three boys. I'm the middle child. I had an older brother, Calvin, and a younger brother James. My oldest brother Calvin and I are actually only 11 months apart. When I was diagnosed in 1996 and came out of the hospital, my mother and I got a call about my brother ... in Houston, Texas. He was incarcerated for some type of legal matter and he was definitely ill. They wouldn't discuss over the phone what it was. We ended up in Lubbock, Texas, which really didn't end up being one of my favorite places.

We got down there in the midst of a sandstorm, and found out that he was in intensive care, shackled to the bed, with guards watching him. The doctors told us he had full-blown AIDS and PCP. That kind of rang a bell for me because PCP is what I had just gotten over a couple of months earlier. That really hit me hard. Here I am getting over this, and he is getting ready to die of this!

I did what I had to do because he was my mother's first born. I had to just kind of roll with the punches. They had to carry me out of the hospital that first day. The next day I was a lot ... better. We stayed down there for a week. Then we couldn't stay down there anymore, so we had to come back and do what we had to do. My mother made the decision to pull the plug on him. It took her about a week and a half to make that decision, but she made the decision. He survived for a week a half. After that, he passed. Then we shipped him back to Connecticut.

What do you mean "pull the plug"? Was he on life support?

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He was on life support. When he was there he really couldn't say much between his illness and the guards from the prison that had to be around him because he was incarcerated. My main thing was, "Wow. If you're dying in Texas and you're incarcerated, if you have HIV or you have full-blown AIDS, and you're incarcerated in Texas, you're going to be locked up." They had him actually shackled to the bed.

What was that like for you having your partner die and then losing your brother? How were you able to get beyond that and get to a place where you could still work in HIV and have the energy to help others?

It was a process I had to go through, and it took me a while. I had to educate myself about my disease. I'm the type of person, I want to know everything.

I'm experienced with doctors. My mother is a nurse. With the knowledge from her, and the knowledge from the Internet, just basically trying to find out information about my disease and to how to better educate myself and better educate others about HIV and AIDS.

You talked about your family being really supportive. Can you tell me more about your home life in general? What was it like when you were growing up? Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Stratford, Connecticut, which is a suburb. I don't know what's functional nowadays, but it functioned for me. [Laughs.] I had a mother and father. My mother and father ended up being divorced when I was 13 years old. We had a basic, everyday American life, a little twist here and twist there, but it was interesting.

How old are you now?

I'm 44 years old.

Do you have a family of your own at this point? Do you have a partner?

No, presently I'm not with anyone. The partner that I was with, he moved to Texas. Him and I just kind of went our separate ways, but we are still the best of friends. I've known him for 27 years. We had been together for four or five years. He recently moved to Dallas, Texas, but we're still good friends. We keep in touch, and draw from each others resources and stuff, so it's all good.

African-American Identity and HIV

I'd like to ask you a few questions about African-American identity and being HIV positive. When did you first realize that you were African American?

[Laughs.] My mother had said about the people that I hung with that weren't people of color, that I would ... find out that there's a difference between me and the people I hang with. I was like, "Oh, OK."

Then I watched something on TV, many years ago. It was on PBS, channel 13, about -- I can't remember the name of it, but it had to do with the Civil Rights movement. It kind of brought it to me. I always knew I was a person of color, but it never really dawned on me until seeing the struggle that people of color went through. I see me. I see color, but I see me.

How old were you when you were watching that program and had that revelation?

I must have been about 10 or 11 years old.

"I experience racism in so many ways that I just come to a point now in my life where I don't let it have any power over me."

Have you experienced racism? How have you learned to deal with that?

I experience racism in so many ways that I just come to a point now in my life where I don't let it have any power over me. I don't try to acknowledge it. I don't try to feed into it. It can just drag you in some many ways, and I've come too far to let a simple word like "nigger" tear me down and deter me from my goals. But it happens. It's an everyday thing sometimes. Sometimes I don't pay it no mind because it can happen every day if I look for it.

