News / Health

Washington Gay Rights Activist Positive About Testing

Washington Gay Rights Activist Is Positive About Testingi
X
July 21, 2014 7:16 PM
In Washington D.C.’s gay African American community stigma and fear are keeping many from confronting the HIV/AIDS crisis. We follow Christian Paige Bass, a young gay HIV positive man, who had his own fears about seeking treatment, as he encourages other gay men in the city to seek health services.

Christian Paige-Bass is positive in attitude and in HIV status. An activist in Washington, D.C.’s gay African-American community, he believes in confronting the HIV/AIDS crisis and related stigma head on, with solid information.

The District’s latest health report gives him more reason to be positive.

Surveillance data show “progress in combatting HIV,” says the report, released earlier this summer. They show the number of newly reported HIV cases decreased by nearly half, to 718, while more people sought treatment.  As of 2011, 2.4 percent or just over 15,000 of the District’s almost 618,000 residents were living with HIV. The number of HIV-related deaths dropped from 425 in 2007 to 251 four years later.

But stigma and fear still keep many from getting the health services they need, says Paige-Bass says.

Uncomfortable in hometown

He knows what it means to be isolated and ashamed.

Christian Paige-Bass promotes HIV testing and treatment among gay African-Americans in Washington, D.C.Christian Paige-Bass promotes HIV testing and treatment among gay African-Americans in Washington, D.C.
x
Christian Paige-Bass promotes HIV testing and treatment among gay African-Americans in Washington, D.C.
Christian Paige-Bass promotes HIV testing and treatment among gay African-Americans in Washington, D.C.

Now 33, Paige-Bass grew up in a small, conservative North Carolina town in which intolerance for homosexuality was all too common, he says.

“The word ‘gay’ was never used. The word mainly was 'faggot,' ” he says of the names he was called. “… I don't like that town."

In 2001, both Paige-Bass and his mother, an intravenous drug user, were diagnosed as HIV positive.

“They told me I had two years to live,” he says. At first he wallowed in misery and fear, he says. But he shifted gears. 

“You can’t just let it take you down. It was more so the fact that my mother was [HIV] positive as well, and I just had to do something to make her feel better.”  

When she died in 2006 of complications from AIDS, Paige-Bass again was gripped with fear.

He looked on the dresser and saw she’d begun filling her pillbox with the next week’s doses of antiretroviral medicine. Suspicion took hold as he looked at the pills, Paige-Bass says. “I remember thinking, 'This is gonna be the death of me.' And from that day forward I didn’t want to take any more pills."

A sense of belonging

Needing a change of scenery, he decided to visit some friends in Washington.

"I came to D.C. and I loved it,” he says. “I’ve seen all the gay people and the freedom they had. The things I could do. And I just ... I wanted to stay."

A change of scenery also changed his views about treatment. He went to Whitman-Walker Health, a D.C. community health center specializing in LGBT and HIV care.

At first, Paige-Bass "was really resistant to the idea of starting treatment for HIV,” says Justin Goforth, a nurse practitioner and the clinic’s communications director.

“I think that he had a lot of really emotional baggage around his mother dying of HIV, and the huge number of treatment and pills, really, that she was taking when she died. … And now he’s become an advocate for people being on treatment." 

Paige-Bass says a positive attitude makes a difference in delivering that message.

"If you take your medication [you will] still be healthy and still look good, and still be nice,” he says. “You can live long. You don’t really see AIDS patients [suffering] like you used to in the '80s.”  

He’s a firm believer in educating people about HIV/AIDS to allay their fears. “Use the word ‘HIV,’ people will stay,” he says. “Use the word 'I’m positive' and nobody’s going to move. But [if] you use the word ‘AIDS,’ it's like you're turning the lights on and the roaches are running." 

He works at 'clubbing'

Paige-Bass’ push for testing and treatment has made him a regular on Washington’s gay club scene. 

Christian Paige-Bass goes on modeling assignment with photographer Ajay Merriweather in Washington, D.C.Christian Paige-Bass goes on modeling assignment with photographer Ajay Merriweather in Washington, D.C.
x
Christian Paige-Bass goes on modeling assignment with photographer Ajay Merriweather in Washington, D.C.
Christian Paige-Bass goes on modeling assignment with photographer Ajay Merriweather in Washington, D.C.

Going to clubs is a form of work, says Paige-Bass, who makes a living as a model, musician, makeup artist and self-described “media maven.”

He gives them his health spiel and his contact information. “Some of them are there for a moment and then they’re gone, and they’ll text me when they need me,” he says. “But you know we’ll keep in contact."

Paige-Bass finds his own supporters at Bethel Christian Church, a Pentecostal church in southeast Washington that describes itself on Facebook as “Christian progressive.”

"We don’t want to call ourselves a gay church. We call ourselves radically inclusive,” Paige-Bass says. “We have transgender [members] and we have straights or heterosexuals as well who attend the church.”  

There, he’s often at the microphone. "I really love to sing,” he says. “I think God gifted me with a talent to being able to use my voice to sing."

And then, recharged, he uses it to carry his message of health advocacy and inclusion.

VOA’s Carol Guensburg contributed to this report.

You May Like

UN Fears Rights Violations in China-backed Projects

UNHCHR investigates link between financing development and ignoring safeguards for human rights More

Boko Haram Violence Tests Nigerians’ Faith in Buhari

New president has promised to stem insurgency; he’s scheduled to meet with President Obama at White House July 20 More

Social Media Network Wants Privacy in User’s Hands

Encryption's popularity in messaging is exploding; now it's the foundation of a new social network More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs