Table of Contents
- Personal Bio
- HIV Diagnosis
- African-American Identity and HIV
- HIV, Health Care and Treatment
- Disclosure, Relationships and Sex
- Resolutions, Adventures and Wishes
Tell us a little about your life.
I live in northwest D.C., about a mile from the Capitol and a few blocks from Howard University, right in the middle of a diverse brownstone neighborhood. I live alone, but someday I want to get married, have children, and live happily ever after. ... One of my favorite movies is Love Jones. I dream of meeting that one woman who becomes your life -- and of just belonging to someone. I work for Housing Works as national field organizer here at the D.C. Federal Advocacy Office.
Where did you grow up?
I was born in D.C. and went to high school here, but my dad was in the Air Force so I spent time in Hawaii, Texas, Kansas City, different places -- I was an Air Force brat.
What did you want to grow up to be when you were a kid?
I remember I was five or so and The Towering Inferno came out, and I told my dad after seeing the movie that I wanted to be an architect. Why a burning building would inspire me to be an architect I don't know! But once I figured out what it took to be an architect, I didn't want to do all the math.
What kinds of work have you done?
I went to college as a graphic design and commercial art major, but after the first couple of semesters, I got bored and impatient. I was already making money designing T-shirts and posters that were all over campus, so I got very interested in an educational psychology class that I was taking. So I started going toward education -- teaching.
In the years after college, it was hit-or-miss. After being diagnosed, everything I thought about doing was really temporary and up in the air. I played semi-pro football for a couple of years, and still had some aspirations of going pro -- I had a lot of pro tryouts, NFL and Canadian Football League, and for a while I even had an agent. But I got ill after my third year of semi-pro -- first, I hurt my Achilles tendon, which slowed me down. Then I developed a tumor on one of my adrenal glands, which would probably have killed me within about three months if it hadn't been treated. At the time, I thought, "OK, here I go. This is it" -- being HIV positive, it was right around that 10-year point -- "I'm dying." But it was corrected, and I remember the doctor telling me that if I wanted to play football again, I could. It wasn't HIV-related -- it was just something that had happened.
At that point, I took it as a hint. I made a promise to myself that I was going to make everything count after that. That was the point that I stopped playing football and started teaching and working in the social-service fields.
What work did your parents do?
My dad was in the Air Force, and my mom worked for the federal government. Now she works at the Pentagon. She wasn't in the building on September 11, but she was in the neighborhood -- I will never forget that morning.
Who are the most influential people in your life?
My parents are always going to be there. They still serve as my main influence, and they're usually the people I talk to first about anything. But I gain a lot of inspiration from the people I advocate for. I meet people all over the place who come from all kinds of backgrounds and are dealing with all sorts of things, and they inspire me every day. People always joke with me, saying I'm a real important person now that I work in D.C. -- and half the time I'm on Capitol Hill shaking hands and having lunch with Senate staffers and all that stuff. But I always have to turn it back and say, "I will never be as important as the people I work for." When I talk with people out in the field, I want to instill in them the fact that I'm there for them, and the reason is not just that people need assistance and help but because they are my main source of inspiration.
I've been blessed that I don't have to worry about medications, about health issues or being homeless. But in a heartbeat, I could very easily be one of those people that I advocate for, in the most dire situations. When the C2EA [Campaign to End AIDS, a nationwide grassroots movement of people with HIV that culminated in a march on Washington, D.C., in November 2005] caravan went through the Gulf Coast last summer, the people there who were dealing with the effects of the hurricanes on top of being positive and living in the South still wanted to wait on us hand and foot and make sure we were comfortable. And I just thought that was the most incredible thing.
Do you consider yourself an AIDS activist?
