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HIV/AIDS Resource Center for African Americans
Kai Chandler Lois Crenshaw Gary Paul Wright Fortunata Kasege Keith Green Lois Bates Greg Braxton Vanessa Austin Bernard Jackson

Keith Green

January 2006

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Keith Green 

About Keith Green



Table of Contents

Personal Bio

Tell us a little about your life.

I currently live alone, but I'm very close to my mom and my mom's side of the family. I am recently re-establishing a relationship with my father, and I have a brother and sister by my dad as well, so I'm re-establishing those relationships. I've been an associate editor at Positively Aware, an HIV treatment journal from the Test Positive Aware Network (TPAN), since June 2005, and I have a kitten. His name is Hemphill, for Essex Hemphill, the great black gay author and AIDS activist who died of AIDS in 1995.

What's the community like where you live?

It's very diverse. I live right around the corner from TPAN -- different kinds of people, economic ranges, class ranges. I can walk down the street and have people offer to sell me crack and have people ask me to buy it for them.

Where did you grow up?

On the south side of Chicago. It was difficult because I've known all my life that I'm attracted to men, and, at the time, I was interested in keeping it a secret and hopefully ridding myself of those thoughts. However, even through that, I was this very creative, active, outgoing kid.

What did you want to grow up to be when you were a kid?

I wanted to be an audio engineer, specifically for Janet Jackson.

What kinds of work have you done?

I was the head cashier for Sport Mart when I was in high school, and I worked at McDonald's and Subway. Before I was at TPAN, I was a claims adjuster for Allstate. I was also the manager for a skating rink, which was probably the most fun.

What kind of work did your parents do?

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My dad was a mechanic, although he wasn't really around. Now he's an electrician. For the majority of my youth, my mother was a stay-at-home mom, and my stepdad worked at the post office, and he took care of us. Then she went back to school, and now she's an administrative assistant for an energy company.

Who are the most influential people in your life, both professionally and personally?

Charles Clifton [former Positively Aware editor and executive director of TPAN, who died in 2004] was definitely one of the most influential people. Also, my grandfather. My mother is very influential, even in those ways where I'm like, "I'm never going to be like her." That's influential too. Dr. David Malebranche -- I'm just smitten by him. Dr. King, definitely. People, period, influence me. Because I am a social-work major, I study people, and I'm changed by people's behavior.

What activities are you involved in at the Test Positive Aware Network?

Aside from being an associate editor, I also helped organize an outreach campaign known as TRADE -- Teachin', Reachin', Advocatin', Demonstratin', Empowerin' -- geared toward brothers who get down with other brothers. We are looking to open up the dialogue about safer sex, safer drug use, and just greater responsibility. From that, we have developed a Chicago Black Gay Men's Caucus that is all encompassing of the black gay or same-gender-loving experience. We have business owners, researchers, activists, advocates, the health department, community-based organizations, and club owners. Promoters come to the table regularly to discuss how we can address the epidemic in the black MSM [men who have sex with men] community.

Being involved with TPAN and these men's health projects has helped me to grow and learn and to give back what has been given to me in terms of support, understanding, and compassion, because I think we lack that, especially when we talk about the MSM population.

Do you consider yourself an AIDS activist? What does that mean to you?

Well, somebody told me that you have to go to jail in order to be an activist. But, yes, I do consider myself an activist because I am committed to eradicating this virus, specifically from communities of color -- as Malcom X said, "by any means necessary." If it means going and sitting my black ass on the steps of the White House to draw attention to the fact that nobody is paying attention to HIV in communities of color, that's what I'll do. And we've got some pretty radical stuff planned that I'm usually told I'm going to have to tone down, but at this point, I'm not in the business of toning anything down if it's going to get the job done.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I love spending time with family and friends. I like to drink and party. I love to go clubbing. I love to read, and I love music and movies. I like to bowl, roller-skate, and I like to boy-watch. I love to travel.

Are you a religious or spiritual person? Do you attend church?

I don't attend a church right now. I have this very weird Joan of Arcadia relationship with God -- I don't know if you're familiar with that show. I feel as if God talks to me all the time, sometimes in a masculine voice, sometimes in a feminine voice. But I can always distinguish when it is God and when it is my ego -- because, you know, they can sound alike. I feel that we have a very good working relationship, in which there are some things that I accomplish for Him and there are some things that She does for me. I wake up in the morning and talk to God in the shower, and it's a very real "You know what, I feel like crap today. Can we do something about it?" kind of thing.

