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Episode #6: Self-Care and HIV

Positive Voices


Self-Care and HIV

February 6, 2023. 36:14

Self-care is an essential part of maintaining your mental, physical, and sexual health. This week, hosts Leah and Malachi speak to Anne and Jerry from Heart to Hand, where a healthy you is a sexy you! Join our deep dive into why self-care is so necessary and how knowing your needs can better your self-care journey.

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Speaker 1: That's to To live basically. Yeah. To live and have a good life, a good quality of life where you can still do all the things that you dream to do.
Speaker 2: Welcome to another episode of Positive Voices. Super excited to be here today. I'm your host, Leah Henry. And my pronouns are she her.
Speaker 3: My name is Malachi Stewart, and my pronoun are, is he him, his. And we're really excited today to be talking about self-care. So I wanna introduce our [00:00:30] guests, Anne Wiseman and Jerry Washington. Tell us a little bit about yourselves and what you do.
Speaker 4: Hello everyone. My name is Anne Wiseman. I am the Deputy Director at Heart to Hand, which is a local organization in Prince George's County. We support people who are living with H I V, but we're a really more sexual health and wellness organization. So we have everything in the Ryan White list of things to do, or most of the things. And then we also have a sexual health and wellness clinic where you can get integrated HIV and STI testing.
Speaker 1: [00:01:00] Awesome. Yeah. Jerry? Yes. My name is Jerry Washington. I'm also a part of the staff at Heart to Hand Inc. I am the CDC Linkage to Care Navigator there. And I provide prep services, testing, counseling. I'm linking the individuals to care and just find many resources to help out the people that we serve.
Speaker 2: Yeah, that's awesome. So I want to, this episode today is about self-care. And I think when we, there's this like internet trend where everyone's talking about self-care, right? But what does that really look [00:01:30] like when we're talking about HIV? And, you know, Malachi and I talk and we've had guests on this podcast and there's, there's so many things that go into living with HIV. I'm excited to talk to you guys today about, you know, the people you serve and some of the services that are out there. Because when we talk about self care, I think people think of spas and we think of, I don't know, burning a candle and taking a bubble bath. But your physical health is equally as important as your mental health. So can you guys start by just talking about some of the services that you all provide to people who [00:02:00] walk in to, um, your space and, and talk about how self-care kind of applies to that physical element?
Speaker 4: Yeah, so I definitely agree Leah, like the spas and lighting candles and, and doing deep breathing is definitely a part of self-care, but self-care is also work. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And so it's important to remember that you have to kind of put in the work. So some of the things that we do to support that self-care includes, we have a psychosocial department, [00:02:30] and so we work with folks on their mental and emotional health. We can support them around doing maybe short-term counseling, but also connect them to long-term care. Within that program is also some support around substance use and substance abuse, or for people who use drugs. The, the best part about it is it's non-judgmental. So it's really meeting you where you're at, which I know can sound cliche, but it really is about where are you today? How are you feeling today? And taking stock [00:03:00] of that, but also doing some planning with you. So where do you wanna go and how do we help you get there?
Speaker 1: Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, and I like to say, when I speak to customers, I like to tell them that I'm your partner on your sexual health journey. And here there's no judgment. I'm not here to yuck you young. Cause when we think about sexual health Yeah. And sex in general, we think about the regular normal sex. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> and, you know, being a person that's not from dc coming to DC Right. Learning about different types [00:03:30] of relationships, whereas's, nonmonogamous relationship, multiple partners, different things like that. So just giving individuals who come through our doors, that space to know that this is a safe space to just be whatever it is that you are. And we are here to help you in whatever capacity that is. So,
Speaker 4: Yeah. And, and I just wanna thank you for that because the, having, being able to have pleasure in sex is also a part of self care. Amen. And so being able to, you [00:04:00] know, let's just talk about that. Like you Yeah. We, we talk about a lot of things from a prevention perspective, but let's talk about the reasons, right? So you wanna be able to have pleasure and then how do we get you there?
Speaker 2: Yeah. Yeah. And I mean, I guess in your line of work, I mean, what does the balance look like as, as providers for these types of services? Because the reality is, is people are gonna have sex. Right? We know this mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And I think it was an important thing that you said that putting the pleasure, and I'm sure people who are living [00:04:30] with hiv, honestly, it's probably a constant, you know, thought in the back of your mind, whether you'd like to admit it or not, you want a sense of normalcy when it comes to sexuality. And so talk to me, how about how you all guide people in their sex journeys living with HIV and, and what self-care looks like pertaining to that?
Speaker 4: I'm gonna let Jerry,
Speaker 1: Well, when I talk about sex in, in the room with the customer, I make sure it's very light, very fun. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And I be [00:05:00] transparent, like, I love sex too, right? I like to get sex as often as I can. I'm a person living with HIV as well have been for 20 years. So I like to lead and to relate people with my own personal story. Be transparent and just let them know that you are in a great space and you can ask any questions that you would like to ask. Yeah. And we can talk about anything from, from, from, you know, male on male, male on female. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you know, I even talk about how I identify as being pansexual. So I'm that person [00:05:30] that no, no matter what you say or bring up in a room, I'm there with you and I'm here to be that supportive person.
Speaker 4: Yeah. Yeah. Definitely. A lot of our services and, and for folks living with HIV and also for folks who are not living with hiv, I think it's, it's one of the thing unique things that we do is we offer that same amount of support mm-hmm. <affirmative> and that same space so that you can talk about kind again, where you wanna go, how, how you wanna be. Cuz it's, it's, we wanna make sure that you are [00:06:00] able to have your best sex life mm-hmm. <affirmative> and be safe, you know? So, you know, let's talk about that in a, in a way that is supportive. Yeah.
Speaker 1: Yeah.
Speaker 3: So as a person living with HIV, I am, first of all, it struck me when you talked about like, and you hit on, hit the nail on the head, really about like self-care also it, I it integrates into your sex life. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I wanna hear more about that. I would love to unpack some of that. Like, I am living with HIV I come in, gay is all outdoors. As [00:06:30] you see <laugh> and I'm sitting here and I'm talking to you a and j like how, how do I incorporate healthy self-care, healthy, you know, hygiene into my sex life, what would you tell me?
Speaker 1: You know, it's about what your needs are, you know, and also protecting yourself at the same time. And so, and to be honest with yourself, with your needs, you know, being a person who is very sexual and living with HIV I don't stop having sex. And for me it's, [00:07:00] it is spiritual as well. Yes. So we talk about self-care. Sex is self-care for me. So when I'm having sex, it is a release. It relieves stress. It allows me to go to this place spiritually. And so it's just a, it's a matter of my personal preference and, and, and that when it comes to self-care. But sex is definitely a human need, first of all. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And we cannot just say, just, you know, cover it up. Like it doesn't exist. Sex is important to humans. [00:07:30] And so, you know, it's, it's okay. It's okay.
Speaker 3: Yeah. I have a question for you, Jerry, cause I'm interested in, in your thoughts around it. I was having a conversation with a friend and we were talking about just how much, like humans need so much like non-intimate touch, right? Mm-hmm. And then a lot of times as gay men, it can feel a little bit siloed in that you don't always, sometimes the only time you get those touches mm-hmm. Is through sex. So sometimes, you know, you wonder, and a friend of mine we're having a conversation, he's a therapist, [00:08:00] so he kind of says like, I'm on the hookup app right now. He said, and I don't know if I'm on here because I'm horny or if I'm lonely. Mm-hmm. And I just, it's been that long since I got a hug mm-hmm. <affirmative>, and I'm interested because my response to him was, well, does it matter?
Speaker 3: Mm. Because either way, this is how, the quickest way and the most bright available way to you to get that need fulfilled. Maybe we don't need to judge ourselves. Like, we ain't getting no hugs, baby, come on, call that man over John Doe, come on in. [00:08:30] Fulfill the need. What are your thoughts around that? Is that self-care? Is it knowing like, listen, I just need to be held and this is my means to get it, but can't change the community <laugh> mm-hmm. <affirmative>, but I can, I can do this thing for myself. Is that, does that look like self-care?
Speaker 1: It looks like self-care to a, you know, a certain extent in my opinion. Because again, it's about the need that you have and, and how you go about trying to fulfill that need. The question is, is it healthy?
Speaker 2: Mm. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, there we go. Come [00:09:00] on, talk about
Speaker 1: It. That's the question. Because personally, you know, I'm a person that likes to be touch, touch, touch, but it doesn't mean that I wanna be penetrated or penetrate someone. Absolutely. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So touch is a very important aspect, but you can get those that touch from different avenues and it's goes back to self-care, eco 33 massages. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, a spa, a best friend, a hug. So there's different ways that you can, you know, fulfill that need of touch in a healthy way. But, you know, based on [00:09:30] your question, you know, it's a matter of, is it what you're doing is healthy Yeah. For self
Speaker 2: Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Yeah. And, and mentally as well. Because I think when you, the, the source, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, like of course we all agree sex is a human flesh nature. Like as humans, we want, we, we strive for sex, we thrive for sex, right? But I think when we're having that conversation about the nuances between like, by any means possible, I'm willing to do anything, to receive some [00:10:00] type of touch, affection, or even sexual stimulation, I think that's where, you know, for me it, it kind of becomes like a little questionable. And I think that that's why it's, when he says healthy, is it healthy? The, the root of like, where we're going. And you know, we've had conversations on this podcast just about, you know, the way that I sometimes deem the, the gay community or the queer community to be overly sexual in, in nature of just like their apps and the way, you know, Malachi has talked about, you [00:10:30] know, on your profiles, the, the first thing they're talking about, are you a top, a bottom of her?
Speaker 2: Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. It's not even, Hey, how are you? What's your, you know, because I, I said, if, if a man jumped on the dating website and immediately asked me what position I like, or am I gonna be on top or bottom, I'm blocking his Right. I'm blocking him. Right. <laugh> like quickest. Yeah. Yeah, yeah. But, but you know, because to me I'm that offended. But, you know, as Malachi told me, that's, that's kind of the energy of the community. And so it makes, to your point, the health, the, the mental health component [00:11:00] of that. And you know, with that being said, talking about protection in that avenue, um, you know, of course we're gonna always say like, have safe sex, have, you know, protect yourself. But when we're, I think there's something we're not talking about when we're talking about that mental component mm-hmm. <affirmative> of, of protecting yourself as well.
Speaker 2: You know, regardless of how you view sex. Some people find it, you know, religiously streamed. Some people find it where it's just a personal decision. But like, how do you tell your clients to like, [00:11:30] protect themselves? Not in the physical aspect, but that mental and emotional capacity. Because that to me is where I think that, you know, people can claim that they can have sex with any and everybody, and it is what it is to them. But you want to touch, you're on this site cuz you just want a little affection. Right. Or you want a little, right. So what do you tell people? Because I think that there's, like, there's something my generation is not talking about and that's the, the part that, that gets me, honestly. Yeah. Like you can
Speaker 3: Cool, you wanna have sex
Speaker 2: With everybody, fine, but do y'all see [00:12:00] what I mean? Yeah. There's something there.
Speaker 4: Yeah. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, that's where the work comes in. Yeah. I, in, in my opinion, I think that's where the work comes in. Yeah. So, so understanding what you need out of this relationship or out of this interaction. Yeah. There is something to be said about skin to skin contact mm-hmm. <affirmative> and in my, you know, 20 years working in this and being an advocate in this, in this field mm-hmm. <affirmative>, that's when we talk about, you know, remember you use condoms all the time. I was mm-hmm. <affirmative>, there's something to be said about skin to skin contact. Right. [00:12:30] Right. So understanding what both, what the consequences are before, during, after and after. After. Yeah. Right. Yeah. And and what, what are you trying to get to, you know, what need are you trying to fulfill so that you can enjoy it before, during, and after. So you can sit in the after globe.
Speaker 4: Right. So if it, if it, if it really is about, listen, I'm just in it for the o like mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I just wanna, I just wanna do what I need to do. [00:13:00] Yeah. Then understanding what that means. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, and again, that's where the work comes in. But if I really need hug, if I really need intimate touch, is there a relationship that I can, that I can nurture where there's a mutual understanding, is there a friend that I can nurture with some benefits? Like, which is a mutual understanding like right, this is what I need and I need it with your energy. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you know Yeah, absolutely.
Speaker 3: From you. Absolutely. It's a cult. It's a change in culture. Right. Because it is, when I think about my response to, to my friend at that moment, but it [00:13:30] changed something for me because I was like, my response was in the moment of like, well I can't change realistically speaking and I'm very affectionate. I don't really touch my other gay male friends. We don't mm-hmm. <affirmative> friends who I have platonic relationship with. Who? And that we've always just had platonic relationships. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, we don't touch, we're not very physical. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I don't know why that is. Mm-hmm. Never thought about it until he said that. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And so in the moment that you need this thing right now, I'm like, just don't judge yourself, you know, while you're gonna go get it. Grace. And it made me, I [00:14:00] actually was like, okay, in the same way I have people in my phone I can call to hook up.
Speaker 3: It made me like literally put people on my phone to like when I need to cuddle. Yeah. And I wanna say it changed the game for me. Yeah. Like I now, when people were like taking me on days or wanting to be like in a serious relationship, I measure it so differently cuz I feel so poor. Like I'm getting what I need. Like not just sexually, but like emotionally when I need to be held, I can call somebody. This is not a relationship. We have understanding, we're communicating, we know what this is. Yeah. And I'm a human. I need to be held today. Yeah. [00:14:30] And that like, that is self-care. Like, and I didn't know that I, I could have that. Yeah. I didn't know that that was something that I deserve. Yep. Yep. Right. So I appreciate the work you do.
Speaker 4: Yeah. Advocating for yourself is self-care advocate. Say what you need, say what you need
Speaker 3: And even to know what you need. Yeah. Even that like level of exploration. I'm not sure that we were always given permission as a people. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> as a generation. I just don't know if people were always given permission to like say what you need in a way that's non-judgmental in a place that's safe. Yeah. To just like, we're [00:15:00] not here to unpack and judge it. What is it you need? Yeah. What makes you feel good? What makes you feel whole Yeah. And healed. So Yeah.