I never would consider myself an activist, but I guess what I do has become that. Before meeting Charles King [the cofounder and executive director], I never heard of Housing Works, but now that I'm here I understand where I fit in. He has his dynamic and seemingly larger-than-life presence, but when I met him I had no idea who he was, so I think I had an advantage there, because I wasn't blinded by seeing him in person. As much spotlight as he draws, he's very good at deferring it. He loves the idea that people, when put in a particular position, can be just as productive and honorable as anyone. So I remember asking him, after he offered me a job, "Are you sure you want me?" Reading all these clips about him and ACT UP and all these sit-ins and protests, I don't see me doing this. And he was like, "Yeah! Sure!" But now it's about being comfortable with the process and the sense of urgency -- and we all feel that -- but sometimes we have a difficult time developing the confidence to access it.
What does activism mean to you?
It can be as simple as not settling; things need to change. And I think over time people who are positive have become complacent. A lot of people in the early '80s fought and died so that we could have the Ryan White CARE Act, ADAP [AIDS Drug Assistance Program], and all the benefits and services that we have. And somewhere in the early '90s, people stopped fighting. We have become accustomed to believing we will always have these services. But now things are going backward and we're trying to wake people up to the fact that we just can't take these things for granted. The millions of people who have died from this disease -- we can't just accept that. So, an activist, to me, is someone who's not going to stand for it. The trick is how to make a legitimate and articulate message that people will listen to.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I've gotten into community theater. I was in an audition just this past Sunday for a play and I had to sing a little bit in addition to doing a reading. It's an outlet -- I'm terrified when I get up there and do it, but despite my personality, I just follow right along with it.
Are you a religious or spiritual person? Do you attend a church?
I'm very much spiritual, not so much religious. I was raised pretty much in Oakland Baptist Church here in Alexandria, Virginia, but honestly, I haven't been to church on a regular basis since high school. I'm less enchanted with being in the pew than with just having a free spirit and understanding where you are and how you feel.
How did you find out you were HIV positive?
I didn't go and get tested. It was spring of 1986, between my freshman and sophomore year in college, and being a scholarship athlete, one requirement was to do community-type work, and one thing I did was just donate blood at the blood bank. So after maybe my third or fourth visit, the nurse stopped me and said the doctor needed to speak to me before I went back with the rest of the guys to donate, and that's when I was told. They found the antibodies to the virus in my blood, and therefore I could not donate blood. That was before pre- and post-test counseling, so they were like, "OK! Have a good day!" And from that point, I was off on my own.
What were your feelings when you were first diagnosed?
It's easy now to say it was shock, but at the time, it just seemed like everything was in slow motion. I knew exactly what the doctor was saying, but I just didn't. ... It was like denial:
"It must be wrong, it must be a mistake." And complete terror, because in the mid-'80s every other day on the news or in the paper you heard that someone had just died of some AIDS-related illness -- Rock Hudson, Liberace. The term "HIV positive" didn't exist -- it was just "You have AIDS, and you're going to die." And pretty much the doctor told me that. I'll never forget it. He told me, "You may not show symptoms or you may not have any related illnesses, but at the most it'll be 10 years." And I was 18!
How did your feelings change over time?
Later, as it started to sink in, I began to realize that anything I had thought about doing in the future I might as well pencil out. It was: "What can I do that will be fulfilling for the next two to three years?"
Over time, obviously I became more knowledgeable about the whole process -- not just me physically, but the whole system of social effects that HIV has had on the world -- opposed to "I'm HIV positive" and how it affected me. That numbs the sting a little bit. I look at it as a larger community thing, which is how I got into activism.
How long do you think it takes to process a diagnosis?
I've been positive for 20 years, and after 20 years I've learned to deal with it -- just to be able to survive and work and live a fairly normal existence. But some people never get to that point. I'm very surprised when some people I meet in the work I do who are newly diagnosed, and they appear to be handling it very well. So I think that's more or less an individual thing. And a lot of things that affect that individual perception are just other co-factors they're living with, what else is affecting them in their life. Sometimes people, particularly in lower socioeconomic areas, tend to have what you think of as a much harder life and they may be more numb -- sometimes that makes a difference. Your support system sometimes makes a difference.
