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Episode #4: Living an HIV Positive Life

Positive Voices


Living an HIV Positive Life

January 23, 2023. 38:53

This week Malachi and Leah are speaking to guest Greg Meredith about his experience as an HIV positive person. This engaging interview expands to discuss the role of stigma in HIV disclosure, the complex nature of HIV medication and medical care, and dating in the LGBTQ+ community. You won’t want to miss this!

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Speaker 1: If you're gonna take the medicine, you have to take the medicine. But if you're not, then just right now for your mental and your mental health, then don't
Speaker 2: Welcome to Positive Voices. And today we will be talking about living with HIV. We have a very special guest. My name is Malachi Stewart. My pronoun preferences are he, him, his,
Speaker 3: And I'm Leah Henry. And uh, my pronouns are she and her.
Speaker 1: And I'm Gregory Meredith. My pronouns are he, him and his.
Speaker 3: Listen, I'm [00:00:30] really excited for today's show because, you know, I think it's so important that when we're talking about the spectrum of H I V, it's important to hear the stories of the people who are living with H I V and talking about your journeys, because we've talked about, in other episodes, breaking the stigma. Right. But I think it's so important to dive into the lives of people who are living with H I V. And I love that you're here with us today, Greg, because I think that this episode is gonna help a lot of people see what the day-to-day life is like for someone living with H I V.
Speaker 1: Yes,
Speaker 2: Absolutely. And so, I [00:01:00] mean, I'm really interested. Listen, you and I have worked in the field. We're both living with H I V, got that out the way. Yeah. So because of that, we've heard a lot of people's stories. Mm-hmm. And a lot of times the stories tend to be watered down or mm-hmm. <affirmative>, we sort of get the safe narrative. And so I really welcome the conversation with you deeply have that real conversation. So I think a good place to, to start would be the diagnosis. What was that day like for you? What was that moment like for you? Walk us through that.
Speaker 1: So that moment was, it was very shaky for me. I was first in high school, senior in high school, [00:01:30] ready to graduate just months before. And I got a text message saying that this person that I had previously, recently had text with was HIV positive. And that I need to go get myself checked out. So of course I was shaking in my boots. I'm in music class, don't know what to do, <laugh>. I called my grandmother, Hey ma, I think I need to leave school. I need to go get tested. Oh wow. So I finally, I leave school, I go to the doctors up Children's National Medical Center where I was taking, getting care. And I got my, [00:02:00] well, one of my closest, I wanna call her auntie. She took the test for me. So it was like, it was like family. Yeah. So when she seen the faint line, you know, I kinda already knew that, you know, I was HIV positive.
Speaker 1: Mm-hmm. And she was like, Gregory, how are you feeling? And I was like, I'm actually okay. I mean, in that very moment it was scary. I didn't know what to expect, you know, tomorrow I didn't know what to expect in the next five years, cuz it's been five years [00:02:30] now. Yeah. That I'm been HIV positive, but I'm still living today. Yeah. So that moment was very scary. But I was okay. My grandmother came down the hallway, she was there to console me, even told me a little bit of some things that she's been through her pertaining to HIV. So it, it helped me. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I wasn't afraid to tell my family. Mm-hmm. But when it came to disclosing to others, it did, it came, it came, it became a little shaky because you tell one person, they [00:03:00] may comfort you and you know, ask you, are you okay?
Speaker 1: But then you tell another person and they're like, wow, they don't want nothing to do with you. You never hear from this person again. Yeah. And it's like, what have I done? You know, you've may feel as though it's you, but you have to just walk that everyday life. Go take it day by day first, find yourself in it. Because mind you, I'm just a, I'm a young boy in high school about to leave, you know, ready to graduate. I actually had some [00:03:30] problems graduating because of the stress of me trying to get my everyday life back together from this diagnosis piece. Hmm.
Speaker 2: Well, walk me through a little bit of, or kind of unpack for me rather what it was, you talked about there being stressed and it sounds like you had a really good support system. I did. So first of all, that
Speaker 1: I
Speaker 3: Did. Right.
Speaker 2: Because, and highly unusual.
Speaker 3: Well, and also, you know, to even to know you said, you know, I got the diagnosis and I was okay, your aunt took the test for you, your grandma's in the hallway supporting you. I think that, [00:04:00] you know, that, that speaks smiles to community. We've talked about in other episodes how important for the mental health aspect, you know, community is mm-hmm. <affirmative> and I, that was a moment. Go ahead. And I was having
Speaker 2: Absolutely no, absolutely. The community is a big aspect. I'm glad that the community was there for you. Yes. And, and it was so opposite probably of my experience where we really didn't have much community around mm-hmm. <affirmative>, uh, where I was around sort of surrounding people and certainly not surrounding people around their diagnosis. Right. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Okay. I think I talked about another episode, you know, back in, you know, in Philly we were calling it the monster. Like you got the monster. And [00:04:30] so, and I'm, I'm sure that was not being Phil said by the time <laugh>, I've
Speaker 1: Heard of that term, but
Speaker 2: That was not But you heard the term, right? Yeah. I heard the term, not the term that y'all would be using your generation. And so I'm glad that you had the support unpacks me with that stress look like though. Like what, what was the stress? What was it you were actually feeling around the diagnosis?