For instance, you give somebody money, and you give them money in their hand. They give you back the change and they put it on the counter. To me that's very disrespectful, and that says a lot. Sometimes I'm on a line to get on a plane or waiting on line for something and someone will just cut right in front of me and turn around and say, "Oh, I'm sorry, were you waiting in line here?" Like I'm invisible. First off, I want to say something derogatory, but no, I don't worry about it.

I say, "Yes, I was standing here. I was waiting in line. You didn't see me?"

"Oh, I didn't even see you."

I'm like, "OK," and I don't even feed into it. It's like being an invisible person, but I don't let it have power over me. I don't let the negativity have power over me.

Do you think racism for you is compounded by being HIV positive and being a gay man?

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In certain ways, yes. In certain ways, no. Being a person of color is one thing. Being HIV positive and people knowing that you're positive, some people tend to be real vicious and rude. I had an experience in the hospital where I was born in and [then later] diagnosed in. They treated me in a way that made me think, "Is this because of my status, or is this because of my status and because I'm black?" I didn't even get treated. I just walked out of the hospital. I got information so I could file a complaint. I filed a complaint. I said, "They treated me so bad!" I didn't feel that good, but I just had to get the information and go about my business and get treated somewhere else.

Was that the end of it?

What I did is got onto one of local news stations here and pleaded my case. After that happened, the hospital sent me a letter. "Blah. Blah. Blah." Apologizing. "Blah. Blah. Blah." They were worried I was going to sue them. I said it's not about suing; I'm talking about the principle. That they did this to me, that they did this to somebody else. It doesn't matter about your status -- if they have cancer, diabetes or any other type of illness, they were discriminating. I said, "I'm going to stand up and hold them accountable for what they did." So I did. I got a letter of apology, and that's all I wanted. I moved on.

It's a good way to educate people, too.

Exactly, exactly.

What would you say is the biggest challenge facing the black community today, in terms of HIV?

I would say ignorance and lack of education.

"A lot of the black people that I know, especially gay men of color, wait until the last minute, until they're sick, to go to the hospital. By then it's sometimes too late."

What can be done? How can this be changed?

I think people need to try to open their minds up and try to understand. In the black community there seems to be more emphasis on people's sexuality than anything else. If we could just get past people's sexuality, that's a start. Then from there, people open their minds and grasp the information and knowledge: managing your health care, knowing your body, not waiting until the last minute to get tested or to go the hospital. A lot of the black people that I know, especially gay men of color, wait until the last minute, until they're sick, to go to the hospital. By then it's sometimes too late. Some of my friends waited that long and they never made it. They went to the hospital and never came out. [I try to tell people that they should] be able to not wait that long. I tell people to stop being afraid of the doctors and being afraid of the health care system that may help the black community.

"For me, without faith, without family -- God bless them! -- without them, I wouldn't be talking to you right now."

Are there any specific aspects of African-American identity or culture that give you strength?

Yes, the family. My family and my faith in my higher power. I could say God. I could say Jesus. I could say Buddha. They're all the same -- my higher power. For me, without faith, without family -- God bless them! -- without them, I wouldn't be talking to you right now. [Laughs.]

What church do you go to? What does your spiritual practice look like?

I was baptized Catholic. I'm currently a member of an Episcopalian church. I don't attend regularly, but I do attend and I do sing in the choir when I go. It's an older congregation, but my family has a lot of history in that church. Three or four generations of our family have been going to the church.

What would you say is the biggest change you'd like to see in HIV treatment, prevention or education for African Americans? If you had an unlimited amount of money to help the black community with HIV, what would you do with it?

I would really emphasize education and help bring education in the church. If you want to get to some people in the African American community, the church is the main way of doing it. A lot of good things can begin there, and a lot of things cannot be done there. If I had resources, I would emphasize education, education, education.

Do you yourself ever do programming in churches?

Yes, I have.

How has that been? How have you been received?

The first time I spoke in my church this was maybe nine years after I was diagnosed, I finally came to the church. It was World AIDS Day or Balm in Gilead. My mother was singing in one of the churches, and so she said, "Would you mind talking about HIV?"

I said, "Sure."

