Alleen King-Carter has used her life to spark change and dialogue about HIV. She is the founder and CEO of Living in 3-D, an HIV education organization that produces anti-stigma initiatives across communities. A state-certified HIV counseling, testing, and peer facilitator, King-Carter began her career at the Philadelphia Center in Shreveport, La. But while her life has been widely centered on activism, she’s the first to tell you that finding her voice took effort.
Even while King-Carter was working in the HIV sphere, she tells Plus that she was still closeted about her status. It wasn’t until she attended the DREAM Symposium Retreat several years ago that a fellow advocate helped her realize a larger calling.
“During a breakout session, my shero Monica Johnson said, ‘I don’t have time or T cells to stress about how someone else feels about my HIV status,’” King-Carter remembers. “She was the first openly positive woman I ever met. She was open in her truth and encouraging, confident, no filter. She helps so many, including me. I thought, If she can help people living with HIV by just being bold and telling her story, I want to be like her.”
The next year, King-Carter had a huge HIV coming out party to celebrate her birthday. Little did she know that soon she would meet a man named Bruce Richman who would alter the course of her activism.
While attending the “HIV Is Not a Crime” conference, Richman posed this question to King-Carter and other attendees: “Did you know that if you become undetectable while taking your meds, science says you can’t transmit HIV?”
That one sentenced struck a chord in King-Carter. “[Richman] told me where to find the research, and so I did,” she says. “I became angry. Why hasn’t anyone told me this before now? He asked after knowing the science, would I be willing to speak out on film and support the movement. So, I pulled out my smartphone [and] ranted about the B.S. of it all. Then I joined the founding steering committee for U=U. I thought, If they can’t tell the truth, we’ll tell it for you.”
Now a U=U ambassador, King-Carter has pushed the movement to new heights, leading with the message that the quicker a person starts medication, the sooner they can become undetectable. She’s also been a staunch critic of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for failing to do proper outreach to those most in need.
“The CDC and other federal agencies did PLHIV and all humankind a disservice by not supporting and promoting the true science of U=U,” she says of the years prior to October 2017, when the agency endorsed the consensus. “Now, they have finally embraced U=U, but after years of not telling the truth. Many—on their watch—did not obtain access to care because who in their right mind would take meds, attend appointments, and take care of their health, when eventually it didn’t matter because they could always down the line harm the people they loved? Although it is untrue, that’s the myth their unwillingness to tell the truth promoted.”
Looking to the future, King-Carter knows that things are changing swiftly. This time, poz folks are leading the conversation.
“U=U is for the people by the people,” she says. “People living with and affected by HIV/AIDS said that since society won’t tell the truth about our health, we will! I believe the future of U=U will reflect all people, be in all languages, in all regions of the world, told by people living with HIV.”