What advice would you offer someone who has just tested positive?
Just take a deep breath, because your immediate reactions might be to do something that will make the situation worse. So it's like, think, and feel, and hold on. Don't panic -- again, a lot of this is easier said than done -- but just take a deep breath. And do as much as you can beforehand -- you know, if you're in a situation where you are knowingly getting tested, do as much as you can to equip yourself. Some of us think, "Oh, I can take it when I get it," but you never know what it's going to feel like.
What conditions in your life put you at risk for HIV?
I know the risk categories as they would apply to me, and the only possible way was through unprotected heterosexual sex. And normally when I speak to a group, especially to kids in high school or college, I try not to break it down like that, because sometimes it almost sounds like I'm trying to distance myself: "Oh-no-no-no-no-no, I'm not gay!" But I want them to understand that unprotected sex comes in many forms, and I say it that way.
I think the only real awareness I had of AIDS was what I saw on TV -- people like Rock Hudson and Liberace. It was the "gay disease." I didn't hear about the whole intravenous-drug connection. It was one of those things that you know is out there, but it wasn't really me.
When you look back, what could you have done to avoid being infected?
I can't think of anything specific. The idea of using condoms has always been out there, for pregnancy -- and before HIV there were gonorrhea and herpes and other things, so there were prevention-type messages around. People weren't taking them seriously because it was always "Well, go get a shot or take a pill and you'll be OK." There wasn't the peer group or face-to-face people -- the outreach and education, especially on the grassroots level. Here again, the president himself didn't talk about it, so people below him in his administration -- and certainly not in schools -- weren't really talking about it. And it's sad because a lot of that is still not in existence, and what little grassroots organizing there is, is losing funding. It's hard to say what message would have "saved" me.
What is the first thing someone should do when they find out they have HIV?
The easy answer, I think, is, "Get help." Talk to someone, get it out -- not necessarily out in the open, but understand where you are. I think a lot of people either attack it head-on almost with overkill, like a panic situation, or they completely ignore it and figure, "There's nothing I can do about it now -- I'm just going to roll up and die." But I think people should just do everything they can to assess where they are and what they need to keep themselves where they are. Because it's not necessary for people to readjust everything -- it's more about making sure the status quo is protected, and then build from there.
How has having HIV changed you?
I make sure that every step I take is a step worth taking, because it's one you can't repeat. So everything I involve myself in, whether it be work or some extracurricular hobby or whatever. ... You begin to taste your food a little more, you begin to feel the breeze a little more, and everything just becomes a little more colorful and alive. That's what happened to me. It's the ultimate level of appreciation.
When did you first realize that you were African American?
Honestly, I don't think it was until I was in college. I grew up in such a diverse environment, being an Air Force brat and living on base -- it was just the Rainbow Coalition, especially in Hawaii. Going to Norfolk State University was really my first experience being in an all-black environment, which was interesting, because that was the first place where I started getting that "You talk funny. You talk white!" thing. So it wasn't until then that I really felt like, "Yes, I'm black", but maybe I wasn't black enough in some people's eyes. Then off-campus, in some communities, I was certainly black enough. And even now I get unique reactions from people -- especially having played football, they expect me to act a certain way and when I don't, it puts them off.
To what extent have you experienced racism in your life? How have you learned to deal with it?
I know it's there. In my senior year at D.C.'s T. C. Williams High School, which is predominantly white, a handful of kids were selected to represent the school at different law firms and businesses across the city. And I was sent way out with this other guy to Chantilly, a suburb. I don't remember what the place was or what we were supposed to be doing because they didn't give us any tasks, just a little office space and some time. So we got comfortable, but I pretty much got run out of there -- they accused me of doing things I didn't do, like flirting with the secretary, who was this older lady there. The other guy and I were always together -- he happened to be white -- but everything that happened, I did, you know. And at the time, it confused the hell out of me because I knew I wasn't doing these things. But I tried to justify it, like, "Well, maybe I did say or do something." It wasn't until years later that I figured out what had happened.