Speaker 1: Um, I was feeling a little overwhelmed because now I wasn't, now for me not taking a pill every day, which I struggle with taking medicine. Like it can be a painkiller. I really don't wanna swallow a pill. So that was my main struggle. And then how [00:05:00] big it was, I think I started off with STR build or Complera, and they were like this big of a capsule, <laugh>. So it's like, wow, I have to swallow this every morning or every night. And I just, my adherence to medicine actually was the stress for me. Mm-hmm.
Speaker 2: <affirmative>. I see. And so were you afraid that if you didn't adhere to the medication, that that would impact your health?
Speaker 1: Yeah,
Speaker 2: I would. But then also like, how do I adhere to this medication when I'm taking these big horse pills mm-hmm. [00:05:30] <affirmative>. And you know, that's the, that's the trait, right? Yeah. If you wanna take one pill a day, you gotta take this, this big,
Speaker 1: This big horse pill. Yes.
Speaker 2: What, if anything, was there ever a moment where like you met someone who would've sort of helped you with your adherence? Like was there anything that, that changed that for
Speaker 1: You? So it was the different programs that after I, after I got my diagnosis, I had, I felt like it was God trying to just like show me away. Yeah. Yeah. Because he had blessed me with a, a position at DC Department of Health as a community health impact specialist. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So it was [00:06:00] all around h I v, you know, learning about H I V, going to these different conferences, meeting people, like not just meeting people, but meeting like fa extended family, you know mm-hmm. <affirmative> and they, they've had ways that it helped them take their medicine. Yeah. Or we would call each other like a buddy. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> a pill buddy or whatever, you know, you take your medic, Hey, do you take your medicine today? Yeah. I took my medicine, you took yours yet. And it's different conversations like that, but being comfortable having those conversations.
Speaker 2: Absolutely. Have you, were you, it sounds like [00:06:30] you had a community that helped you, like sort of with adherence tools mm-hmm. <affirmative> and as a former adherence specialist, that was what it was all about. Right? Like, I would put things in my patient's phones, things that I recommend you all try if you're having adherence issues at home. Yeah. So like, I would put like a time, you know, we try to get people to take their medication the same time of day, so I would put in their vitamin time mm-hmm. <affirmative>, um, no, the kill pill key chain in case you're at work or whatever you are, you're able to have that thing. So it sounds like you had a good community of people who you could check in. Yeah. And that's imp important because as the person who was making [00:07:00] that call for a lot of people mm-hmm. <affirmative>,
Speaker 2: I wish they had community, they could like, call, call your brother, call your sister, call your son. Yeah. And see if y'all all taking medication. I think that's amazing. And I How do you feel? Do you feel like there's a difference particularly with like black men who have sex with men or black queer men and white? And I say that because I, I remember I was living, I had a white roommate mm-hmm. <affirmative>, and he was, he was having brunch at the house and the alarm went off and everybody pulled out their medication and started taking prep and they rolled up prep time. And I was like, [00:07:30] I you, we have some similar circles. I don't even know which ones of my friends are positive. Exactly. And like, I work in this, we don't have those comp. Do you feel like that's the same thing?
Speaker 1: I feel like it is. Yeah. I
Speaker 2: Do. Why do you think that is though?
Speaker 1: Mm. Because we don't, I guess it's the vulnerability with each other.
Speaker 2: Is it stigma
Speaker 1: Or maybe stigma?
Speaker 2: Yeah. What, so what stigma still exists?
Speaker 3: Probably, probably, honestly being positive And, and I'm gonna circle back to that because I think when we discuss the, the black community in general, we are a very hush hush community. [00:08:00] Everything stays at mama's house. Yeah. Everything is about what goes on inside our house. And we don't tell other people about what's going on in our house. And especially with something like HIV that has such a negative stigma, people are not going out there to yell from the rooftops that I have HIV. And the reality is, is even though I think, you know, the, the queer community may be sex positive, they still might not be HIV aware, positive mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And so I think that that's the reason why we see that, because [00:08:30] that whether you're gay straight by, you know, whatever you identify as as a person of color, we tend to not share any of our struggles, whether that be like mental, physical, you know, emotional.
Speaker 3: And I think that that's why you see it in that community. I'm interested to know though, when you were talking about your story, I thought it was again, very telling that you said that there was a sense of calm for you, but then you also said about a stress. So in the moment of the the diagnosis, you were actually fine. Yeah. But later on you started to have the stress. I [00:09:00] think that's where stigma kicks in for you, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, because around your, your your close community, you were comfortable, but around the greater community. Yeah. You were not. So talk to me about the difference in that and why it was so hard for you when it came to the outer community to not be as open about your diagnosis versus with your, your personal tight-knit, you know, family. But
Speaker 1: I think because I knew that there were like people out there that wouldn't want nothing to do with me mm-hmm. <affirmative> and, you know, that [00:09:30] would, that would hurt me. Like that they call it rejection. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Yeah. Rejection kind of hurts, you know? Yeah. Like, yeah.