So I got up there. First I was talking about me. What I went through, blah, blah, blah. That I was HIV positive and yadda, yadda, yadda. I've been positive for this amount of time. What I do in the community. This and that. After I finished with that, you could hear a pin drop. Nobody even budged. [Laughs.] So I went on. I kind of got a little angry. I blasted them, saying how they needed to get involved in the community and how black women [are being affected], the infection rate and this and that. People sitting here twiddling their thumbs is not helping anything. We need to help each other out. We need to educate the community we're in. It's not just young people. It's not just homosexuals. It's not just Latinos. It's black people, white people. It's older people. The congregation there is mainly 65 and older, so that really kind of shook them. Then they all started to move. They all clapped and everything like that. It was a breakthrough for me and for them.

Afterwards they asked me so many questions. I had a poster with me because I did a poster with the Department of Public Health and the Concerned Citizens for Humanity -- HIV Plus Working to Make a Difference. I put a poster there in the church, and they were like, "Wow! You do so much in the community. We didn't know." It opened up another door for people to start the dialogue about HIV and the things that I do. Now my mother has gotten involved in the HIV community and works with people over 50. It worked out pretty good.

"You can't depend on somebody to protect your body. There are people out there -- you don't know what they got. They might not even know what they have. You need to be responsible for your own body and your own well-being."

Do you think that young people face particular challenges in the black community as far as HIV is concerned?

They do. I even run a youth group called Wise Step in New Haven [Connecticut] in the City Hall every Thursday night. Sometimes we have up to twelve kids, maybe six kids at the least. Those kids, every time I talk to them about HIV/AIDS, they always have a different response. We have different kids that come. The myths that are still out there! There's so much that needs to be done. These kids believe that HIV came from a prostitute in Africa. When I hear that I'm like, "Wow." I'm reeducating them about what's going on, giving them the facts. Then they run them back to me. There are so many myths and there's so much peer pressure. There's so much misinformation about STDs [sexually transmitted diseases] and HIV. It really scares me.

The kids that come to the youth group, they're really on point about modes of transmission and things, but I'm always drilling them about this stuff over and over again. They're appreciative. I've had kids come and show me what they know. I'm so proud of my kids. You should see what my kids do.

I always emphasize their self-worth. You've got to respect your body. You can't depend on somebody to protect your body. There are people out there -- you don't know what they got. They might not even know what they have. You need to be responsible for your own body and your own well-being. That's what I'm always pounding into their head. They're getting it. Slowly but surely, they're getting it.

As you're working with these young people, what are your fears and hopes for the next generation of African-American youth as they face the risk of HIV?

My fear is that they're going to forget about their self-worth and put their life into anybody's hands. My hope is that they understand how much they're worth, and how important it is not to just have sex with anybody. When you have sex with one person and they had sex with ten people, you had sex with just about the whole block. I want them to realize that they're worth something and that there is more to life then sleeping around.

HIV, Health Care and Treatment

How did you come to understand the importance of educating yourself around healthcare as related to HIV?

I was educating myself to get the best health care I could get. I had a couple of problems with health care providers. I went through at least five doctors before I found the best health care providers, but that's just me ... wanting to get the best care.

Why did you go through five health care providers before you found you found your present provider?

Well, the doctor I had when I was first diagnosed told me I had three months to live and that's the way the cookie crumbles. I said, "You're telling me I have three months to live and that's what that is and there's nothing you can do for me and that's the way the cookie crumbles!" I really got upset, and I ... kind of blew up at him and told him, "I'm going to prove you wrong!"

And I did, because I'm still here. It's almost 20 years later. Actually, 12 years later, after I got diagnosed from him. From there I was still seeing him two years later. He was diagnosed with cancer. He turned around and he came to me and he apologized to me because he was in a spot; he wasn't well with his own self and he didn't mean to reflect that on me, project that on me. I said, "I knew there was something going on. That it wasn't just me, that I was diagnosed with AIDS and I had three months to live and that's the way the cookie crumbles." From there I moved on to a couple of other doctors that really didn't have good bedside manners. They just felt like they were God, telling me what to do and how to do it. They could only help me when I tell them. I tried to tell them everything I possibly can, being a patient. They told me I don't know my own body. I said, "OK, enough of you. I'm moving right along."

