Our Voices in the Fight: An HIV Status Doesn’t Make You Damaged Goods
People love boxes. Neat, little squares to help compartmentalize others. I've been placed in numerous boxes myself; I'm a walking statistic apparently. Black, fatherless kid. Check. Sexual abuse victim. Check. Former drug addict. Check. HIV Positive. Check.
Now that we've established that, let's talk about living outside of the box. I'd like to talk to YOU for a moment. The real you, not the number that goes before percentage signs. If you've ever felt worthless or ugly, then this is for you. If you were ever the butt of some bully's cruel joke, then please keep reading. If you're just finding out you're living with HIV, I most definitely want to speak to you.
You see, you're more than a number. You're a living miracle, a breath of fresh air. You have hopes and ambitions. You dream. You hurt. You cry. You love. You are intricately weaved in the plot line of humanity's story and I, for one, am glad you're alive. You're worth being told that you're not here on accident. You're worth being told that you are more than some positive or negative symbol. You need to hear that an HIV status doesn't make you damaged goods. And if you haven't heard it before, please allow me to be the first to say to you:
You are not a failure.
So, what do we do next? HIV is still rampant in the African-American community. My brothers and sisters are still not getting tested, still not disclosing their statuses to each other. People still see HIV as a dirty disease. We don't respect ourselves so we can't respect each other. It's time to maybe take Michael Jackson's advice: "I'm starting with the man in the mirror."
As I take responsibility for my actions, I begin to understand that I can rewrite my life's story. Instead of being remembered as some drug addict who stole money from his friends, I have the opportunity to rebuild, which is why I have joined the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation in its efforts to eliminate pediatric AIDS. I've lived with HIV for almost 9 years and because of this second life, this blessing, I've gotten to travel the world talking about hope and the gift of self-love. I've climbed out of those boxes people are so fond of and I've dared to keep living.
Are you ready to forgive and move on? Ready to love yourself enough to get tested regularly? Ready to love your community enough to protect them? I know you are. I'm quite excited to hear your hit song, see your story in a movie, read about your exploits in the world of science or medicine. Now that you're thinking outside of the box, we'll be waiting to see just what you'll do next.
Singer/Songwriter Jamar Rogers thrilled audiences on “The Voice” during its second season. Since then, he’s been touring, recording, and writing music, but he always makes time for one of his most important causes: children living with HIV.