Speaker 3: We don't, no one wants to be rejected. And I think, you know, we talked about this on another episode mm-hmm. <affirmative>, but finding your self worth Yes. After the diagnosis. Exactly. And high school is such a pivotal time, right? Like, we're all ugly. We all had acne, we all wanted to look our best. We were awkward, you know what I mean? Going through puberty. Yeah. And so there's already this unsaid pressure about that time in your life where you're trying to figure out who you are and establish your own value of who you are. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. But then this [00:10:00] diagnosis kind of plays a part on really your self-worth. And then the aspect of rejection, right? Like the reality is no matter who you are, you want to be wanted. Exactly. So talk to me about navigating dating and the space of being, you know, with partners or disclosing. Cuz I, you know, you've talked about it a little bit, but share a little bit more
Speaker 1: About, so dating, like, I would actually wait, when I was dating, I would meet someone, you know, we, we would use condoms while we're, you know, having sex if I didn't disclose, but [00:10:30] I would actually wait before I disclose to the person maybe a few weeks or a month because I just didn't want that to be the, I didn't want HIV to be, I didn't want people to, when they see me, I don't want you to just see HIV mm-hmm. <affirmative> and it's just like, that's all you see. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, oh, this person's living with H I v and you trying to tell me ways of how to communicate my HIV when you're not even the person that's dealing with it. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you know, you're, you're on the outside looking in. I'm the one that gotta take this pill every day, but you are the one that's actually feeling some type of way. Mm-hmm. How [00:11:00] so? Yeah, I waited to definitely disclose to people. Yeah. I can't say I did too much dating. Mm. Yet. Wow. I just
Speaker 3: Five years in five,
Speaker 1: Five
Speaker 3: Years in hesitant. Yeah.
Speaker 1: Yeah. Mm-hmm.
Speaker 3: I think that's telling.
Speaker 1: Yeah.
Speaker 2: I think it yeah. Speaks to the community and, and I think it's important that you named the rejection. It was what I was waiting for you to say. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> because as a community of people who a lot of times we've already felt that rejection and the rejection comes way before you tell people you're gay. Particularly for us black, [00:11:30] that's mm-hmm. <affirmative> mother <laugh> when they don't realize when they were correcting the feminine behavior, what you really were doing was rebuking Yeah.
Speaker 1: The
Speaker 2: Gay Yeah. You was, you were letting me know, like, and don't do that either, but without saying it. So a lot of us have felt that rejection that I'll accept you, but not the fullness of
Speaker 1: Who you are.
Speaker 2: Exactly. Yep. That being an underlining. And so here, when, when people are now trying to define you by a chronic condition mm-hmm. <affirmative> and then reject you for on top of it, on top of a lifetime of rejection. Exactly. Baby, you still [00:12:00] trying to accept yourself. Yeah. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> and as soon as you get a foot in, I feel like, you know, accepting yourself. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> here something else to knock you back down to tell you that you're not worthy Exactly. To you feel like you're not. So that makes total sense that, that you feel that way. Do you think it's better now, like hookup culture, Jack grinder, it has these, it has these features
Speaker 3: Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, right? Does that make you more comfortable now? Like are you more open to disclosing because it's like a part of the conversation
Speaker 1: Somewhat. Kind of, you know, it's like, it's in the middle now. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> now before we before no, I wouldn't disclose at [00:12:30] all, especially on those type of sites because it was like, I actually did disclose at one point, this is a, I forgot about this, but this is a big point in my life. I disclosed on Jack and social media and someone had actually took in, they was doing it around in DC though. They took a few different people that was disclosing on social media and they posted it on the Instagram page. And it was like, even though I had already disclosed to the world, you know, I didn't told my story or my Facebook Yeah. My family knows, you know, I'm, I'm becoming to be comfortable [00:13:00] with myself. Right. But this person does this and it just like shut me down a little bit. Cause it's like why are people so cruel? Yeah. You know, like, you don't, you don't, it made me not wanna disclose anymore or not anymore, but Right at that time. Yeah. Or not even deal with anybody. Yeah.
Speaker 3: Or it, it just didn't create a space for you to feel open about exactly what you felt like you took power of. Yes. I can only imagine trying to step out and, and tell people my story and then you take my story and try to use it against
Speaker 1: Me. Yes. Me. Yeah.