How did you choose your current doctor?

The current doctor that I have, I was referred to ... through a nurse practitioner who was with me for a couple of years and ended up moving on. She referred me to this specialist to give me the best care, God forbid, because when it comes to me and doctors, I'm my own doctor. I believe the doctor is the doctor, but the doctor only can do so much. He'll only treat me the best when I tell him how my body feels, what my body is like. I don't know if I explained that right.

No, that makes sense. I assume you are seeing an HIV specialist now.

Exactly.

How has that been? Do you feel like you're getting the best possible care now?

When I first met him, he was one of those doctors that came off like, "I know everything and I'm God."

I had to say, "Whoa!" I had to give him a piece of me, and then we came to a middle ground there. We work good with each other.

Do you feel like you're an equal partner in your medical care?

Exactly.

That's great. Would you be willing to share the name of the doctor or the name of the hospital or clinic you go to for our readers?

The doctor's name is Dr. David Mobo, and the clinic that he is affiliated with is Bridgeport Community Health Center.

Thank you. How has your health been? It's been a while since you were diagnosed. When you were diagnosed your T cells were really, really low. What happened after that? Did you get on meds? Did you bounce right back?

After I was diagnosed and I came out of the hospital I immediately went on meds, like the salvage therapy. I was taking a ton of meds, a ton of them. Fortunately, I did pretty well with the meds I was taking.

I had some problems because when I first started taking them they were trying to give me Retrovir [zidovudine, AZT], and I did not want to take AZT. I did not want to take it at all.

Why not?

Because of my partner's passing -- at that time when he was passing, the only drug available was AZT. The more he took it, the worse he got. That was just my observation. I may have been wrong, but that was just my observation, that it didn't really help him. He may have been too far gone. It just didn't seem like it helped him any. Then there's the saying in the black community that AZT is made to kill black people. Between that and everything else and not knowing what the drug was or how it worked, there was a lot of fear, and I was kind of really against it. I fought that for maybe a couple of months, until somebody told me: either you take it, or your other option is you just die. That kind of ... made it real to me. I took it under duress, but I took it. After a while something new came out so they changed my regimen. I was on a real strict regimen for a good six years before I changed my meds again.

So when you got out of the hospital, they put you on salvage therapy, you were taking a whole lot of pills. Salvage usually describes someone who is resistant to a whole lot of HIV meds. Was that your case? Were you diagnosed with a resistant strain of HIV?

Not that I know of, but I know that I had full-blown AIDS. I shouldn't have used the term salvage. They had to give me a high dose of medicine to make sure to bring my stats up to par, to try to save me, put it that way.

So I was taking Norvir [ritonavir]. I was taking, my God, six 100 mg pills of Norvir twice a day. I can't even remember. I think that all together I was taking 26, 27 pills a day.

Whoa!

Yeah. [Laughing.] It was a lot. That doesn't even include the stuff for nausea and the stuff like that. That diarrhea. Ugh! That was my best friend, me and my commode. Really, they gave me a lot of pills, and as they changed my pills, my regimen got smaller and smaller and smaller. As the pills started coming out and the new therapies started coming along, I was taking less and less. Now I'm down to four pills a day.

What are you taking?

Well, let's see. I'm still taking one Norvir once a day and I take ... Goodness, I'm drawing blanks.

That's OK. You can always let me know later. Do you know what your CD4 count and your viral load count are now?

My CD4 count is 900, and my viral load count is under 50, which is undetectable.

Wow. Congratulations.

Thank you. I worked hard.

You mentioned that at one point you went on a treatment interruption. What was that all about?

I went on a treatment interruption because my doctor and I were at odds over changing my meds. I kind of felt toxic in my body. I just needed a break. The doctor said, "No, no, no. Keep on taking them."

I said, "I know my body. I'll take the rap for it all. I'll take the consequence for it, but I need to detox my body for a minute." I could just feel my body was not feeling right. I always depend on my body to tell me what's going on, so with that I stopped taking my regimen for about two months. Then they came up with a new therapy, and I'm back on track again.

