From the Baltimore Sun…
Charles Quamina sat in the spotlight on a dark stage with his long, blown-out locks falling over his shoulders and told the story of how he believes he contracted HIVfrom a cheating boyfriend.
He said he was in love — so much so that he and his beau stopped using condoms. He sighed heavily and raised a red flag as he hit parts of the story where he should have recognized that his boyfriend was not as perfect as Quamina wanted to believe.
The talk at The Motor House in Station North was part of “Baltimore in Conversation,” an initiative by the city’s Health Department to better understand the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people and how the obstacles they face affect their health. The hope is that sharing their experiences will help foster better sexual health practices and awareness. Health officials also want to erase stereotypes and stigma about the LGBTQ community.
“Data is very easy, but storytelling brings us to the point where we are human again and we can share our deep-seated issues with each other,” said Kehinde Bademosi, who coordinated the conversations initiative and handles social innovation and social marketing for the city’s Bureau of HIV Services STD/HIV Prevention Program.
The city recently embarked on an initiative to have an HIV-free Baltimore, but program administrators say obstacles such as homophobia, transphobia and serophobia — fear of and discrimination against people living with HIV — create barriers that contribute to the spread of HIV. Public health officials have begun these conversations to help them understand what prevents Baltimoreans from seeking medical care, Bademosi said.
“Baltimore in Conversation” is focused on the populations most affected by HIV/AIDS in Baltimore: African-American men who have sex with men and African-American transgender persons, Bademosi said.