Speaker 3: Yeah. I can, I can only imagine that. And [00:13:30] you also said that when it came to, you know, disclosing the apps kind of make it iffy or you know, somewhat in the middle for you. But, you know, how are you finding in your own personal circles the conversation now that you're saying like, if you can get on an app and see that mm-hmm. <affirmative> is it now, because y'all just said there's really no dynamic in y'all's community as far as people disclosing or telling your friend that you have it mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So like, is this now are we starting to see a movement and this is for both of y'all? Like are we starting to now see [00:14:00] where we're moving forward and people are like disclosing this more
Speaker 2: Kind of,
Speaker 1: So Yes. Like somewhere
Speaker 2: Until 50 50. And that's so crazy. Like here we are years later. I was diagnosed in 2008. So here it is, 2022. It is many years later. <laugh> many, many years later. It's really like a long time. Right. But so much hasn't changed. Yeah. And that's what's so, but I, I really believe, and I always say this, our community, what we lack the most is eldership. What we lack the most is people who can go before you and say, [00:14:30] because if it wasn't for the eldership, I would still be that person that's like afraid to disclose. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I was so afraid of dating. Yeah. And I didn't wanna go on a date because I was still carrying that thing. Like Mm. I got the monster that was still in my subconscious mm-hmm. <affirmative>. It wasn't until elders sort of came and had to sit me down and like let me know.
Speaker 2: Like you, you give people the cue on your self worth mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So people are reflecting what you're putting out. Changing my life. Because as if I come in, this is work, this is HIV status, this is anything. If you come in and you're apologetic Yeah. Then [00:15:00] you're teaching people how to treat you. You're teaching people how to treat you around that specific issue. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. But when you come in like sure of my worthiness Sure. Of this being something that's a thing you worry about protecting your own health. Exactly. You do what you need to do. You, you, you navigate this comfortably. I will be navigating mine as well. I will be undetected. Not for you. Yeah. But for me. But for me, I'm gonna go to my dodge and get tested and do my full panora two months for me because I wanna make sure that I'm good.
Speaker 2: And I don't know you like that either. You know, when you have that attitude towards it, it literally changed how people receive me. And if, if [00:15:30] you ever see me on the app, it is right on the profile. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> way before they, they had that, that as an option. I was already putting Yeah. Un positive, undetectable way before the CDC was saying you equal, you <laugh>. But that was because of arms being around me. I didn't, I I would never stand in front of that and pretended that confidence came by osmosis. It did not. That came from people having to build me up. And I think even when we have eldership and protection and house mothers and all of these things, we don't have it specifically around that issue. And a lot of them didn't have it to give us mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So I think it's important [00:16:00] for us, these type of platforms are important. People hearing your story Yeah. Is important for, for that.
Speaker 1: Yeah. And that's another support system that I did have was like house mothers. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Like when I got connected with us helping us people into living, you know, on Yeah. Georgia Avenue. I met someone, I went to Denim the first, I think it was like the first day I got there, I had met Caleb, Caleb Baron. And he, he sat with me, asked me, you know, was just asked me a few questions and I just came out and told him my story. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you know, I told him unapologetically [00:16:30] about me and he was like, you know what, I'm gonna make you my daughter. And that conversation just went just like that. Yeah. And to share, you know, something with him, you know, talk about HIV around him, see the work that he does around, you know, people in with HIV it is just a, it was amazing. Yeah. And to eventually live in the same house. Yeah. It was a great support system. Yeah.
Speaker 3: And you having that support is important. But in turn, like how do you show up for people mm-hmm. Living with h HIV now, because I kind of feel like, because [00:17:00] y'all are saying there's literally this ploy in this pool mm-hmm. <affirmative> to have this group of community and elders who are doing that. I mean, essentially you're your next, right? Yeah. You're the next advocate. You're the next savior for the, the next person going through this. So what does mentorship look like to you? How do you show up in spaces for people that need it? Cause I think it's important for people who are listening mm-hmm. <affirmative> who are watching this podcast who might be listening. They, they may be negative, but they can still show up for people in their lives that are positive. So like, what does that look like? If it's, if, [00:17:30] if it's me and I want to show up for my friend who just told me that they're HIV positive, what does that look
Speaker 1: Like? Just support, I would say support them. Talk with them, you know, ask 'em different questions. Ask them how they, how are they feeling? Checking in. Definitely checking in. Not always bringing it up. You know, you don't have to always bring up their condition, but definitely just checking in with them, being a actual friends to that person. Especially that they've, they're shared, shared something with you that has actually like changed their life mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you know, no matter what that diagnosis will [00:18:00] change, change your life, everything for you. Yeah. You
Speaker 3: Know. What do you wish somebody would've told you? Like if you could go back five years ago, what do you wish somebody would've told you about this journey? Somebody would've told you about your health. Yeah. Somebody would've told you about the decisions that you make. What do you wish somebody would've told you? Diagnosis day?
Speaker 1: I honestly wish someone would've just sat down and told me to be more careful out here. Especially dealing with older men because it was actually, it was actually a older guy Wow. That I was dealing with. And mind you, I'm [00:18:30] just in high school, but I'm dealing with this 30 plus year old man. Yeah. So just to be more careful with older guys because you may think you may trust them. Mm-hmm. And you may think you can trust them and because they're older, they got it all together. Yes. You know, all of
Speaker 2: These things
Speaker 1: <laugh>, but they're, you know, they can be some snakes too. And you just have to be careful. You just have to be careful.
