Preston Mitchum is a Policy Analyst, LGBT Policy, Center for American Progress. Congratulations to him for his moving and powerful public stance.
By Preston Mitchum
Hello. My name is Preston, and I am HIV-negative.
Typically you would hear this statement from someone elated to discover that they are not HIV-positive. But since I think there is an inherent danger with congratulating and privileging an HIV-negative status, I do not ask for a warm welcome. Instead, I ask for your indulgence of something rather difficult to write: I am a liar. Admitting this is extremely frustrating, not only because I value honesty but because I value myself. So in the most forthright way I know how, I want to explain my story, and hopefully people in similar situations will know that they are not alone in this journey of life and decision making.
My first time meeting Sharon Lettman-Hicks, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of the National Black Justice Coalition, was during the Out on the Hill Black LGBT Leadership Summit last fall. During our first encounter, she said three simple yet powerful words that continue to reverberate in my mind: “Own your power.” This is exactly what I intend to do while writing this post. And though divulging my truth may cause some disarray, it is my hope that this story will resonate with at least one person who understands that they should be neither embarrassed nor fearful of the known. In fact, the true fear, especially with HIV, is deeply entrenched in the unknown — an unknown that can be changed in a matter of minutes.
I will start by saying that I have good news and some bad news. The good news is that my last time being tested for HIV was National HIV Testing Day on June 27, 2013. But the bad news is that despite being sexually active since I was 18 years old, my last time was also my first time…continued