Karamo Brown is tired of the shade.
It’s been 12 years since The Real World: Philadelphia alum made his television debut as the first openly gay Black man on reality TV.
And not much has changed regarding the stigma associated with African Americans in the LGBTQ community, he tells BlackDoctor.org.
One major stigma being this assumption, he continues, that if you’re a gay or bisexual Black man, it’s inevitable that you’ll contract HIV.
“Yes, I have dated men who are HIV-positive, proudly and openly. People associate me and say that I have HIV. They start to want to shade me,” says Brown, who is HIV-negative. “If someone wants to assume that I’m HIV-positive or whatever, it doesn’t take away from the love that I have and me supporting another brother.”
That’s why Brown is on a mission to change the narrative and empower the gay and bisexual community through the Positively Fearless campaign; a partnership with pharmaceutical company Janssen.
Positively Fearless is a celebration of being Black, gay and even HIV-positive. Brown, who is speaking at Atlanta’s 10th annual Black Pride Celebration, is encouraging people to get tested and for those who are HIV-positive to live in their truth by seeking treatment and being proactive in their health.
“Just growing up around Black men and the majority of my best friends being Black men, I notice the conversation and the way we interact in discussing how we’re feeling. It’s as if we can’t express that,” Brown says. “It’s fine to be transparent. It doesn’t take away from your masculinity. For me, who dates gay men, it makes you sexier.”
Black gay and bisexual men are the most affected by HIV. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 38 percent of Black gay and bisexual men were diagnosed with HIV in 2014.
“This is not a death sentence at all. People aren’t dying from HIV as they were 20, 30 years ago because of medical advances and how far we’ve come in technology,” says Deondre Moore, an HIV advocate on the Positively Fearless campaign.
Moore learned of his HIV-positive status during a doctor’s appointment the day after Easter in 2014.
“It was just heartbreaking. I kind of saw my life flash before my eyes,” the 21-year-old says.
With more education, his parents became his strongest support system – helping to pay for his doctor visits and medication. They wanted to do whatever it took to ensure their son lived a long, healthy life.
But his parents’ support didn’t eradicate the ill thoughts of others.
“I’ve even had family say, behind my back, things like, ‘make sure not to eat after him,’” Moore recalls. “I’ve had some people say, ‘I don’t know about dating somebody who’s positive…’ but they also didn’t know about PrEP and ways to prevent it.”
Pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, is a pill for those who are HIV-negative but are at risk of being exposed to the virus by having sex with a HIV-positive partner. There’s also PEP, or post-exposure prophylaxis, which is an antiretroviral medication for someone who fears they may have been exposed to HIV after intercourse.
“I’m alive. I’m healthy and I’m well,” Moore says. “I really want every Black man who has hidden his sexuality or HIV status because of the stigma [to] stand proud and be positively fearless.”
Join the conversation with Brown and Moore by tweeting @HIVWisdom using #PositivelyFearless to share your personal stories and stand in your truth.