The HIV.gov Black Voices series was started over a year ago to share information on important social media and HIV-related topics for the community, by the community. All our bloggers have unique stories about living with and/or advocating about HIV. Today, we introduce you to our newest blogger: Kahlib Barton. In this HIV.gov interview, Kahlib reflects on his personal story of living with HIV and how he integrates social media in his HIV work.HIV.gov: Tell us a little about yourself.
KB: I am 24 years old and from a very small town called Marshall, Texas. I grew up in a conservative household and that reflected in my life and the decisions I made. When I tested HIV-positive in 2011 I dropped out of college and went home. But after being home for a while, I decided to move to Denver, Colorado to pursue a degree in social work. In Denver (three years after I was diagnosed as being HIV+), I got into care and began to foster a relationship with Children’s Hospital. Connecting to care was the turning point for me. It was then that I realized I wanted to work in HIV.
HIV.gov: What type of HIV work do you do now?
KB: I am currently running a varsity arts program for youth called ONE Imagination. It is a varsity arts team for the far northeast Denver that serves low income minority based households. It encompasses most aspects of art including theatre, visual arts, dance, choir, photography, and fashion design. I am also on the Denver HIV Resources Planning Council as the vice-chair. I am the youngest person on the council and sit in on conversations about Ryan White community allocations. As a member of All the TEA (Teach, Empower, Advocate), a group of HIV/AIDS activists in Denver, Colorado that focus on youth and legislative impact, I work with the AIDS United Prevention campaign to do testing and events around HIV awareness. I also work with an organization called TRADE, which is a support group for men living with HIV.
HIV.gov: How do you use social media in your HIV work?
KB: Social media, including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are the go-to resource for me. It is the first place I go whenever I need to make an announcement or proclamation because I can tap into so many people from my phone. In terms of my HIV work, social media has been a pivotal resource. It is how people find out what is going on, and I use that to my advantage. For example, in my work with AIDS United to raise awareness about HIV and AIDS, I helped create a video which we promoted on social media and asked people to engage and vote for it online.
HIV.gov: What advice would you give to those living with HIV and those who want to support those living with HIV?KB: I would say to someone who is HIV-positive looking to raise awareness, kudos to you for wanting to be an advocate. I would say pace yourself, because self-care is important. Always make sure you take care of yourself before you dive into the work.
For someone who is HIV-negative and looking to support the HIV community, I would say the true art of being an ally is to be a supportive listener. You have to be able to listen to the people you are serving.
HIV.gov: What would you say to service providers who want to reach gay black men?KB: If you are having trouble reaching gay black men, I encourage you to think about the representation of gay black men in your campaigns. When we visit social media sites and watch videos online, we want to see other people who look like us. Consider having someone who is from our community represented.
We thank Kahlib for his thoughtful interview, and we encourage you to continue the conversation online!