Speaker 2: <laugh>, that is the episode in itself. <laugh> 16 snaps that cause no. So very similar story. [00:19:00] Really. Well an older guy. And it was so crazy when I went to tell my mother mm-hmm. <affirmative> and I was like, chow, I was doing my slow breath. Here she goes, she gonna be a black mama. And she about to be dramatic <laugh>. And it was so funny because my friend has a, has a play out. And in the play the mother says it exactly what my mother says it. I sit on the table, I'm like, mom, I need to talk to you. And she's like, you don't have a virus, do you? And I'm like, what is black moms? And saying the virus, like, what y'all talking about? Like they about am and then y'all all like, like what are y'all talking about? The [00:19:30] virus? Sure. Mom, I have hepatitis. Like, no.
Speaker 2: Okay. So, so she's like, you have the virus. So I'm like, yes. And she tells me she discloses to me at that time that, and I remember the guy having a sister, I remember one time he was like dropping me off and we had to take his sister to work mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And she's like, yeah, his sister called me and she told me like, your son gay. And I was like, well <laugh>, I don't think you need to hear that mom <laugh>. Oh. But she's like, your son's gay and he's messing with my brother and my brother has aids. Mm. You know, then they were saying things like full-blown aids. Mm-hmm. [00:20:00] <affirmative>. Yeah. It's very ghetto times. Yeah. He like, you know, he, my brother has full-blown aids and he's not taking his medication and he's trying to take as many people down as he can. She was like, and I know your son's in college. Wow. I remember picking him up from the campus and I told my brother to leave him alone and he wouldn't, he won't stop messing with him. And she was like, I couldn't say nothing in the car, but like, you need to get your son. I was like, well mama there damnit <laugh>.
Speaker 3: Right. Why didn't you ain't say nothing?
Speaker 2: You ain't, so me and my mother had never had that conversation. And so back to your point, Leah, there's so much hush hush. Yeah. There's so much back to the point where like [00:20:30] stigma in a whole another area prevented us from being able to have that conversation. So, exactly. Kudos to that conversation because a lot of us, a lot of our introduction because of stigma, it opens up the door for people being predatory, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, like in a, in a world before Grindr, in a world before Jack, most of us, us was getting on these regular party lines. Yeah. And who we were being introduced to my first was 25. Yeah. After that I was dating 30 year old men who were married, who were Exactly. And you're so young and you feel like you're so bad.
Speaker 3: Is that common though? Like, is [00:21:00] that common?
Speaker 2: Yes. Why?
Speaker 3: Like what? Like, I, I guess for me, you know, and granted people are preference are their preference, right? Yeah. But what is it specifically that makes it, I guess, desirable in, in that community to, to want to date like the, the, the such a drastic age difference. Not that it's not done in heterosexual communities because let's be real. Yeah. You know, it does. But I'm interested to know like why that seems like a common thread.
Speaker 2: A lack of safe space. So if I'm 14, I can't have this conversation at all with my mother. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Wow. [00:21:30] Okay. Then I'm getting on these spaces where you think these, these older guys, when they see you, you are Mark, they see you, you like, oh, easy. I can get him to do whatever. Cuz you're young and you think you know everything and you do not have the experience Yeah. To match whatever you feeling in your body. Yeah. And so do you wanna mess if, if you are somebody, especially these DL guys, especially these guys who wanna go in and out, it is, it is advantageous for you to get a young person that you can mold mm-hmm. <affirmative> Yeah. Into the partner you want mm-hmm. <affirmative> as opposed to dealing with someone who is fully [00:22:00] realized like, I come with you going due like I'm out.
Speaker 2: Yeah. Yeah. And I'm not coming back in. Yeah. I, I come with regulations, I come with boundaries. That's hard to navigate. Yeah. For a lot of people, you know, we are not, we are not little Susie and Bobby. We don't get to, we don't get to develop normally when it comes to relationships. So we didn't get to, while y'all were like holding hands and writing my life, we were suppressing who we were. Yeah. And you'll meet a lot of people. I'm 34, so meet a lot of people my age who don't have a lot of relationship experience. If they had any relationship experience Wow. At [00:22:30] all. Yeah. And people judge our community a lot and talk about the hookup culture, but they don't realize it's all we had, like, many of us would've given anything to be, I remember the first time I was married at the time, I'm not married no more.
Speaker 2: Y'all <laugh>. I had to let them know, okay. Cause you don't know who I here watching. But I, I remember being married, I was at the moment with my husband and we were looking over the balcony and I saw these teenagers mm-hmm. <affirmative> teenage boys who hands, and then a little while these two little girls walked, they were who hands And I am crying at the mall because I was like, I don't know what that was. Like. [00:23:00] I never had puppy love before. I never had, everything I had even then was predatory. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And I thought it was puppy love. And you look back like I was being conditioned, I was being ruined. I was being, oh my god, my memories are ruined. Like you, I never had that. And I remember a boy asking something that would've gotten you canceled today. He asked, he was like, can I bring my boyfriend to, to the dance?