As an athlete, it didn't really matter -- no one really cared if you were black, white, Chinese, whatever, as long as you could play. We never really cared -- on the field we were all the same. What got in the way of that was when we took off our uniforms and went home to all our respective neighborhoods. But in school, we were either lucky or na?ve to that whole process.
What do you think is the biggest challenge facing African Americans today in terms of HIV?
One is to get people to talk to each other. When it comes to communication, if it has to do with rap or Jerry Springer, you can't keep people quiet. But getting people to talk to each other in relationships, whether they are family, social, personal, sexual, whatever -- just communicating with whom you're with. In the African- American community, that's multilayered because you have the religious and church community. You have the different generations where the newer generation is "hip-hop" and has its own language and got angry at Bill Cosby, and all that. And, of course, you have his generation, where they have their own standoffish quality. So just getting everyone to talk to each other instead of at each other.
Another is that you can't talk about HIV in the African-American community without speaking about the disparities that exist in employment, education, and health care. I mean, we can't blame everything on "The Man" -- we have to be more self-sufficient and proactive when it comes to saving ourselves.
What HIV risk factors are of special concern to African Americans?
A lot of those are the ones I just said, the disparities in employment, education, health care -- all those play a part not just in HIV infection, but incarceration rates, pregnancy rates. And they're mostly along socioeconomic, not racial, lines. HIV has come, and at some point, it'll go, but the next epidemic will come through and the same people will be the ones affected. Look at Hurricane Katrina and the disaster in the Gulf Coast -- that affected the same group of people. We have to close that gap.
Are there any specific aspects of African-American culture or identity that give you strength as you learn to live with HIV?
It's understanding that we, as black Americans, have culture and family. I was reading, I think in the Washington Post, about how black people in Atlanta are running toward events that are planned around family reunions. Whereas most people during the holidays are trying to run away from their families, black people are planning these reunions. Now obviously that involves good and bad when you're talking about family, but the connections are there, and they're very powerful.
What is the biggest change you'd like to see in HIV treatment, prevention or education care for African-Americans?
I work in a field where, as an advocate for people who are positive and marginalized, right now it's all about getting the Ryan White CARE Act [a five-year federal grant for HIV services] fully reauthorized and allowing everyone access to quality health care. But the thing I would like to see personally is for those marginalized communities to become self-advocates, to develop the confidence and the vocabulary to demand these things for themselves. A lot of things can be presented on a silver platter, but there are people who, if jobs came and knocked on their door, they still wouldn't answer.
I was talking with this lady today, and we were sitting side-by-side on Thursday addressing Congress on reauthorizing Ryan White and addressing the Medicaid cuts, and in the middle of that we're giving our own personal testimonies, talking about who we are and why these things are important to us. I'm a positive black man and she's a positive black woman. And she keeps deferring to me because I went to college and I present myself a certain way and I work on Capitol Hill -- and I'm trying to convince her that we're in the same place! I'm just as nervous and have the same butterflies she has, and there is no professor or Ph.D. or class that can give her the education and experience that she has developed on her own over the years. So having people understand that it is just lack of confidence, or that there is no quick result. With this big push toward voter advocacy in recent years, where the elections went the other way, a lot of people are giving up and saying, "I'm not voting anymore." You're supposed to try even harder after that! We have power and value, and we need to exercise it and share it.
Do you think the Bush administration is doing enough for the black epidemic?
No, I don't think the Bush administration is doing nearly enough for anything in communities of color -- and HIV is just one thing that needs to be addressed. But to blame Bush for all this would be incorrect. A lot of this stuff did not begin just four or eight years ago -- though there have been presidents and administrations in the past that were more relevant.
I think we all need to do more to address the people that need the most assistance, regardless of their color. We tend just to take for a given that "There's always going to be that permanent underclass, so don't worry about it." For me, there's no place that better illustrates that than right here in D.C., where there's these gleaming marble buildings like the White House and then steps away there's a homeless village. What picture is that?
