Thomas Davis has been living with HIV since 2013 and he has turned dance into a platform for self expression, motivation, and to end HIV stigma. Through the Catharsis Project, a grantee of AIDS United's Positive Organizing Project, Thomas and his fellow dancers use dance and multimedia as a way to share stories and experiences about the HIV epidemic -- especially with younger generations. We were excited to connect with Thomas to learn more about his work, motivations, and future goals.
Tell me a bit about yourself and how you got involved in this work?
I started to get involved with public health in 2013. After I was diagnosed HIV+ I wanted to use my story to raise awareness about HIV to people that didn't know a whole lot about it.
What are you doing through your Positive Organizing Project (POP) grant? What are your overall goals and why is your program unique?
Related: Daring to Be Truthful: Madonna's Dancers and HIV
My POP Project is called The C.R.E.W (Creative remedy & education workshops). It is a support group for young black millennials living with HIV. We use the arts (dance, creative writing, movement expression, etc.) to explore topics and issues that people living with HIV deal with every day. Through out the course of our weekly meetings each member is creating a piece (dance poem, writing) that shares their personal story or experience.
What do you want people to know about young people, on National Youth HIV/AIDS Awareness Day?
I want young people to know that HIV does not discriminate and that we are privileged to live in a time where there are so many ways to prevent AND treat HIV.
Younger generations are getting to be known more and more for their advocacy and their creativity. Why are both of these things important to include in HIV work?
Advocacy and creativity go HAND IN HAND. Young people will NOT care about HIV or any other social justice issue if we continue to talk about it the same way we have for year. Creativity is needed to re-energize individuals.
Why is it important for younger generations to talk about HIV? What are some ways to start the conversation?
It's important for young people to talk about HIV because we can be the ones to stop it. Conversations can start in many different ways but the most important way to to meet that young person where they are in THAT moment and talk to them like they are a person.
Tell us any highlights you might have from your first AIDSWatch.
AIDSWatch has been a great experience. I think one of the highlights for me was seeing representation from EVERY STATE!
How do you stay motivated in this work?
I stay motivated to do this work by using my creative talents. The arts really are the future in advocacy work. The freedom to use dance, theater, and visual art is so liberating and healing.
[Note from TheBody: This article was originally published by AIDS United on Apr. 10, 2018. We have cross-posted it with their permission.]