I spent some time this summer binge-watching Pose on NetFlix. 

And I have to admit, I was hooked!

This series gave the impression that anyone diagnosed with HIV in the 1980s was standing at death’s door. And because I know how far HIV treatment has come today, I was curious to see where it all began.

Pose: In summary

Pose is an exclusive look into the New York City “ball culture” created by the LGBTQ+ community in the late 80s and early 90s. These events were known as balls because attendees were dressed to the nines and engaged in lip-syncing, modelling, voguing and theatrics like never before seen. 

The experience -because there is no other way to describe it- created a sense of community for those who were shut out by their biological family because of sexual orientation.

The main characters, Blanca and Pray-Tell found that they were HIV positive at the beginning of the series. They were constantly reminded that the virus would lead to their damnation when close friends and loved-ones succumbed to the virus. 

via GIPHY

The series highlighted segregated hospital wards for people living with HIV and AIDS – an unsettling reminder of bathrooms in the Jim Crow era. 

The inhumane burials in pine boxes on a remote island off the coast of the Bronx for fear of the virus infecting others.

And zidovudine (AZT) the sole drug available at the time, only available to elite groups who could afford it. 

But you know what they say, “don’t believe everything you see on TV.”

So of course your girl had to fact-check some of these details to understand the reality of this crisis.

I was surprised to learn that much of the show depicted the reality of persons living with HIV and AIDS in New York City in the late 80s and early 90s.

My in-depth research into The Hart Island -the remote island where persons with AIDS were buried- led me to tears. The Hart Island Project provided an interactive map of the island to help to restore humanity to the men and women lost. The website included the names and ages of identified persons and allows friends and family to add stories about their life.

I strongly encourage you to visit this site.

A great deal has changed since then. HIV is no longer a death sentence but for many in the Caribbean, the stigma still exists. It is about time we educate ourselves and strike a Pose in solidarity with those living with this virus.

Services and Testing sites

This World AIDS Day the World Health Organization has chosen the theme “Global solidarity, resilient HIV services”. But let’s be honest, it can be difficult to find services or know what services to look for.

So we did some research and here are some resources for people living with HIV and their allies.

  1. GROOTS Trinidad and Tobago

A nonprofit organization in Trinidad and Tobago that provides psychosocial care for people living with HIV. This organization offers a variety of services including nutritional support and transitional housing for persons seeking aid. 

  1. Center for HIV and AIDS Research and Education Services (C.H.A.R.E.S.)

An out-patient clinic in Jamaica set up by the University of the West Indies that offers HIV testing and support. 

  1. GrenCHAP

A non -governmental organization in Grenada working to promote sexual health and human rights of the LGBT community. They foster an environment to provide linkage to heal and social services to members of this community without fear of stigma or discrimination.

  1. Ministery of Health

Your country’s Ministry of Health website provides information and resources for many disease states.

  1. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

For our family and friends in the United States, the CDC is a terrific source for services and can even direct you to the ones near you. The website contains programs that can help persons find:

  • Sites for care and treatment
  • Financial assistance for HIV Care
  • Housing and employment resources
  • Legal aid
  • Mental health treatment
  • Guidelines for travel

Wrapping up

While HIV services continue to improve, global solidarity can only be achieved by staying informed. It is our responsibility to eradicate the stigma that plagues our community. Speaking about HIV/AIDS with compassion and empathy is a start in the right direction. 

If you have any additional resources to add to this list, please feel free to contact us.

Updated December, 2020

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