Speaker 2: And especially sexually, I mean, let's be real women. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> have been oppressed for years about their sexual wants and needs on any side of the spectrum you're on. So we're just now seeing this kind of sexual liberation of women where we're openly seeing the conversation of sex and then not be so like demonized. Cuz I mean, you think about 20 years ago there was not a song called WP coming out like that <laugh>. Right. You know what I mean? There was not a WP Right. We weren't talking about, you know, and it being socially acceptable [00:15:30] per se. So I think like, we're definitely starting to see a movement on the lines of self-care. You know, we talked about this in some of the other episodes, but, you know, treatment and making sure that you are staying in a space where one of our guests said, and I thought it was so good, you know, taking your medicine as a form of self-care mm-hmm. <affirmative>.
Speaker 2: So talk to me about, you know, how you all in your day-to-day, um, work, you know, ensure that the people who are living with h i v who are in front of you, how do you, you know, [00:16:00] show them? Because we've talked about kind of people being resistant of taking the medicine or, you know, struggling with that mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So how do you encourage people to continue to take medicine? So it is a form of self-care or that they, so they can see it in that way because obviously, you know, different people respond differently to this diagnosis.
Speaker 1: Yeah. I look at the, when I have conversations I speak to 'em about, look at the bigger picture. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> look at the longevity of the reason why it's important to be adherent to your medication. [00:16:30] That's the, to live basically. Yeah. To live and have a good life, a good quality of life where you can still do all the things that you dream to do, whether it's going to school, get that degree. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> have a family, all the various things that we as individuals desire to do. And so for me, taking the medication when I express to other people, it helps me to decide to plan and to look at the future as being a positive one. [00:17:00] Because I'm taking care of myself through taking this medication. Mm-hmm.
Speaker 4: <affirmative> mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And I think working with, with working with people around what are you, what are your reasons? Why, why would you wanna take this medication? Yeah. What does it mean to you? Because getting, getting a common agreement, it may not be the same reason that I think you need to take the medication. Right.
Speaker 2: Right.
Speaker 4: That's good. That's good. It's not about me, it's about that person. Yeah. So what do you need? What do you wanna get [00:17:30] out of this? What are your, you know, and what are the struggles in taking the medication? And then try to, to meet somewhere. Yeah. So that we can figure out together what it means for you to take this medication. And then how do you also navigate through the pieces that aren't so good? Or that you may not, that may, that you may struggle with.
Speaker 3: Yeah. I, I'll always be an inherent specialist at heart. Like that's really my, my my jam. But you, you speak to my strategy mm-hmm. <affirmative> and people will always ask like, how do you get the patients? I don't get the [00:18:00] patients to do anything. I meet people where they are. Yeah. Yeah. And if I'm talking to you and your main issue day to day is housing insecurity, then I can't come into your face talking about the importance of taking the medication. Yeah. Now what's more important to you right now? What's the most important thing to you? And what you realize is that as you meet people's needs the best way you can mm-hmm. And you understand what their life is like. Like I understand the life of someone who is having survival sex and couch and couch surfing. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And that you can't have this pill bottle because this pill bottle speaks to something [00:18:30] that can affect housing security for you.
Speaker 3: Right. Right, right. So if I talk to you about adherence and the importance of it to your body, well I have not addressed you and met you where you are. Right. But if I can give you something on your key chain, it looks like a key chain. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> piece that's real cute. But underneath it, I could fit a whole bottle of medication, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative> and I'm holding the other bottle part at the office. If I can set up D O T and you can come in every day at this facilitated, what can we do? If I can do pill packs and things that don't have names on it, we can rip these labels off. You know, whatever we had to do to make this person feel safe. [00:19:00] That's meeting people where they are. And it sounds innovative, but it's like a common facts. Yeah. <laugh>,
Speaker 4: How about that? It's harm reduction. It's harm, it's harm reduction too, right? Yeah. Yeah. So, you know, back in the day we, if I, I'm not gonna be able to get you to maybe use condoms every time you have sex just by giving you just by a 20 minute conversation that I just met you. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Yeah. But I can talk to you about using more lubes so that there's, you know, less tearing. So it's that same approach. Absolutely.
Speaker 3: Absolutely.
Speaker 4: Like, I'm not gonna change your mind maybe in his little [00:19:30] conversation, but how can I, how can we work towards it?
Speaker 3: Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Yeah. I used to love to ask people, like when I ask about condom use, I would love to hear like why or why not? Only because that answer is gonna tell me whether that's gonna change. <laugh>, there
Speaker 4: We go.