Speaker 2: And they were like, and that was a very progressive school. I went to a charter school at the time and they were like, we have to ask your parents if it's okay with everybody mm-hmm. <affirmative> what say that now. Right. Say [00:23:30] that now. And so I, I see that, and I think that that does play into a large part of like, what it means to not only be living in queer or living msm living with HIV, all of those things play in because there is some abnormalities in development mm-hmm. And an opportunity to develop
Speaker 3: Safely. No, I I never thought about that. I never considered that. But that makes a lot of sense.
Speaker 2: We don't even consider it cuz nobody articulates that. Yeah. Like there's not even a safe space that you just created right now Yeah. For me to have that, this is such a rare space where we even get to have that conversation. [00:24:00] Yeah.
Speaker 3: Positive voices.
Speaker 2: Positive voices. Positive voices.
Speaker 3: Yeah. No, and I think that that's, that's great that you all can, can see that and identify that in the community. Because again, Malachi, you and I have had conversations offline where I was like, you know, I, I never met a gay man who's like, I'm waiting till marriage to have sex. Yeah. Or, you know, I never met a gay man who's just like super conservative in that space. And we were talking about the difference between obviously like conservative and, and, and, and queer kind of go on [00:24:30] the opposite sides of the spectrum as far as what they stand for. But I think, you know, that brings a lot of perspective to people as to why you see that in the community. Because I never really thought about kind of like a deferred type of like love if, if you will. Like
Speaker 2: We've seen the sexuality first people, and that's when I separate and, and I I have a question for you based on this mm-hmm. <affirmative>, because when people ask me, like, so people ask me sometimes like, why do you accept that people can be msm, meaning men who have sex with men and not be gay? And I'm like, well, because my queerness, my gayness is not about who I have sex with [00:25:00] alone. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I, there are men who have sex with men and they don't feel anything for men. So they wanna say that they not gay and they just msm or they like whatever. That makes sense to me because what I feel is more than just like sex, but we are perceived sex first. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, the first thing people think about when they think about being gay is what kind of sex we have and who we looking and laughing with <laugh>. And that's the way we treat each other. Right. That's why we are afraid to navigate once you find out you're positive because dating for us don't look like what's your favorite color.
Speaker 1: Exactly.
Speaker 2: You top, bottom verse.
Speaker 1: Exactly. That's
Speaker 2: [00:25:30] What it, that's a person birthday. And that was my question for you. That is true. Do you think that's why it's harder? Do you think if we had a more heteronormative experience that it would be easier to live with HIV and date with HIV
Speaker 1: I think it would, I think it actually would because it'd be more like, it'll be more intimate instead of, like you said, top bottom verse like the first thing we ask when we get on the apps or trying to meet people or even walking past roll or rubber. Exactly. Yeah. Top bottom verse,
Speaker 2: Not good morning.
Speaker 1: Exactly.
Speaker 2: [00:26:00] Roll or rubber. Ah, I gotta make the decision right now. <laugh> <laugh>.
Speaker 3: So does it in y'all's mind, is it harder to date in that sense? Because like for me personally, if I'm on a dating app and a man mentions sex within the first five minutes of the conversation, I'm immediately removed, delete, unblock, unmatched. Like, I'm not into it, but it sounds like that's the damn icebreaker for y'all
Speaker 2: <laugh>, you know? Yeah. And that's, that's the, that that's the, the privilege of a different experience. Mm-hmm. Cause if you, if you're experienced, you would be [00:26:30] conditioned to believe that you lead with this. Again, remember we're 14, 15, we just be talking to grown men. They're immediately, the conditioning isn't that nobody ever taught you that you had a separate and the absence of our, of adults, the absence of trusted adults, the absence of leaders, when people think that they are doing their big one by holding on to God and changing hand and not, not, you know, feeding into us, our us our gayness, our queerness, our homosexuality, what you're doing is you're leaving children unprotected. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you're leaving them to be developed in an area blind leading the [00:27:00] blind. We're either learning from our peers or we learning from people who stand and gain interest in making us, molding us into what they want us to be. So you would be conditioned to be like sex first. Mm. Even even in in places, even in times where I was not having, like, I'm not having sex with any of y'all. You gonna wanna have your pos your sexual position on your profile, you gonna wanna have what you, you gonna have to have that on there or you not gonna talk to nobody because this is the way the community
Speaker 3: Is. That's like, that's the part that's like mind boggling to me. You know what I mean? I think it's just unfortunate [00:27:30] because to be honest, even if that's really not your, your nature, right? Like even if you truly are not that type of person where that's like what you trying to lead with, to your point that leaves you in the deeper bits of the dating sites, which is already, you know, hard to make a connection. Cause let's be real, it's all physical, which, you know, there's a, there's studies that say that technically, you know, dating apps where it's simply swipe aren't super successful because it's purely off looks. You can't truly gauge whether you're gonna connect with somebody by the way [00:28:00] they look, they might look great. That doesn't mean that they're an ideal match for you just because they look great. So, you know, that alone is not truly the essence.