I think that all started when, despite what the church might say, I questioned God. I was 17 or 18 years old, wondering how in the world something as big as HIV could come into my life, and how God could allow for all these atrocities in the world -- poverty and young children being abused sexually, physically, and emotionally, and wars. I just began to question God. And I got this smart-ass remark back in this very clear voice that I was sure was God, which simply said, "How could you allow it?" That kind of kicked off our relationship. I was like "Oh, that's how you're going to play! Okay, fine!" And that changed everything.

HIV Diagnosis

How did you find out you were HIV positive?

I was a senior in high school, a member of the Senior Boys' Council. We did an annual Lifesource blood drive, but I hadn't planned to give blood, so my girlfriend at the time punked me. She talked about me being a leader, but not walking what I was talking. So she punked me into donating blood. A couple of weeks later, I got a letter from Lifesource saying not to donate blood anymore and to make an appointment.

Then I made an appointment and had to travel all the way from Hyde Park to Lifesource out by O'Hare Airport. I went in, and that was the news I got. There was a little post-test counseling, but I zoned out, so I don't even remember what that was like. So there was this long ride there, wondering what the hell was going on, and then this long ride back, knowing. It was crazy!

What were your feelings when you were first diagnosed?

Initially, on the train ride back home, I had this odd feeling. Although the protease inhibitors weren't on the market yet and HIV was still viewed as a terminal disease, I had this feeling that everything would be okay. But I still had some doubts and this whole idea of dying young and all of that went through my head.

How did your feelings about living with HIV change over time?

When I was first diagnosed, I thought I needed to live as if I were about to die. I dropped out of school, focused more on working full-time and partying. I was just kind of existing. And then I got to a point where I realized there were medications available that could help me live longer, and I just started to change my whole outlook.

How long do you think it takes to process a diagnosis?

Forever. It's an ongoing process that has different stages. And as long as there's no cure, you'll still be processing that diagnosis.

What advice would you give someone who has just found out he or she is positive?

Tap into whatever support networks are available. I know that's what kept me alive -- the support of my family, friends, TPAN and the support groups. And educate yourself.

What conditions in your life put you at risk for getting infected?

Besides the physical, I also dealt with a great deal of self-esteem issues. I was sure that my sexual orientation was bi, but I was very uncomfortable with it, and I really didn't want that to be. So in trying to hide and keep that away from the people closest to me, I put myself at risk for HIV.

What is the first thing someone should do when they find out they have HIV?

Pray! A big part of that support base is spirituality, so tap into whatever spiritual base you are comfortable with and begin to really seek a higher being.

When you look back, what would have prevented you from becoming infected?

Being secure in who I was. If I'd had someone who was a little older and more experienced sexually -- and who was not trying to have me, which was a huge issue then -- but who was simply trying to guide and counsel me in what it meant to be a man who has feelings for other men ... well, I think things would have been a lot different.

How has HIV changed you?

HIV made me question life. HIV made me question God. And it made me take on a whole new outlook. My life right now is very good, and I'm not sure I would be able to say that had HIV not entered into it, because it really made me explore who I am, why I'm here, and find purpose.

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This article was provided by TheBody.com.

See Also
More Inspiring Stories of Gay Men With HIV


Reader Comments:

Comment by: Recently diagnosed. (Colorado) Sun., Feb. 10, 2013 at 2:18 pm EST
I loved reading your story because it is similar to mine.
Four days ago I was recently diagnosed with hiv, being positive at 20, now I know my life is going to change a lot. I thought this was a death sentence for me, wanting to drop out of school, work a lot and wanting to just live my life I realized I can't change myself in a negative way because of this. I must now look at my life in a positive way, become a better person not just for myself but for my family and friends. In these four days I've gotten more in touch with myself, and closer to my family, I live each moment like its my last and I cherish every single second of my life knowing I have a voice to change me and others about being positive in life.
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Comment by: C (NORTH CAROLINA) Wed., Sep. 29, 2010 at 3:57 pm EDT
i REALLY LOVED READING YOU ARTICLE AN FEEL AS THOUGH YOUR A VERY COURAGEOUS BLESSED YOUNG MAN. i WAS TESTED 5 DAYS AGO AND LUCKILY MY TEST CAME BACK NEGATIVE. IT WAS THE LONGEST COUPLE OF DAYS I'VE EVER HAD TO ENDURE,I'VE BEEN WITH MY MAN GOING ON 7YRS NOW AND WE BOTH GOT TESTED WHEN WE STARTED DATING BUT HADN'T HAD A TEST SINCE THEN. I'M ALSO DOING SOME VOLUNTEER WORK AT OUR HEALTH DEPARTMENT TO RAISE AWARNESS BECAUSEE THIS COULD HAVE EASILY BEEN ME. FOR ME AND MY PARTNER WE SEE HOW IMPORTANT IT IS TO BE TRUE TO ONE ANOTHER TO KEEP THAT NEGATIVE STATUS. HOPEFULLY MY COMMUNITY WORK CAN HELP OTHERS GET TESTED AND KEEP THAT NEGATIVE DIAGNOSIS.
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Comment by: JENNIFER (SOUTH AFRICA) Sun., Jul. 11, 2010 at 9:39 am EDT
IS A GOOD THING TO TALK ALL OUT AND IS A BRAVE THING TO TO KNOW YOUR STETUS. AM TOO SCARED TO TEST AND MY BOY FRIEND TESTED TWICE AND HE WAS NEGATIVE. AFTER A RAED YOUR STORY YOU GAVE ME POWER AND STENGTH TO WANT TO KNOW MY STETUS AFTER ALL BEING POSETIVE IS NOT THE END OF LIFE.
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Comment by: 3 day old diagnosed (nairobi kenya) Sun., Jun. 13, 2010 at 12:50 pm EDT
Hey i admire your strength n right now i guess its all i need as its nerve wrecking for me.Scared stiff at the stigma attached to hiv +ve people let alone Gay hiv+ve. I havent told anyone so far though hinted to few friends about what they think if they found out that someone close they know is positive n the response is so far positive but i think for how long.Been on the net tryingto get as much info as possible n reading stories of people living strong with it n thats what i want.So you are going to be one of my pillars of strength.much love
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Comment by: (ARKANSAS) Wed., Mar. 17, 2010 at 9:17 pm EDT
thank you so much for your story.my brother has been living with this secret of being HIV POSITIVE for awhile and it has drove him to become almost insane.by the GRACE OF GOD family alerted me and we where able to get him some help.PLEASE KEEP HIM IN YOUR PRAYS.MY BROTHER TRIED TO KILL HIMSELF PLEASE PEOPLE LOVE AND DONT BE SO QUICK TO JUDGE SOMEONE YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT A SIMPLE SMILE COULD MEAN TO SOMEONE WHO FEELS LIKE THEY HAVE NOTHING TO LIVE FOR! GOD BLESS YOU ALL.PS I DONT CARE HOW HE CONTRACTED THIS I STILL LOVE HIM THE SAME!FAMILY AND FRIENDS YOU ARE VERY IMPORTANT TO THE SURVIVAL OF YOUR LOVED ONE REMEMBER THEIR NAMES ITS NOT HIV POSITIVE! I CALL MY LIL BRO SWEETIE PIE(HE HATES IT) SMILE
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Comment by: tumble (united kingdom) Sun., Feb. 7, 2010 at 6:03 am EST
thank you so much for your inspiring message and taking the time to share with the rest of us. l am newly diagnosed and am still going through a lot of emotions. l was so glad that you touched on the dating thing because that has been playing on my mind a lot. l agree, its not up to us (HIV positive) people to decide for another that its ok to have sex without disclosing just because you use protection. l feel more anxious about it cause l became positive due to someone making a choice for me. lt would have been nice to have been given the chance to choose. l am not gay, but l feel reading your articule is of great help to me in this hour of great need. I have not disclosed to my family yet, only my best friend knows. But l will, when l have battled the monsters and anger within. Once again, thank you so much
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Comment by: Joy Morris Hoightower (Chicago) Mon., Jan. 25, 2010 at 9:40 am EST
Keith I love you. You've inspired me ads well
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Comment by: S.K. (East Africa) Tue., Sep. 22, 2009 at 4:23 am EDT
Thank you very much for sharing the information. i always pray to god when i get up from my bed i give thanks to God and when i sleep also i praise for him God is the healer and savior of all diseases i believe one day God healed everything just trust on him
So brother if you would like to chat with me this is my email address palmakb@yahoo.com
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Comment by: Scaredoutofmymind (New York) Thu., Aug. 6, 2009 at 10:14 pm EDT
Just reading your story has made me cry my eyes out, Thanks for sharing this with us. I was diagnosed just a yr ago and my life has changed drastically. I'm only 25 and the fear that I'll never find love, have a family taunts me everyday that I feel like just ending it all but having read this brings such hope and a positive feel to just keep living life to the fullest and not give in! thanks again. The fact that you were diagnosed that young and had such a low cd4 count (and coping well) at the time has made me realise that there is hope for myself with a 286 cd4 count. I really thought it was all over and was just waiting to die actually praying to God to take me. Well I continue to educate myself although I have not disclosed this to anybody for the fear of being rejected and judged. (just been able to tell my best friend) I'm not dating and certainly not sexually active, just keeping to myself, focusing on my health and just bettering myself. Do you have any advice on dating as a female? Well I wish you all the best and success in life!!! :-0 geecee_usa@yahoo.com
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Comment by: viola Held (Tanzania East africa) Fri., Jul. 31, 2009 at 11:00 am EDT
hi brother, am very proud of you and i would like to chat with you so that can lead me to survive in this hard situation i face my email vainjau@hotmail.com i like to chat with you and be a good fried for this hard time to me, i never agree myself pls advice
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Comment by: zuhra m. hassan (east africa ) Wed., Jul. 29, 2009 at 6:50 am EDT
i real support you am one of your family its pain but is the situation we face now i like to chat with you if possible.
zuhra
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Comment by: Alfred O. (Nairobi Kenya) Tue., Jun. 30, 2009 at 2:06 pm EDT
Thank you very much for the encouragement. Am also H.I.V positve and gay of course. I join seminary but they had to sent me home after I was tested positive though they did not know that am gay. Am struggling now with life and I'm asking for support from anyone who is ready to support people like me. I believe God will bless you. I'm an orphan and no one wants to associate with because of my status. If you can help me in any way just communicate to me through e-mail domnicouma@yahoo.com.
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Comment by: Thabisa (Port Elizabeth, SA) Thu., Jun. 18, 2009 at 4:20 am EDT
i was told i was positive last year 24 Dec 09 and i was still pregnant at the time. i'm always a positive person and i knew there is life after HIV. i didn't see any reason to be miserable, though i do feel very hurt when i really think of it. the main thing for me is that i make sur ei don't think about it more often, even if i do i try and think positive. my main problem now though is that i am still smoking, though i know i have TB as well and on treatment. it's real hard for me to stop, it's like when i get my moments of stressing, smoking keeps me sane but i know it's only psychological. i feel that if i don't smoke i will be taking my future away mostly now that i have a beautiful baby girl 3 mnths old. i need to do all i can to stop smoking bcoz if i did it during my pregnancy i can still do it. buhle is still very young and she needs me a lot and the last thing i want is take the pleasures of having a mother from her.

i get scared sometimes thiking that i might leave my baby earlier only bcoz i am hiv and smoking mostly now. i have tb as well. i can do this i can stop if i put my mind into it. i got to i know for myself first and most of all my princess. to all you out there living with hiv, just know and remember that God is the best and he is always here to hear your cries. He is great God and He cares for you and believe me when you told you not alone you really are not alone ok.
Keep your head up high and keep doing what makes your world whole and loveable to you.

you are a star and lots of hugs and kisses for you.
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Comment by: A concerned Mother (Texas) Fri., Jan. 2, 2009 at 1:46 pm EST
Thank you very much for sharing this information. My son was just diagnosed with Hiv on 12/26/08. I always have a delayed reaction to things. I have already taken the action to let him know that he is not alone and that I still love him no matter what. He is going to the health dept today 1/2/09. He was released from the hospital on 12/31/08. His t cell count is 380 and for a while I was concerned. My best friend emailed more information to me and I am doing my research and feeling more positive about him having a healthy and happy life. I would like to ask what is it that I can avoid doing or saying to make him uncomfortable? I did share my feelings about how i feel about this but explained that I will always be there for him and love him.
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Comment by: optimistic (lAX) Tue., Sep. 23, 2008 at 7:49 pm EDT
I just wanted to say thank you for your truthfulness which is needed in African American community... if people could learn to be honest and talk about sexuality in homes, schools, churches, mosques, temples, etc... we would all gain a healthier perspective on who we are as humans.

once again, thank you
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