Speaker 3: What's a non-changing answer? <laugh>. If someone is like, I don't use condoms because I don't like the way it feels. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, they are not going condoms. Mm-hmm <affirmative>. That's likely there are apparitions. Nothing is, but like they're most likely not. So let me move to the next level. So are you, are you in Cheryl Discord inordinate relationship? Are you in Cheryl discordant relationships? Meaning [00:20:00] that your partner is, has a different status. So maybe they're negative, you're positive, maybe you're positive they're negative. Yeah. If that's the case, are they on prep? Have you guys thought about prep would, if you had not thought about prep, what do you know about P E P Or say exposure lactic. So that's something totally different. Like okay, you won't take the pre-exposure, you don't wanna take a pill every day. Are there moments where there is tearing? Are there moments where you did notice?
Speaker 3: Would you take p e p then would you take this post-exposure? Here are the numbers to call. Like, and really tailoring this to their experience. [00:20:30] Harm reduction. I'm getting the best out of you I can get for what your lifestyle is already. And that's most effective. Yes. Because trying to come in and disrupt somebody's like sex life people gonna do what they going to do. And in the moment you gonna have the experiences you wanna have. And I support your experience. I support you having good sex. Sex. And when people feel like, I will say, even when you do get changes, cause sometimes there's a pendulum swing that that will gag you. Yeah. It's because people, they realize you have their buy-in because you weren't, you weren't trying to. Yeah. And what [00:21:00] I'm teaching you is, it's one thing to say that you're in the driver's seat.
Speaker 3: It's one thing to say that you should be the advocate for yourself. It's another thing to show you mm-hmm. <affirmative>. It's another thing to teach you. Like, I will, we will change the way this medical visit goes based upon what it is you say you need. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> if you need housing today, we are not talking about nothing else. Yeah. Let me, I have, I have, if we have an hour appointment, usually it's not <laugh>, but we have 15 minutes and 15 minutes go through these resources but works for you. 15 minutes of us getting like the quickest thing. What shelters work? Let me tell you what they look like. I've worked with them a couple times. Here are the places that, that are [00:21:30] for people who are working in this amount of classes, what you need. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> And that buy-in for people now makes them like, so what's this you talking about? Right. Right. What's this medication thing? You know, because you heard me and you saw me. Yeah. Yeah. And that's what we all run. Right. To be heard to the scene, to be validated, affirmed. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
Speaker 2: Absolutely. You know, I want to go back as well, in some of our former episodes we've talked about the trauma with the diagnosis. And I think that self-care is healing, right? I think we're in this space now, social media, everybody wants a soft life and everybody wants [00:22:00] to heal of traumas and be, you know, a generational curse breaker. But I do think that um, you know, healing is truly a part of self-care. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So your jobs of course are the resources, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative> and to help people out. But the reality is, like you said, everybody wants to be seen. And I think that there is a form of trauma that comes with this diagnosis at times. So talk to me about how you guys and your work tailor not only your care to being resources, but truly helping people through this healing journey. Go
Speaker 1: Ahead. [00:22:30] Well, great question. I help them again, through my live experience and transparency, first of all. Yeah. And secondly, I provide resources, whether it's a therapist or some type of resource, they can help them with their mental health. Right. Because just because someone's going through doesn't mean they have to be medicated. Cuz not every situation it is more medication. Some people just need someone to talk to and have that safe space to talk to someone and to process and to, you [00:23:00] know, dig through some of that stuff that they've been through. And so, you know, being a person who's experienced childhood trauma through life and, and domestic violence and many other things, I understand what their journey looks like. And it doesn't happen in one day when it comes to healing. Yeah. Healing is a journey. And so showing that love, showing that compassion, showing that I care and then providing them with the resources as a follow up to that is how I serve the customers.
Speaker 3: Mm-hmm.
Speaker 4: [00:23:30] <affirmative>. And I think organizationally we've, in the, in the past maybe seven, seven years or so, have taken an organizational approach of changing policies and doing training with staff. And so understanding cultural humility, understanding trauma-informed care and what that means. Mm-hmm. That's good. And, and continuing to go around and reteach it or coach around it and understanding when someone is triggered, it's not about you. Mm-hmm. It's not about you. Yeah. It's [00:24:00] really creating that space for that person and and giving them some grace and understanding that we're all going through things. So understanding your own triggers too. We just came out of a pandemic. Yep.
Speaker 4: We all have some stuff going on, right? Yeah. Yes. And so giving yourself some grace, giving the folks that you're working with some grace, understanding trauma informed care and what that truly means, again, helps to make it a space where somebody can come in and be seen and and kind of understand that I'm safe here. Yeah. And, [00:24:30] and if they don't feel safe, there're acknowledging that and saying, you know what, let me get you to a place where you do feel safe. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And do that without competition or without listen. Where can I, where would you like to go?
