Most members of Transforming HIV Resentment into Victories Everlasting Support Services (Thrive SS) can remember the date they tested positive for HIV as easily as their birthdays.
And they’re marking these days – their “seroversaries”- with reflection, festivity, and celebration.
In the same way that many in the LGBT+ community reclaimed slurs such as “queer”, so these men have taken control of the day that a generation ago would have meant something much darker.
Thrive SS is one of the many organisations supported by the Elton John AIDS Foundation which provide resources and support to individuals with HIV and AIDS. The group, which also has branches in Washington DC, Oakland, and Charleston, operates has 24/7 online services to ensure that its members can have the information and help they may need at any time of day. One of the co-founders likens Thrive SS to a fraternity.
Groups like Thrive SS provide an essential support network for those living with HIV.
“Once you’re living with HIV, no amount of shame is going to change it, so celebrate it,” says Larry Scott-Walker, one of the group’s co-founders. “Celebrate the way your life has changed since you were tested. A lot of amazing things have happened to me since I admitted I had HIV.”
It’s astounding to think that even in such a prosperous city, if you are a gay black man in Atlanta, you have a 60% chance of being diagnosed with HIV in your lifetime. Factors such as racism, homophobia and lack of education all play a part, and lead to a sense of stigma and shame. For so many young men, this prevents them from getting tested and going on to get the kind of support men like Scott-Walker have been lucky to receive.
These individuals are incredibly vulnerable to infection, and something must change to ensure that they are tested early, are linked to care and can go on to live full and fulfilling lives as HIV positive men.
Help us continue to support the work of organizations such as Thrive SS, which help young men in Atlanta to live full and fulfilling lives, free from the deadly stigma that still prevails in this city.
Through UK Aid Match, the UK government will double public donations up to £2 million to be spent across projects in Maputo and Nairobi.
£5 provides vital HIV testing information to those at risk
£20 will pay for a self-testing kit so those stigmatised can receive the help they need
£100 will ensure someone with a positive diagnosis is given the right treatment