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‘Testing Is Knowledge. Knowledge Is Power, and Power Is love.’

After receiving his HIV diagnosis, Gjvar Payne began planning community events and working to educate others in his Baton Rouge community about HIV. Eleven years later, Payne is the deputy director of the Capitol Area Reentry Program, Inc., an organization which supports people living with or at risk for HIV/AIDS, incarceration, mental health and substance abuse. The organization does so by providing the community “tools to empower themselves, to enhance their quality of life, reduce recidivism and the spread of HIV/AIDS and STDs.”

Payne is a part of AIDS United’s first-ever cohort of the Fund for Resilience, Equity and Engagement and the Transgender Leadership Initiative Leadership Development Program. These leaders were chosen through AIDS United’s grantee partner organizations as representatives of transgender and gender-nonconforming people and Black gay, bisexual, queer and same-gender-loving men — populations in our communities most disproportionately impacted by HIV.

“It is my desire that our community will focus on their health holistically,” Payne said. “We all are well when we begin to protect ourselves, which in return protects our community. Testing is knowledge. Knowledge is power, and power is love.”

We caught up with Payne to learn more about his story and how he works to mobilize others to stop HIV together

How did you get into this work?   

It all began after my diagnosis and not wanting any other individual to feel how I had felt. I started to plan a World AIDS Day event at the local night club that my friend helped manage. I had a dream that I had a party that educated the community on HIV and getting tested. I also knew I wanted free HIV/AIDS testing inside the club so no one would have an excuse not to be tested. I approached the executive director at my case management agency, and she offered me a contract for community outreach coordinator for the MSM community. It was through that opportunity that I saw a job posting of a new peer navigator position at another organization in which I have been working with for 10 years now serving the community.

How do we start to reduce the barriers preventing Black GBQ/SGL Men from accessing care?  

Drugs, homelessness and lack of education — all of these can be addressed by hosting a series of conversations and events throughout the community. 

What are some of the challenges preventing Black GBQ/SGL Men from being in executive leadership roles? What are some of the solutions to addressing those challenges?

Older CEOs set in the past and a lack of funding are challenges. There needs to be a new wave of younger men and women groomed for leadership roles — and their opinions asked and taken seriously as we are the ones living this daily. Then, we must seek funding to support these roles and pay what we deserve based on knowledge and experience.

Posted By: Helen Parshall - Tuesday, February 25, 2020

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