- What is Positively Fearless?
Positively Fearless is a movement that celebrates the bravery that brings people living with HIV together. For people living with HIV, their courage takes many forms throughout their journeys – from getting tested and accepting a diagnosis, to sharing their status, to seeking care, to finding a treatment that is the right fit, and sticking to it.
- What is your personal connection to this initiative and the HIV/AIDS epidemic?
I was introduced to the concept of HIV as a teen—my aunt and cousin were diagnosed with AIDS and that’s the first time I ever really learned about it. After their diagnoses I acquired an increased hypersensitivity to the subject and how people treated them when they became aware of their condition—it was disheartening. I’m happy to say that we’ve come a long way since then, but even in 2017, HIV has a profound impact on certain communities within the U.S., including the LGBTQ community and the Latinx community, where people continue to be disproportionately affected by the virus. That’s why I was so ecstatic to have been given the opportunity to join forces with Janssen’s Positively Fearless campaign.
- As a representative of the Latinx community, what obstacles do you think we face in our community when raising awareness around this cause?
I think one of the biggest issues the Latinx community faces right now is HIV stigma. The stigma associated with HIV and homosexuality in general contributes to a fear of getting tested and seeking treatment in Latinx communities – the topic isn’t spoken about as openly as it should be to allow an impactful level of awareness within the community.This causes many Latinx people to lack critical information about how to prevent HIV and seek proper treatment for HIV. Too few Latinx people living with HIV receive the treatment they need and many of those on medication aren’t taking it properly. In fact, Latinx people are twice as likely to report missing doses of their medication. This is a critical issue because when a person living with HIV misses just a few doses, they face the risk of developing drug resistance, meaning their medicine could stop working to fight their HIV—which is so alarming!Part of my role as a spokesperson for Positively Fearless is to help educate people in my community about the significance of HIV medication resistance and encourage those living with HIV to talk openly with their doctors about their potential risk for resistance.
- What are your hopes and goals for Positively Fearless?
My hope for Positively Fearless is that it will be successful in changing the statistics. While overall HIV diagnoses have declined over the last 10 years, new diagnoses have actually increased among Latinx gay and bisexual men, particularly young men. Right now, the HIV diagnosis rate among Latinx men is more than three times the rate among Caucasian men. If current rates continue, one in four gay and bisexual Latinx men, will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime.I hope that through my role in Positively Fearless and the campaign’s overall efforts, we can educate and help empower Latinx gay and bisexual men to take charge of their health when it comes to HIV. I hope that others in the community will be inspired to help create an environment where people can talk openly about their status and their health, and support friends, family and loved ones living with HIV by encouraging them to work with their healthcare provider to get on and stay on treatment.
- What would you tell Latinx men and women who are currently battling HIV today?
I would tell them to not let stigma or fear of judgment to stop them from seeking proper information about their risk for HIV. For those being treated for HIV – and especially anyone who struggles to follow their medication regimen – take a moment to visit www.positivelyfearless.com and take the “Know Your Risk” quiz. It’s a great resource to use in for their next discussion with their healthcare provider to better understand their risk for developing HIV medication resistance.
"Exclusive Interview with Jai Rodriguez"