What are some of the main myths about HIV that you hear in your community?
I've heard some really interesting ones over the years. That condoms are purposely made to be faulty. That HIV is a gay disease -- I think it's accurate to say that HIV is a male-driven disease, but it's not a gay disease. I heard one little girl, like 10 years old, talking about how "You know when someone has HIV when their hair is really fine, almost straight." I have an idea where that came from, because sometimes when you take medications it affects your metabolism, and maybe that can cause changes. She said it so matter-of-factly that you know she heard it somewhere. Sometimes the myths can be confused with the facts -- misperceptions become myths, and then those just become givens because we just give up on wanting to know the truth.
What are your fears and hopes for the next generation of African Americans as they face the risks of HIV?
I have both a fear and a hope: That the current generation, who are growing up in a world where HIV has always existed, will get through the whole idea of stigma to the point where HIV is no longer taboo to even talk about. It's just a regular conversation, people regularly get tested -- like growing up when there's always been the iPod. But that hope becomes a fear because the "Oh, it's not going to kill me, I just need to take the medications and I'll be OK" attitude then doesn't remind people to protect themselves. People are still dying of AIDS, and there's a lot of things that people who sell the medications don't tell you about side effects, and a lot of people who are positive won't go anywhere near the meds because it's easier for them to live with the effects of AIDS than with the side effects of the medications.
What has been your experience with HIV treatment?
Never been on medications, and that may have to do with the fact that for 18 of the 20 years I've been positive, I never went to the doctor. I never went to get my viral load count or my T-cell count. I didn't want to know. And it was weird because working as a peer educator and health educator, I would tell people, "Go get your tests, make sure you know your levels, it's better to know that not to know" -- and of course I'm not doing it. But one day I decided to do that, about a year and a half ago, and my levels are all OK. I have a very low viral load, high T-cell count. Of course, the doctor was surprised that after 18 years everything was pretty manageable, and he was like, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
I often wonder what my decision process will be if and when I get to the point where I'm recommended to be on meds. I have a good job, and I understand the avenues to access, and there are medications I know I'm going to be able to get. But there are a lot of people out there who have needed medication for a long time, and cannot get it -- and are refused medication, for whatever reason. I would feel almost guilty to access medications.
How did you choose your doctor?
This was back in Houston. I lived on the periphery of the AIDS community -- I had a regular job, and a regular life, and I would volunteer in different things related to HIV. And it got to the point where I wanted to flip that -- and one of the first steps was "OK, I want to go get my tests done." And it was pretty much just going to the HIV clinic where most people went. Fortunately, the clinic was the Donald Watkins Clinic in Houston, where Dr. Joseph Gathe is. He's this world-renowned HIV pioneer in medicine, and I just lucked into that!
I've been in D.C. since November, and I haven't chosen a doctor because I haven't been still long enough. But with my new job and new insurance -- I mean, the list of doctors are a little more experienced and have a history working with employees of Housing Works, so it's just a matter of me sitting down and trying to figure out who's going to be my doctor for life. But I feel a lot more comfortable doing that now than I would have five years ago.
Do you have a particular health regimen that helps you stay well?
When I was in high school, I was pretty athletic -- and a lot more health-conscious than I am now. It's not like I have any special diet or I'm a health-food junkie. So anything that's kept me where I am is just part of me. The thing I try to keep in mind is not to do anything that could hurt me, anything detrimental to my health. I drink occasionally, I don't smoke, my diet is pretty full, but at the same time I'm not bingeing or damaging myself. I think it's best to live in moderation.
Do you participate in an AIDS service organization? In what way?
In Houston I was a little involved with everything. Aside from being a member of the Ryan White Planning Council, I was on the African-American Task Force and different community and peer groups. I was just trying to saturate myself, not just at the agency level but at the community level. Here, back home in D.C., I'm still reacquainting myself with the area. But I will soon be doing the equivalent as far as involvement goes.