Speaker 2: Yeah, that's good. Cuz I also think people don't probably take into consideration, especially treating patients with HIV, is there's probably a lot of savior complexes in the medical industry. There's a lot of people who assume that they can help you help yourself. And so I think that's a great observation mm-hmm. <affirmative> to make. [00:25:00] Speaking of resources, I know y'all have plenty on hand, but could you tell us some resources because we want people to know in the DMV area what is available for them and what they can have. And I love that you talked about trauma care because the reality is, is as black people, most of us have trauma and we not even just talking about on the HIV front, all of us got a little something mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So, um, tell us about those resources that people can find and, and get in touch with.
Speaker 4: Yeah, absolutely. Do you wanna start?
Speaker 2: Go right ahead.
Speaker 4: Okay. Well, I mean again, we're, we're located in Prince [00:25:30] George's County and so we are one of the largest community based organizations and we have a lot of partners that are federally qualified health centers, but we're one of the largest community based organizations where folks can come to get sexual health. So we are located at 97 0 1 Apollo Drive, right near Kaiser in Largo, Maryland. And our website is heart to And you can definitely come to us as we said for both HIV care and STI testing and treatment, but also for education. [00:26:00] We have a great linkage to care team that can support folks. So even if you're not ready to get into case management today, yeah it may have, may be nine months down the road, but we can still engage you in care and in conversations make sure you have what you need. Mm-hmm. And then we work with a lot of partner organizations in the county. I love Prince George's County. We, our resources aren't as robust as mm-hmm. Washington DC Right. So, but we do have resources and partners where we're able to connect you. If you do need [00:26:30] to be connected to care or you feel more comfortable in a different setting, then we're happy to get connect you to those resources.
Speaker 1: Yes. And heart to hand I like to highlight is a one stop shop, so mm-hmm. <affirmative>, we have a doctor there, we have a pharmacy, we have case management, we have navigators again, like we have harm reduction cycle support. So everything that you really, really need mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you can get it there. We provide prep services. So I always highlight we're a one-stop shop. You come in, you get all your [00:27:00] needs met and if there's something that that's outside of our scope, we will refer you. We are connected to the resources that's out there.
Speaker 2: Yeah. And I love the fact that it's free 99. I don't feel, think we talk about that enough mm-hmm. <affirmative> because one of my friends was just talking about how costly out of pocket getting S T D , S T I tests are and you know, technically they say every three months if you are sexually active and you know, most insurance cover that once a year thing. And so, you know, I took my tail on down to County Health Department and got tested for [00:27:30] everything. Yeah. Just because, you know, we're doing this podcast and I felt like it was important for me to know my status before I sit up here and tell people I'm negative and I don't know <laugh>, you know what I'm saying? Like, let, lemme go make sure before I'm getting on this podcast telling folks stuff. But no seriously, you know, it was free, it was easy. I, I was in and I was out. But I think it's so important because so many people do not know their status. Mm-hmm So most people don't get s STD tested. STI tested. And the reality is, is you know, when you ask men to do that, sometimes they get offended. But I'm like, baby, if it's free at the county, [00:28:00] you ain't got no excuse. Yeah. But Malachi, you also know some resources as well cuz you work. So you, you hold the DC side down a little bit.
Speaker 3: Listen, speaking of free services, Uhhuh, <affirmative>, if you are in DC you can access services to get checked So here you'll be able to find, we will provide home testing for H I V, for other s STIs. We also will provide testing at LabCorps. So you can just go onto the site, you will self-select like the date, the lab court that's closest to you and we'll get you set up. [00:28:30] We do not bill insurance, we're not asking you insurance information. Amen. Here's some other things we provide though. We can get you linked with the clinic. So if you want to get on prep, we'll take the test the same day, get you started with prep. We also can get you linked with P P P P as a post-exposure prophylaxis. So if within the last 72 hours you've had some high-risk behaviors, you're feeling a little uncomfortable, you're like, maybe I should go ahead and take something to prevent HIV depending upon the behaviors.
Speaker 3: We're happy to have that conversation with you and to get you started on that, my favorite thing that we do is we provide free condoms. We [00:29:00] will meld them to you. The block will not be hot. Yeah. We will send it to you. It will be very discreet. That is my favorite part of the services. So get check log one. You can also email us if you have any questions. We are happy to help you navigate through those services. And that leads me to a question I wanted to ask right before we close because you talked about self-care and a lot of us and you talked about representation as well. Yeah. You know, working, a lot of us represent us. Yes. A lot of us represent this field. We take up the space. We are the ones, [00:29:30] we are the care navigators, especially bottom heavy.