Speaker 3: And I'm not saying people can't beat online hook up and it it take them somewhere. There are people that, that have happened to which great for them, it's not my testimony <laugh>, but I ain't, you know what I'm saying, <laugh>. But to me it's just kind of unfortunate because again, to your point, the the, the privilege of it all, I've, I do get the option to be like, hmm, I'm not interested in that and that's immediately a no for me. Whereas, you know, on, on [00:28:30] these apps that y'all are on, it's not giving the opportunity to not be sexual first. And I think that's like a missed mark because again, yeah. You really could connect with somebody, you know what I mean? Like, and again, we're talking about putting HIV status on a thing. Well you see that I'm swiping the other way because I don't know, but I've never got to know the person.
Speaker 3: I've never got to know who you are. Yeah. So even on the, on the terms of if we're just talking about disclosing HIV status to meet somebody or on the plains of just like getting to know [00:29:00] you as a human before I decide if you a top bottom reverse, you know, those things are, it's unfortunate to me when I hear, um, people in the LGBTQ community talk about that because I do think that there's missed marks. And again, heterosexual couples do it too. There's just, you know, a difference. I think that there's a little bit more etiquette, but that's the etiquette for y'all's space. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Yeah. Um, but I I, I find that I disagree with that just because there's just more to people than your status. There's more to people than [00:29:30] what you like to do in the bedroom. So that, that's an interesting perspective for
Speaker 2: Sure. And I appreciate you giving voice to that because there are so many, well maybe not so many, but there are some <laugh>, there are some queer that are very much in that bracket of like, you know, waiting to have sex for whatever, to whatever
Speaker 3: Extent that is. Right.
Speaker 2: Right, right. You just don't always get visibility or voice in those spaces because people will treat you the way they see you. Yeah. And so they see us as, they see your community is hypersexualized. [00:30:00] Well that's what you're gonna get. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> here,
Speaker 3: So mm-hmm. <affirmative> and then like feeding into that though, like what does it look like when you feed into that, that stigma when you, I mean, not that stigma, but when you feed into that stereotype, what that looks like. Because again, you can't even show up as yourself if you truly aren't this hypersexualized person. But you want companionship like stepping up into the format for that. I think Yeah. That, that's my thing. And I get everybody's not on that. Most apps are hookup culture regardless of who they are, who the, [00:30:30] you know, the users are. But I just kind of wish it was a little bit more depth to the Yeah. To
Speaker 2: That. Greg, what's the nine hookup apps?
Speaker 1: The nine hookup?
Speaker 2: What are the na bats?
Speaker 1: Ooh. I don't know. I don't think I know all my
Speaker 2: <laugh>, so, okay. I I was, I think I I was a hinge.
Speaker 1: I know.
Speaker 3: Oh, I hate hinge snips,
Speaker 2: But you definitely hit me up one. What Hinge You put your status on
Speaker 1: There though. Oh, hinge. Okay.
Speaker 2: Really? So you put your status on there. So once you put that up, it's like, well child, I guess we, you know, I
Speaker 3: Never even seen that. Yeah. [00:31:00] Do they only do that for gay men? I got on know, we gonna look at our apps and figure out,
Speaker 1: So I'm gonna have to download it cause I didn't see that.
Speaker 3: I've never seen that. Yeah.
Speaker 2: Oh yeah. They put it on there, it is on there and then it, it, it welcomes a certain demographic. They find no one. I ain't,
Speaker 1: What's the demographic? They welcome.
Speaker 2: What's the demographic? They welcome.
Speaker 1: Yeah. They welcome the
Speaker 2: Same demographic as like tenure.
Speaker 1: Yeah. Oh, gen
Speaker 2: Not yet. It's not as heavy on that. So I would say the same demographic as Tinder, but I tend to find that even the guys who want [00:31:30] to just hook up, they're more refined. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, oh, on, on Hinge. Hey, real nice on Hinge. Yeah.
Speaker 3: Well people say that Hinge is like the, the real dating, like if you want a date. Date, yeah. Because there's like levels, right? Like the Tinder is straight hookup, you know, the, the Bumble is like, that's cute and I wonder how Bumble works for y'all because you know, Bumble is technically supposed to be the woman swipes and, and engages with the man first.
Speaker 2: I don't think Bumble it's,
Speaker 1: I never seen Bumble
Speaker 2: Heard when it comes to Bumble.
Speaker 3: Oh, y'all are not, yeah. Well, [00:32:00] okay. Bumble. Yeah.
