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How This Black Gay Millennial Helped Bring U=U to the White House

How This Black Gay Millennial Helped Bring U=U to the White House

photo by Kollin Benson
Photography by Kollin Benson

At 28, our Person of the Year, Deondre Moore, has already made enormous impact in the fight against HIV. And he's just getting started. 

2022 was a big year for Deondre Moore. While the community engagement expert and public speaker has been dedicated to helping improve the lives of people living with HIV for nearly a decade now, this year Moore — in addition to being honored by LGBTQ+ organization GLAAD — was able to bring his message all the way to the White House.

As a partnerships and community engagement manager for the Prevention Access Campaign (PAC), Moore was instrumental in getting the Biden administration to officially endorse the U=U movement. 

PAC was originally founded in 2016 by activist Bruce Richman with a goal of creating awareness around U=U, or “undetectable equals untransmittable.” U=U is a scientifically proven fact which states that an HIV-positive person who is on treatment and has an undetectable viral load has zero chance of transmitting the virus to a sexual partner, even without the use of a condom. This fact has been incredibly freeing and stigma-reducing for people living with HIV and speaks to the importance of drug adherence — so Moore and PAC’s goal is to spread the word.

photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images

Deondre Moore speaks onstage while accepting his GLAAD Award in May in New York

In addition to our federal government, U=U is now also endorsed by over 1,000 organizations in 105 countries, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Moore says if he had to describe this past year and the work he’s done in three words, they would be: “policy, partnerships, people.”

He explains how public comments he made (along with several other HIV activists' comments) at the President’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) meeting this past March would set the wheels into motion of bringing the message of U=U to the White House.

“Please recommend that the White House officially endorse U=U, so that the U.S. can join Canada, Vietnam, and other countries across the globe in choosing science over stigma,” said Moore at the PACHA meeting. “With your leadership and support, we can measure, optimize, and scale up the impact U=U has on improving the health, well-being, and emotional wellness of people living with HIV. This will also prevent new transmissions. Embracing U=U is a win-win.”

Moore says things moved swiftly after that.

“The following week I was approached by the [White House’s] Office of National AIDS Policy to provide my written transcript [of my comments] to share with them,” Moore says. “Which is what sparked the beginning of conversations with HHS, Dr. Fauci, and the CDC to coordinate a collaborative effort with U=U to announce their support and plans to integrate U=U into programming and federal guidelines.”

photo by Kollin Benson

photo by Kollin Benson

Moore poses on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on a recent trip to Washington D.C.

The White House officially announced its endorsement of U=U and its planned implementation of it into all related HIV programs at the International AIDS Society’s AIDS 2022 conference in July, for which Moore was present. And, for his integral role in pushing the U=U initiative as well as his near decade-long career in activism and community leadership, Moore was also honored with a GLAAD Award this past May.

And of course, Moore wants to “credit the entire U=U team” at PAC, which he says has plans to restructure and expand in 2023.

He explains that PAC’s U.S. team is currently “undergoing some rebranding, renaming, and restructuring. As we grow, our commitment and mission also grow. We realized that over the past six years our organization has made some huge strides, and now it is time to take things up a notch. We plan to expand our focus and reach to becoming more inclusive of ‘status neutral’ work and directions to further advance our goals of ending the HIV epidemic in the United States.”

“We also want to ensure our community members and stakeholders have a say in what our path forward looks like and will be engaging with them over the next few months to hear the needs of those we serve,” adds Moore. “So for now, we will continue to be known as the U=U organization in the United States.”

Considering Moore is just 28, it’s pretty amazing to see how far he’s come. But that seems at least partly due to the go-getter’s nature to take action rather than a backseat in life — which is exactly what he did when he was diagnosed with HIV as a 19-year-old college student.

After absorbing the initial shock of his diagnosis and receiving the love and support of his mother, Moore says his instinct was to help others going through the same thing. He started with providing peer outreach and support for other young people living with HIV on his college campus. By speaking out and not hiding his diagnosis, Moore says he felt “layers of shame [and] layers of weight being lifted off my shoulders” and realized that there were others out there “who might not have the same support — but they need to know that they’re still loved and that they still matter, and they’re valued.”

With many of his peers still partying and just starting to ponder their futures, Moore admits that his level of ambition and activism (which has included getting shot in the chest with rubber bullets by Minneapolis police for peacefully protesting at a BLM demonstration) can be exhausting and draining at times. He often must remind himself to practice self-care.

photo courtesy Deondre Moore

Moore douses his eyes with milk in attempts to relieve the pain caused by pepper spray used on the crowd by police at a peaceful BLM demonstration

“Even this past birthday, I spent it in the house,” he says. “I try to find time to disconnect from things and folks when I can. Typically, I always still have my laptop with me, or I’ll check my emails here and there, but my biggest self-care practice for me is traveling outside of work travel. I do travel a lot already, about 60 percent of the year because of work, but I try to find some time for personal travel — or at least personal time to enjoy the cities or countries that I’m in.”

As for the future, Moore says he sees himself continuing to create progress and change on a political level.

“I definitely, absolutely do think that there’s a future for me in politics and the political sphere,” says Moore excitedly. “I’ve always wanted to be involved in politics and doing this work makes me even more passionate about it...from the Black Lives Matter process to human rights activism to fighting for women’s rights — and just human rights.”

photography by Kollin Benson

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