Speaker 3: Right. We're using the community health workers. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, how do you recommend we apply self-care to those vic carrier traumas? And I asked because I was not prepared in 2000, this wasn't 2022, but I wasn't prepared in present day when I first became an adherent specialist. A part of accepting people's agency is accepting that some people don't want, they want to, they want to expire. Yeah. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, they don't want to [00:30:00] and, and or they want to not take medication at the cost of that. And they've accepted that already. And I was not prepared for the emotional response of seeing people my age. Mm. Like watching them week after week we're coming and it just, I didn't know it was going to hit like that. And it took me like it, it, the, those first couple ones took a hit and I think it's because you expect if it's 19 90, 19 95 even to see that, to see someone dying [00:30:30] of advanced H I V in present time and you know that it's preventable but this is their choice and you have to accept it's their choice.
Speaker 3: And I'm supporting you. And listen, I was the type of retention specialist once you tell me you made this choice, there are pockets and places that provide money for funeral services. Let's start talking about that now. Now I've shifted gears. That's what I'm doing in my work. But at home I'm like, ah, I believe that. Oh my god. They go like I, it was horrible coming into work and hearing that your, your patient passed. [00:31:00] It was a lot of vicarious trauma. I don't think I did the best job of taking care of myself cause I didn't know any better. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, what advice do y'all have?
Speaker 4: Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. That's good. I think from, so again, I'm gonna talk from an organization's perspective and this is a culture shift that we've, we've made is you get the same care when a patient has passed that you're working with that then if you're great-uncle has passed or your cousin like you get that same tender care because this is somebody that you've [00:31:30] worked with. This is, this is something that you're experiencing. And so we really take that time, go home, take the time, what do you need? If you need access to grief counseling, then we'll make sure that you get it. Um, it's important to nurture yourself around that. When I came in the field, same thing. I came in working with young people and one of the things I'm with you, once you've told me that you've made that choice, then I'm, I'm like okay, how do we support you in this other part?
Speaker 4: Right? Because [00:32:00] one of the young people that taught me that lesson was like, miss Anne, if I had breast cancer and I made this choice then people would be rallying around me. But why is everybody getting on me? Because it's H I V and they're trying to force me to do something else. Wow. Mm-hmm <affirmative>, that's all you had to say, girl, I got you. Mm-hmm. You know? Yeah. So it's important that we listen but then we take care of ourselves. Cuz that's still, and this has been 20 years, maybe 20 years or 15 years and it still gets to me and I'm still talking to her like, okay, [00:32:30] I'm still in this. I got you. So it's really important that we take care of ourselves.
Speaker 1: Yeah. Yeah. It's very important. I haven't had firsthand experience dealing with someone who just refused to take their medication or anything like that, that will lead to death. However, I have experienced people that I serve die with other comorbidities such as cancer. And so even in that, when you build a relationship, cuz you do build a relationship with the people that you serve and especially when you serve them for many [00:33:00] years and then they just, you know, they die due to some sickness, it still affects you in your day-to-day work. And so you have to take a moment to just, you know, take time off, get yourself together, feel what you need to feel. Mm-hmm <affirmative> talk to whoever you need to talk to, whether is a therapist or your supervisor or someone like that. And then regroup yourself and come back. That's the best advice that I can give as relates to that because it will affect your job, it will affect the way you do your [00:33:30] work with the people that you serve if you don't really deal with the emotions that come behind it. So
Speaker 3: Absolutely.
Speaker 2: Yeah. Yeah. No this conversation is good in that, that story you told is, I think it's very telling it. It definitely humanizes the experience. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> for sure. You guys have been great today, so thank you guys so much. Let everybody know again where they can get more information and they, they can go receive some of the services you guys provide.
Speaker 4: Sure. Heart to and then you can also, we have sexual health [00:34:00] and everything, which is our campaign and you can get sneaky link kits. So we do also do
Speaker 5: Free sneaky, we also do free condoms and Yeah, I'm just saying Lou condoms all that. Yes.
Speaker 4: And that is at, she is the and you can go on there and request your free sneaky link kit. Ooh.
Speaker 2: Marketing. I got
Speaker 5: Sneaky. Ok, I'm gonna make sure you get
Speaker 2: It. Okay. If
Speaker 3: Send me a sample, I will be in the live show y'all. I will show y'all the samples. Y'all see what you gonna get in the Sneaky Link [00:34:30] package. Y'all got some Colu?
Speaker 1: Yes I do. Okay. I just got
Speaker 3: So I need that. Yeah, <laugh>.
Speaker 2: Thank you. I'm so here for that. Okay, well listen, mal, let them know the website cuz you know I'm not gonna remember to save my life. Gone. Listen,
Speaker 3: The website is
Speaker 2: Yes. Make sure you also use the hashtag Positive Voices because we want to hear from you. We wanna know what you think, tell us how you demonstrate self-care. And thank you so much for joining us on Positive Voices.
Speaker 6: Bye.
Speaker 7: [00:35:00] Positive Voices is produced by Chris and Tiana. Our production team is led by C3 Creative Agency.

