Overcoming stigma at Atlanta Black Pride Weekend

#LoveWins, and so does knowing your HIV status

9e068 Black Gay Pride 26.59a7001940204
Photo credit: Eric Cash
THE PROUD: Scenes from Atlanta Black Pride 2015

According to a CDC report that came out over the summer, the number of people being diagnosed with HIV dropped in Georgia by 6 percent between 2008 and 2014. That's huge, considering Atlanta's HIV rates have previously been compared to that of third-world countries.

But researchers found that one demographic didn't see any changes in HIV infection: gay and bisexual men. "Annual infections remained stable at about 26,000 per year among gay and bisexual men overall and about 10,000 infections per year among black gay and bisexual men a hopeful sign after more than a decade of increases in these populations," the report's authors wrote.

That's why Atlanta Black Pride Weekend, happening Aug. 30 through Sept. 5, is bringing you more than simply a helluva good time celebrating life. On Sunday, when the PureHeat Community Festival kicks off at Piedmont Park, YouTube celebrity and Kinky Boots star Todrick Hall and fellow HIV advocate Deondre Moore will be posted up at a vendor booth, ready to talk about the Positively Fearless movement.

Positively Fearless is a campaign centered around "taking control of your health and being out and open with your status," explains Moore, who grew up in Texas and was diagnosed with HIV at the age of 19. "It's about being comfortable to say, ???Hey, this is who I am: I have HIV and I'm fearless about it. I'm not afraid of the shame the stigma.' It's about breaking down those barriers to allow black gay, bisexual men to take control of their health."

Being HIV-positive is no longer a death sentence, Moore says. "We can't make everyone do what we might see as right or what we might see as safe sex. Which is where I think this campaign comes into play because it's about empowering people. It's not just saying, hey, you have these tools, go out and get them." Instead, he says, their goal is to help people see the value in their own health and lives. "When we do that kind of advocacy work ??_ and use that kind of language, I think that's when people think twice about their sexual health and their options and consider maybe condoms or any other avenues to engage in safer sex."

For more info about Atlanta Black Pride Weekend, visit atlantaprideweekend.com.

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