Having gone to high school here, I've already spoken at my old high school -- which was weird, because I played football on the state championship team, so my picture is still up in the halls. It was so weird to be coming back and not talking about football! I snuck it in there, but ... I've spoken in front of crowds and at schools in Texas, Georgia, lots of different places, but to come home and do it was very, very interesting.
Have these organizations been helpful in improving your health?
I don't look at it necessarily as being helpful for me -- I always look at it with a sense of "How can I help someone else?" And I feel like the more I can educate myself about what's going on, the more I'm able to share with someone -- whether it's personally or socially or access to services or whatever. Being an advocate for as many people as I can helps me, because that's what drives and motivates me.
How have your relationships with family and friends changed since you were diagnosed?
I took me five years before I mentioned it to anyone, and the first person I mentioned it to was my mom. My family has been supportive, my parents and brothers and sisters. They were the first people who were excited when I started doing this work, and they have followed me -- especially my dad, almost as closely with this as when I played football, and kept my articles and ... I've been very fortunate to have that support from my family.
With friends and, in particular, sexual relationships, it's been tough. I've always been a little shy and to myself, despite the fact that I played sports and everything. So finding out my status at that age, in college, already a little withdrawn -- it shut me down a lot. A lot of the normal social development that I would have had through my whole 20s never happened. So I find myself now where I still feel like a little 18-year-old kid, shy and reluctant to talk with people, uncomfortable with meeting new people -- and then to put the whole, you know, "Is this someone I disclose to, do I even want to bother?" thing on it! So over time I've gone through a lot of scenarios where it just scared the hell out of me, and sometimes I just feel safer not dealing with anyone.
I've been in situations where someone, to prove that they still accept you, want to have sex right away. Like "Let's have sex!" just to prove that they're OK with it. And no! That's not necessary -- just be you! I'm gonna be me, and just let things happen naturally.
How do you decide whether to disclose your HIV status to someone?
Ideally, I want to be able to disclose, and to have the person on the other end accept me. But in reality -- and this might be my own rationalizing -- there's always something that we're not really comfortable about. It could be our eating habits or what our favorite TV show is or something that happened in our past that we feel less than comfortable revealing, so it's the same way on the surface. But I try ... It's interesting now that because of my job, in a lot of cases people already know I'm positive before I get there. It's completely different, though, when you meet somebody one-on-one and they have no idea who I am -- and it scares me to death. It just goes to a point of "Do I feel comfortable with this person?" And, of course, there's a certain level of comfort and timing that has to happen where you just say, "OK, now! This is it!"
What is the best response you have ever gotten from telling someone?
The best response is when it's not a big deal. I don't want to say, "I'm HIV positive", and then all of a sudden it's like, "Ohhhhh!" and all this caring -- I just want it to be that I'm still Larry. I know there are probably things that go on in the other person's mind, questions that arise, but it's best when they treat me just the same.
What is the worst response?
There was a time when there was someone I really liked, more or less from a distance. But people, when they find out -- and sometimes it's a passive disclosure, where we might get in a roundabout conversation or they might see an article about me -- I purposely just wait to see what their reaction is gonna be. And you have people who, literally, leave skid marks -- you never hear from them again. They don't want to have anything to do with you. And I don't care how confident I am with myself, I never get used to that.
How do you deal when that happens?
I would be lying if I said I'm not disappointed or my feelings not hurt at the very least, but you carry it and you move on and you wait for it to wear off. No matter how bad it feels, I know it will pass. I think that's one reason why I stay active and work and do so many things, because then things tend to rotate out of my head a lot faster.
Where do you go for support?
Well, I know what I tell other people to do: Go to anyone you feel comfortable being around and not have to talk with. Those are the best friends, people who are not always asking, "How do you feel? What's wrong?"