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Additional Episodes

New episodes weekly. Next release: February 6.

Bonus Content

Unboxing Video

Watch Leah and Malachi unbox a sneaky link kit from Heart to Hand, Inc.

New episodes weekly. Next release: February 6.

LinkU Health and Resources

LinkU is a free and easy-to-use resource to help you find local services, including help with HIVprevention and care. It is DC, Prince George’s County, and Montgomery County’s goal to makesure everyone who lives, works, and plays in the DMV area can access the services they need.

Meet the Guest

Jerry Washington
CDC Linkage to Care Navigator &
Wellness Ambassador Program Coordinator
Heart To Hand, Inc

Jerry L. Washington, Jr. is a seasoned and passionate public health professional with more than 10 years of experience in human services and personal care. He identifies as a black, gay cisgender man who is thriving from HIV. Mr. Washington has served North Carolina communities in Greenville, Raleigh, and surrounding areas for 8 years – working to connect those living with HIV/AIDS to care and create safe spaces for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning (LGBTQ+) community. Mr. Washington has experience working for and navigating government agencies, community-based organizations, and universities. He has expanded his reach to the D.C.-area as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Linkage to Care Navigator and Wellness Ambassador Program Coordinator, serving the cisgender men and women heterosexual community for Heart to Hand, Inc.

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