Speaker 2: So speaking of like, kind of what we're talking about with the hookup apps, it's really like a sex positive culture. Yes. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> sex positive culture, you know, meaning like, yeah, we are giving people's autonomy of their body. We are supporting whatever decisions people make, <laugh> and, and and allowing them to have sex. How do you think sex positive culture affects or fits in people living with HIV? Mm. Or does it or does it or does it? I
Speaker 1: Believe it does, depending on how a person looks at it. Because when you're being sex positive, you should just [00:32:30] be open. I mean, I feel like be open to all, you know, whether you are using a condom with it or not. So like if you hasn't disclosed or mm-hmm. <affirmative>, if you're sex positive, you just strap it up and you're just actually having sex with, I will feel whoever. Yeah. Correct me if I'm wrong though.
Speaker 3: Yeah. I mean I think to your point it's, it's perspective which, you know, we've talked about disclosure and like, you know how that looks in your, you you said five years [00:33:00] in, you're still trying to navigate, you know, dating and the way you date. Yes. At this point, are you disclosing upfront? You said a month or so, but like if you get, what, what is your like threshold for disclosing? Like is it like I go on a couple dates, I'm feeling you? Yes. Or if I know we about to have sex Yes. Or not even necessarily for having sex. Like what does that look like for
Speaker 1: You? I would say I go on a couple of dates and then yes. Like I need to get a feel of the person first. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, like I said, even if we do may have sex that one time, I'll definitely, [00:33:30] I'll have the condom. You know, you don't always have to bring a condom. I'll have it because I'm the one that wanna, I wanna protect you, but I also wanna protect myself. Yeah.
Speaker 3: Speaking of protect yourself, talk to me about your journey medically speaking. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, like what has it been like for your care? What does it look like, you know, over these last five years? Like how, cause let's be real, like black folk don't go to the doctor. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, they do not <laugh>. And so, you know, when you get this type of diagnosis, how does that change your perspective on how you see healthcare?
Speaker 1: It changes like, kind of drastically. [00:34:00] Yeah. Like I had to like actually say, okay, I have to go to the doctors every three months to make sure that I'm still undetectable. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I have to go to the doctors every three months to make sure I haven't accumulated another sexually transmitted disease, you know, aside from H I V. Yeah. It just made me wish I had to do it, you know, aside from that, okay, I can go to the doctors once a year, <laugh>, get a, get a physical. Right. I'm fine. Blood work done, I'm good. Yeah. But, mm-hmm. <affirmative>, it changed when, you know, HIV came into [00:34:30] play cuz it's like, wow. And now I have to go get this prescription. If I wanna take my medicine, I gotta go to a prescription. But I will speak on like recently about actually not taking medicine.
Speaker 1: Just like getting to a point where as though, you know, I had got maybe stressed out again and I stopped taking my medicine and I had a conversation with my doctor, I wouldn't have seen her. And she was like, well Gregory, I don't want you to just play with it. Like, if you're gonna take the medicine, you have to take the medicine, but if you're not then just right now for [00:35:00] your mental and your mental health, then don't. And it actually, that helped me a little bit because it was like, okay, I'm not, it's not like I'm forced to take this. It is still a choice. But yes, I do choose health and yes, I choose to take my medicine. So yes, I am back taking my medicine now. Yeah. But yeah, I think I, I felt like I needed that break. Just thank
Speaker 2: You. Thank you for sharing that point. I think that's really important. And just to get into the why she told you that is because you definitely want people to, if whatever choice you're going to [00:35:30] make, make a choice that's going to keep you safe. And a lot of people don't realize that start stop thing that you feel like it's just a personal choice. Yeah. Now once you get into that medication, that exactly. You, you run the risk of building resistance. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And when you build a resistance, it's not just to that drug, it's every drug in that class. Yeah. So we wanna, we'd rather you take a break cuz you going through whatever exactly than to build a resistance and now we have to have a whole nother care and treatment plan for you. So definitely appreciate you sharing that. Thank you for coming and being vulnerable. Yes, you're welcome. But we really appreciate you having this conversation. We don't take it lightly. Where can people find
Speaker 1: You? Facebook at my name [00:36:00] Gregory Meredith Instagram. I think I am on there as the reinvented queue. Okay. And that's just the queue. Yeah. But that's where you can find me. Don't have too many platforms right now, <laugh>, but they're growing, you know? Yeah. As time goes on, so Absolutely. I'm excited.
Speaker 3: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And we thank you so much for stopping by A Positive Voices. Of course. Again, using your story to help elevate people. And again, if you're watching or listening, please make sure that you guys use the hashtag Positive Voices. We [00:36:30] want to know what you think about Gregory's story, you want to share some of your insight or some of your experiences. We would love to hear from you. Also go to the website, it's Go there. We have resources, we have a survey that you can take and we would love to hear from you. So again, thank you Gregory, we appreciate you. And listen, we'll be back on another episode of Positive Voices. I'm Leah Henry. This is my co-host,
Speaker 2: Malachi Stewart.
Speaker 3: And, uh, we will see you next time.
Speaker 2: Bye.
Speaker 3: [00:37:00] Positive Voices is produced by Chris and Tiana. Our production team is led by C3 Creative Agency.

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Gregory Meredith

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