Local Radio Stations Partner with ViiV Healthcare for HIV Town Hall
By Eva D. Coleman
Lifestyle & Culture Editor
You could hear the music long before entering the space where Urban One’s 97.9 The Beat and Majic 94.5, in partnership with ViiV Healthcare, curated an event with information that needed to be loudly heard. The HIV Awareness, Prevention & Treatment Town Hall at the Gold Standard Gallery Lounge in Dallas on Aug. 26 brought advocates, legislators and community leaders together for a conversation that is oftentimes crippled in the Black community.
The stats are known. HIV impacts Black people at alarming rates. The zip codes of greatest concentration for HIV in Dallas are well documented. Still, tainted mindsets around the disease overwhelmingly exist. “The stigma starts in the kitchens and living rooms in the places where these conversations should have started,” panelist and Texas State Reprsentative Venton Jones said.
Other panelists included Tony Billups of ViiV Healthcare, HIV advocate Jessica Glaspie, Ahmad Goree of Dallas Southern Pride / Abounding Prosperity, HIV advocate and writer Nthaniel Holley and Korey Willis of Abounding Prosperity.
They each shared their status, including personal stories of surviving and thriving with HIV. Gay, straight/heterosexual, young or old, panelists emphasized a desire to “shift the culture and normalize” that a person with HIV has no particular “look.”
“The biggest stigma that’s hard to erase is that it doesn’t happen to us,” Glaspie said.
As a heterosexual female, she shared that the person that gave her HIV was born with it. As a mother, she explained how it took her a few years to open up and share her story. Glaspie stressed the need to “know your status and know the status of your partner.”
ViiV Healthcare’s Billups expressed frustration with how people define “risk” or “risky” when it comes to behaviors and labeling of diseases.
“There’s a serious intersection between control and shame,” Billups said. “We need to even the playing field. We need to stop trying to shame people for what we have.”
An observation was made by panelist Jones, who has HIV, that most on the panel shared that they contracted HIV in their early 20s. Jones emphasized the importance of “having healthy conversations about health and sexuality.”
Abounding Prosperity’s Willis shared details of medications for HIV prevention such as PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) and PEP (Post-Exposure Prophylaxis) to which town hall host 97.9 The Beat’s Jazze Radio-Chica quipped, “You mean there’s a
Plan B for HIV?”
It was news to Jazze and many others in the audience.
With a clear focus on awareness, prevention and treatment, lots of information was shared during the town hall that can benefit many lives.
“We have to talk bigger than disclosure of HIV,” Representative Jones said. “When dealing with a community, (it’s about) being able to navigate dialogue about sexual health so people can get the help that they need.”
Resources are available. The event offered free HIV testing as well. Ticket giveaways to various events via raffle was also a perk, and light bites were also served.
The town hall also included performances by R&B artist Moni and a very fitting performance of the popular song “Self Love” by Jayson Lyric.
It was a great mix of Urban One’s commitment to music and harmonious health of the community.