I have my family. I have people whom I drive crazy because I don't talk to them when they insist they are there. I have a bad habit of just staying to myself. I've grown up that way, and I keep telling myself that one day I'm not going to do this, but I always find myself just going back to myself. Sometimes I think that has alienated a lot of potential relationships -- I don't do it on purpose, but it's who I've become, and a lot of who I've become has been molded by the fact that when I found out I was positive, I was 18 and I wasn't developed.
Do you have a policy about if or when you tell a sex partner that you are positive?
Right now, I don't have to worry about it because I don't really have a whole lot of potential sex partners. Ideally, you want to have that discussion long before, you know, that particular time. At least that's my perspective. But disclosure is a personal decision that everyone makes -- there is no cookie-cutter method. I say just listen to your heart, because I think with every person and every situation it's different.
Do you feel that if you practice safe sex, it is necessary to tell a sex partner that you are positive?
As long as you're not putting anyone else at risk, you really can't be faulted for your timing. But I tell people, "If you're going to put someone else in a position like that, you better know how that person is gonna take it." Because if you have sex, whether it's protected or not, and then tell them later, "Oh yeah, by the way, I'm positive," well, that can be tricky also. You don't know how that person's going to take it, and you don't know what their level of knowledge is. I tell people, "Just think about if it was you. There is no right or wrong answer -- just think about it deeply before you put someone else in that situation."
Did you make any New Year's resolutions?
I think of them more as goals, and not have them necessarily start at the beginning of the year. If there's one thing, I want to be more effective in what I do -- never be afraid to learn more or to reach out ... just step out on that branch and experience a little more.
What's the biggest adventure you've ever had?
I think I'm living it now, actually. Getting involved with C2EA, first as a participant and then as an organizer, and not just doing the job or having the title of national field organizer, but being in the position to help individuals identify their own potential.
If you were granted one wish, what would it be?
If I were granted one wish, I want my Waiting to Exhale moment. I want my moment where I'm sitting somewhere -- I could be anywhere, but there's that split second in time where everything is just right. I am in the perfect place, exactly where I want to be, with exactly whom I want to be with, and everything is exactly the way it should be.
What books, movies, music or TV shows have had a big influence on you?
I watch a lot of movies -- I think that's part of my whole getting into theater, because I love stories -- especially stories driven by emotion or evolution, that have a growth in them. I get inspiration from a lot of movies like Love Jones where people are figuring themselves out with someone through their ups and downs.
I love reading about Arthur Ashe [the tennis player and AIDS activist who got HIV from a blood transfusion] and all the different aspects of his life, and the challenges that he had, and the way he overcame most of them.
I think if we're open-minded, we find inspiration in most things -- we don't have to look too hard, and I don't think we should be too selective.
Anything else you'd like The Body's readers to know about you?
I was talking with one of my coworkers back in Texas about what the one thing is that you want people to remember when you do interviews or presentations or whatever, the one thing you want them to come away with from what you've said. And she said, "Well, make sure you tell people that you're straight." Because people just automatically assume that because I'm positive and I work in the field, I'm probably gay. They don't do it in a negative way, but it's just assumed.
I want people to see me how they want to see me. If it means that I need to tell people that I'm heterosexual, I'm a black male who's never been incarcerated or a drug user, and I'm positive -- if that means something to someone, that's great. But I just think it's more important for people to know who they are, rather than who I am or who I am not. And I think that if we are much more open and comfortable with ourselves, then the communication we have with others is a lot easier to do.
Click here to e-mail Larry Bryant.
About Larry Bryant
Home: Washington, DC
Diagnosed: Spring 1986
Larry Bryant could have pursued a career in professional football if he'd wanted to, HIV or no HIV. But he decided to take his life in another direction: helping improve the lives of others. A 20-year survivor of HIV, Larry now presses palms for the AIDS advocacy group Housing Works instead of pressing pigskin on the football field. As an activist in Washington, D.C., Larry regularly meets with politicians and political staff members to push for better funding and greater support for HIV-positive people throughout the country. But although he may be rubbing shoulders with some of the country's most powerful people, Larry always keeps it real: "I will never be as important as the people I work for," he says.