Post submitted by Beth Sherouse, former ACLS Public Fellow, HRC Senior Content Manager
Soon after Khafre K. Abif was diagnosed with HIV in the early-1990s, he discovered the power of living openly and working to uplift the voices of others living with HIV who were, for whatever reason, unable to speak up for themselves.
Even so, he has often found his own voice and identity being marginalized because being an openly bisexual and HIV-positive Black man in the 1990s and 2000s – and even still today – carried with it many problematic assumptions and stereotypes.
“Working in the lesbian and gay community,” he explains, “there are so many misconceptions about what bisexuality is and about who bisexual people are. They say we’re ‘on the down-low.’ But for me, knowing that I was positive made me even more aware, whomever I was with, of how I was going to protect them and protect myself.”
These stereotypes about bisexual Black men, Khafre explains, create “some major blind spots” when it comes HIV prevention, care and education.
“We’re talking about PrEP but we’re really only talking about it for men,” he points out. “What about my female partner? I’ve been with the same woman since 2001. She’s still negative, but why is it that we look at the rates of HIV among Black women and that’s not offered to them as well?”
As an advocate, Khafre shares his own story as well as the stories of others living with HIV/AIDS. In addition to writing blogs for thebody.com he is currently working on several anthologies collecting the voices of groups like women, heterosexual men, transgender people, and youth living with HIV.
“Collecting and sharing those stories is what’s important to me,” he explains. “If a story comes to you, you care for it, and you give it away where it’s needed. There are so many people out there living in silence and isolation with HIV, so if someone out there can read something I’ve written, one of these stories, and that can help their journey and bring them out of isolation into the light and affirmation, then I’ve done my job.”
He has similar goals for sharing his own story.
“For me, it’s about being transparent; It’s about being honest, about being open,” he says. “It’s about knocking out people’s stereotypes about what people living with HIV look like, talk like, think like. It’s about standing in my truth, standing up as my authentic self and being proud of who I am.”
HRC is committed, through a collective effort, to ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic and helping secure the health and well-being of people living with HIV, particularly LGBT individuals. To that end, HRC is proud to present a new blog series as part of our #BeInTheKnow campaign -- calling attention to the impact of HIV and AIDS on the LGBT community and amplifying the voices of those most affected by the epidemic.
Look for more posts throughout the rest of the year as part of our #BeInTheKnow blog series. Share your own stories in the comments below and on social media using #BeInTheKnow.
Headshot by Duane Cramer