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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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Disclosure, Relationships and Sex

How have your relationships with family and friends changed since you were diagnosed?

My relationships with my family and friends have greatly improved. There is a greater level of honesty and openness. When I was forced to have a dialogue about my HIV status, everything else became, like, nothing. Sexuality, whatever, you know. I have really seen that I do have people in my life who love me unconditionally, and I think that has been the thing that has kept me alive.

When did you disclose to them that you are positive?

I told my mom and six friends right away -- in high school, there were six of us, three guys and three girls who hung together like glue. I told my mom first, and then invited all of them over and passed around the letter I got from Lifesource. But the thing was, I was like, "I'm giving you this information about me, but I don't want to talk about it and I don't want it to be brought up again." I didn't talk about it again for years.

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I didn't talk with my girlfriend at that time. What I did was just break it off with no excuse or reason. And just recently, she was able to get closure on that -- because we're still close. She has two children now; I see her all the time. Recently I was able to disclose to her and talk about why I had to break it off at the time.

How did they respond to you?

My mom really took it hard, really hard. I never felt anything negative, just a lot of concern, and I felt that in some way she felt she was responsible somehow. My friends were all very supportive -- and very scared. One said, "You know, I really thought we would grow old together. I can't believe this is happening to you!" They were supportive, but very afraid, and rightfully so.

How do you want people to treat you?

I think they treat me exactly the way I want to be treated: I don't want any special attention, but I do want support -- support going through this masters program, working the hours that I work. I just need support, period, and I get that.

How do you decide whether to disclose your HIV status to someone?

Lately, I don't have a choice. Usually when I meet people, they already know because I'm a pretty public figure and I talk about it wherever I am. But there are moments when it is an issue, when I don't want to talk about it and I don't want to disclose it. It's when I'm meeting someone new, especially if we are meeting to date. It's kind of like "Okay, here we go ..." I usually start by asking them if they know their status, and then we go from there.

Now, if someone tells me that they don't know their status, I'm very unlikely to be intimate with him, because in this day and age if you don't know your status, you're not the person for me: You're not cognizant of the fact that you are a man who has sex with men, and we're the highest-risk population, so if you don't understand that, then our worlds are not going to gel at all. Then you don't understand re-infection, resistant virus, any of that. So we will be friends, and I will educate you and help you get tested. But as far as intimacy, we're not even going there.

What is the best response you have ever gotten when telling someone?

There was a girl in a class at the Chicago Vocational Career Academy when I was doing a presentation, and she was just overjoyed at the fact that I had the courage to stand in front of this class and say that. And there was so much love and so much appreciation in her words, and she wished me so much strength and well-being that I was almost overtaken. I hardly ever break down in presentations, but I almost did because of her reaction.

What is the worst response?

The worst was from someone who said that I deserved what I got for engaging in intimate relations with other men. I was giving a presentation, so I couldn't give him the Keith Green that the hood might know. But there was this all-eyes-on-him kinda thing, and there were a couple of folks in that room who got him together for me. I didn't even have to do it.

How has your sex life changed since you became positive?

Becoming positive changed my sexual orientation in that I felt more comfortable dealing with and disclosing to men than I did to women. I understood that disclosing to women would also mean disclosing and having the conversation about sexuality, and I just really wasn't that comfortable in my sexuality. So I stopped having sex with women. That's the biggest change that occurred, though I definitely still identify myself as bisexual -- and actually recently have been more interested in pursuing a relationship with a woman and hopefully, possibly having children.

I also really had to look at what "safer sex" meant, so things just changed in the sense that what I would allow before, I absolutely could not allow now -- but those same things, I shouldn't have allowed before.

Have you faced rejection from potential sex partners? How do you deal with that?

There's been some, but not much -- and nothing that has in any way been harmful. I'm okay with it when it's related to HIV. I understand that some people are not as informed as others, and it's just a natural part of being HIV positive that I've come to accept.

Do you have a policy about if or when you tell a sex partner that you are positive?

I try to do that before we even begin to become intimate. That way, if we're in the moment, we're not stumbling over that.

How do you have that conversation?

Again, I start with "Do you know your status?" And of course usually the first thing that comes out of someone's mouth is "Of course! I'm negative!" And so then ... well, I'm not. So there's that whole "Here we are!" thing that goes on for a minute, and then we move on.

Do you feel that if you practice safe sex, it is necessary to tell a sex partner that you are positive?

I think that you should always give a person the option. I understand how people can feel differently, because I have been in situations where I haven't disclosed. There were two very specific people whose deal with me was "You took away my right to choose, and you don't have that right as a human being to do that to another human being." So I disagree that as long as you're practicing safer sex, it's okay not to disclose.

Resolutions, Adventures and Wishes

Did you make any New Year's resolutions?

I made one resolution, and that is to live in the moment. Last year was such a big year for me and so much was happening that a lot of it I missed -- the meat, the fullness of every experience. I'm always thinking about other things that have to be done, so I'm really striving to focus on exactly what it is that I'm doing at exactly that moment.

What books, movies, music, or TV shows have had a big influence on you?

Books: Tuesdays With Morrie, The Power of Now, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, and The Game of Life and How to Play It. Those are some of the books that have moved me and that I pass on to other people.

Movies: Besides The Color Purple, I'm a big Star Wars fan. And The Lion King!

Music: Marvin Gaye's "What's Goin' On?" -- so much so that I named my column in Positively Aware after it. I'm really moved right now by some of the hip-hop artists that are about change, like Kanye West, Talib Kweli. Erykah Badu's "Mama's Gun" CD is probably one of my favorites. Mary J. Blige's "My Life," Jill Scott's "World and Sound: Volume I." Janet Jackson's "The Velvet Rope." I like music with messages -- I probably own about 1,000 CDs.

TV: Noah's Arc, the first black gay TV series.

What's the greatest adventure you've ever had?

I'm pretty adventurous, so I'm going to have to think on this one. ... One Memorial Day weekend, at the spur of the moment, my partner and I decided to drive to D.C. And we decided to call his cousins in Detroit to see if they wanted to go with us, and they did, and they had a truckload of people who wanted to go too. So we got a van and drove to D.C., to Baltimore -- just hit the road for the weekend. It was big and exciting for me. I was about 20, and had never been to Baltimore or D.C. -- and it was Black Gay Pride Day in D.C., and I was amazed at how many black gay men there were in life, period.

If you were granted one wish, what would it be?

I have to be very careful with this one because I get everything I ask for. It would be to have another conversation with my grandfather. I would like for him to be able to see my life now. I think he'd be very proud to see one of his grandkids pursuing a masters, considering a doctorate, and having an impact on the world. I'd love to be able to sit in his lap and tell him everything I have going on in life, and have him just smile and be proud.

Anything else you'd like The Body's readers to know about you?

I really want people to know that, underneath everything, I'm a very simple man who wants very simple things: love, friendship, peace, unity. I have a love for people that I don't even quite understand yet, but I'm very moved by other people's afflictions and pain. And that's what drives me, my career, my educational goals -- that sense of deep love for the world that we live in, and wanting to see it be at peace.

Send Keith Green an e-mail.

Want to find out what Keith Green's been up to? Check out Keith's February 2011 update interview.

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This article was provided by TheBody.com.

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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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