Disclosure, Relationships and Sex

It's been 10 years since you were diagnosed.

Yes, going on 11. About 10 years, yes, you're right.

"When I was first diagnosed it really took me a long time to process it. I think that if it weren't for my family being so supportive, if it weren't for my mom and my family not shutting me out and not pointing a finger about how I caught it from being gay, things like that, I'm not sure what I would have done."

What's changed since then? How long did it take for you to process the diagnosis?

When I was first diagnosed it really took me a long time to process it. I think that if it weren't for my family being so supportive, if it weren't for my mom and my family not shutting me out and not pointing a finger about how I caught it from being gay, things like that, I'm not sure what I would have done. This process wasn't as hard as what I've seen other people go through. I really had to come to grips with my sexuality and a lot of things that I never wanted to come to grips with. I did it one at a time rather than all at one time and falling down crashing. I did it step by step, one by one. The other side of that was that it really empowered me to be more honest with myself and honest with other people, and be happy about who I am and what I do.

How have your relationships with your family and friends changed since you were diagnosed? You've talked a little bit about your family being really supportive, how has that been?

My family has been awesome. I cannot complain about them at all. Nothing really changed. I was outspoken anyway. I never bit my tongue. I speak my mind. As I got older, I learned how to do it in perspective, though. [Laughs.]

But as far as my friends -- most of my friends I've had for twenty-some-odd years. There may have been a few that I was afraid to tell, or I was afraid when they found out because I did the poster or I was on TV. For me, it was a way to find out who was and who wasn't my friend -- whether they were there for me. Some I never heard from. Some people don't answer my phone calls. Some don't even acknowledge me. It's fine. The majority of my friends are friends I've had for 20 years. I'm cool. When I go away to a conference or on vacation they call me, "When are you coming back? I miss you. We need you here." That makes me feel good.

I try to take the negative and turn it into a positive. I don't dwell on the negative stuff. It's easy to dwell on the negative stuff, but I like to work with the positive stuff.

How do you decide whether or not to disclose your HIV status to someone?

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It's a tricky thing. When it comes to me professionally disclosing, I don't have any problem with that at all. When it comes to being intimate with someone and intimate issues, that tends to be a little sticky. Sometimes there are people that you meet that you may have feelings for or emotions. They may not be positive, but they're not asking the right questions, so I like to be honest with myself. I like to let people know what they're getting into. I've seen HIV-positive people while I was doing outreach blatantly be with somebody and having unprotected sex with them. That really bothers me, and I don't want to fall into that category. I know it's easy to do when you're still in denial. I'm far beyond that. I believe in telling the truth. Honesty means a lot to me. Even if I may lose somebody I may want to have feelings for, if they can't deal with my status maybe it wasn't worth it at all. They couldn't deal with HIV and that shows me something about them. I would say, "Their loss and my gain."

How did you disclose to your partner who moved to Texas?

Well, I've known him for a long time, back and forth, back and forth. Matter of fact, he had heard from somebody and he called me and asked me. I said this is what is going on. He said, "I still I care about you and love you, and I'm here to support you."

I asked him, "Have you been tested?"

He said, "I haven't been tested."

That's his bridge to cross, but I always encourage him to make sure that he knows what's going on, and to get tested.

So he knew before you got together, and it wasn't a problem for him?

No, it wasn't a problem. It wasn't a problem.

That's great. What would you say is the best and worst responses you've ever got from telling someone?

The worst response was that somebody just dropped the phone and picked it up and hung up on me. [Laughs.] Or I'm talking to someone, and all of sudden they say, "Oh!" and they start backing up and backing up and then they say, "Oh, I'll be right back." And then they are gone. When they came back they had washed their hands. I just started laughing. I was like, "You can't catch it from shaking hands. You can't catch it from being in my presence."

They were like, "Oh, no, no, no!" and I could see them turning red. I was like, "Wow!"

The best response was from my mother. She said, "No matter what you'll always be my son and I'll love you." Her being a nurse, she said, "I kind of figured that was what it was. I prayed that that wasn't what it was, but no matter what I'll always love you, no matter what."

