I graduated high school in 2003. While I was in high school, I was an out and proud young gay man. I knew of the HIV/AIDS crisis, although being from a small country town in Texas, I never knew anyone who was affected by it. I did however feel it was my responsibility as an out and proud gay man to volunteer and give back to the community. I started volunteering for everything, gay film festivals, suicide hotlines, queer youth groups, rides, runs & walks for the cause and safer sex education.
I was a gregarious young man, and I was happy to talk with anyone. This helped me when I would go out to the bars and clubs and distribute condoms packs* and talk about safer sex and free testing. With all of my volunteering and eagerness to help others, I was lucky enough to get a job at an incredible non-profit AIDS Service Organization in Austin. This job was fun, exciting and always entertaining. I got to bond with so many of our awesome volunteers, and help create change for the community. That was back in 2005. Here it is now, 11 years later and I am still loving every moment of it. I have been called the condom king in multiple cities(That’s a few other stories), and have grown as an outreach and public health specialist.
I will be going into many of the stories I have from these years of HIV Prevention work, as well as many of the exciting side projects I have accomplished too. Working in Public Health you will constantly be surprised, sometimes in good ways, more often than not in uncomfortable ways. I have been called a saint and an asshole. I have tested terrified youth, cheating spouses, new couples, old lovers, friends and more. I have had condoms thrown at me, clients try to slip me money and people asking for a hug when it was over. I have tested at clinics, drop in centers, youth center, hospitals, night clubs, bars, giant vans, in a tent, at private sex parties and at sex clubs. I have told thousands of people their HIV negative status, I have also told 57 people their HIV preliminary positive status and 55 their confirmed HIV Positive status. I have had clients who refused to talk to me, others who wouldn’t stop talking to me, some have tried to kiss me, some have tried (unsuccessfully) to seduce me.
Working in HIV prevention, outreach, education and testing is an incredibly rewarding career. I have met so many people from so many different walks of life, and I love it. Being able to provide a service to people who might otherwise not get these medical services is beyond words.
I hope you all enjoy my life thus far, I know I have.
*Condom Packs contain 2-4 condoms, lube and literature in a 2×4 zip top baggie