Now you're pretty much single, how has your dating life been? How has your dating life changed been since you were positive?

My dating life is like this: [I had a] partner I was with for a while, and now he's in Texas. Since he left, I've pretty much been too occupied to date. I don't really have time for anything else. I do meet people, run into people. I tend to try not to get into too deep a relationship with anybody. I keep myself busy. Right now I'm at the point where I'm kind of like in limbo. I don't want to rekindle something, and get all deep and hot and heavy and all that right now, so I keep myself busy and stuck in my work.

Why is that?

Well, it's easier for me. I know what I have. I don't know what I'm getting into. The partner I had, we're still friends. It's like he's in Texas doing what he has to do and I'm here doing what I have to do, but we still see each other all the time, so it's not like we're completely broken up, but he's doing his thing and I'm doing mine. When it comes to other people, I'm not trying to look for other people, I'm trying to focus on me and my health and my community.

What advice would you give to someone who has just found out that they're positive?

My advice to someone who just found out that they're positive would be to tell them, don't feel like it's your fault -- that you made a mistake, and it's your fault and that life is over.

Life is not over. Seek support wherever you can get it, from somebody you can trust or confide in. Even if you don't have [social] support, there's other professional support you can get, either through case management or through your doctor.

If you believe in anything, try to draw from whatever you believe in. Try to use that as your strength. Take your time. Don't rush. It doesn't happen overnight. It's a process, but there's light at the end of the tunnel.

How has all this translated into your work? What exactly do you do for work?

Well, presently, I'm a contractor as a gay-men-of-color street outreach worker. I've been doing that for about four years, going on five. Then I'm affiliated with the Ryan White Title IV program called CYFAN [Children, Youth & Family AIDS Network], which is affiliated with the Connecticut Primary Care Associates. I'm a consumer consultant for them, and a CAB leader, Community Advisory Board leader. Through that I'm affiliated with AIDS Alliance Washington, D.C. as a TOT teacher, Trainer of Trainers. It is a national recognition to be a trainer of other consumers, of people with HIV and AIDS, and basically I tell my story and talk to other consumers about how to get involved in the planning bodies in my city, in my state and in my country.

Excellent. What do you do on a daily basis?

Three nights out the week I'm a street outreach worker. I go out and talk to gay men of color and people of color about HIV and AIDS. I talk to them about getting tested; if they want to get tested, I talk to them about HIV and AIDS. I answer some of the questions they want answered, give them condoms, give them support if they may [have already] been tested and try to direct them to places where they can get support as far as housing, drug rehab, case management, things like that.

I'm also part of the community planning group, the Connecticut HIV Planning Group, the CPG, which is the planning group that does prevention for the state of Connecticut as far as HIV and AIDS. Then I'm part of the Ryan White Title I Planning Council, which is the council that helps plan the funding for Ryan White Title I funding for services, case management, emergency assistance and things like that. I'm pretty much well-rounded about prevention and care.

Adventures and Wishes

What would you say is the greatest adventure you've ever had?

What is the greatest adventure I've ever had? Going to the Staying Alive conference in Denver, Colorado, with NAPWA [National Association of People With AIDS].

What's that?

NAPWA has a Stay Alive conference every year for people who are HIV positive. I think it was back in 1993. I got a scholarship, so I went. They had the conference in Denver, Colorado. I was so empowered. I met all these people who were positive, and they were doing all these positive things. Wow! They were doing all these amazing things. It kind of opened my eyes that life is not over. There are so many things that you could be doing and get involved. After that conference, I kind of got a new attitude about the HIV community as far as things I could do in my own state. That was the best adventure I had. [Laughs.] Especially going to Colorado. That was really nice.

If you were granted one wish what would it be?

It would be a cure for HIV and AIDS, and it would be free.

Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?

I would just like to share that life is short. Life is what it is. Don't let negative things in life bring you down. Think positive. There's always tomorrow. There's light at the end of the tunnel!

That's great. Thank you so much.

You're welcome.

Click here to e-mail Brian Datcher.

This podcast is a part of the series This Positive Life. To subscribe to this series, click here.




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