Dizz, a member of the Toronto-based band rIVerse, is ready to share his story.
On September 14, 2020, he went in for a routine sexual health check-up. "Due to some depression and a downward spiral, I had started to engage in some activity and behavior that was risky and self-destructive," a coping mechanism he picked up as a child.
That was the day Dizz found out he was HIV-positive. It was "difficult, challenging," he reflects. "I literally felt like I had died and everything that I was up until that point, it died away."
After he was diagnosed, Dizz anxiously called his boyfriend. "I was terrified that he was going to leave me, that my bandmates were going to abandon me, that I would have nobody or nothing, because I myself felt very much worthless, and like I was dirty, and I didn't deserve anything good anymore. Once I called my boyfriend, he really embraced me, and he was kind of like the first gem. The next day I saw my bandmates and they were the next gem, literally embracing me, letting me know that it's going to be fine and that I'm going to be okay, and it's not as big of a deal as it is in my head."
He recounts a narrative that he often heard group up.
"So you're gay, you get HIV, you die. That's really what I learned. Being a black male of Caribbean descent, particularly in the Jamaican community, all of that is the worst thing ever. Being gay is already the worst thing to them. When I came out at 14, I pretty much lost my entire family. My dad turned his back, my brothers, my sister. In my mind, the story of gay is one thing, but then to be HIV-positive, it's over."
At least that's what Dizz was telling himself "despite being aware of the advancements in the medications, and treatment and whatnot. That still stays with you, that resonates with you no matter what, because it's literally almost ingrained in your DNA."
Luckily, Dizz was able to shake off those stigmas. "I'm just super fortunate for other people and their strength who reminded me very quickly that, 'The story that you are now diving into, abandon it. Because it's a very different case today, in this day and age.'"
He spoke with a close friend, also living with HIV, who gave him some words of wisdom Dizz holds dear to his heart. "All the stories that you're creating in your head get rid of them, because they're not true. You're going to be fine, you're going to be okay."
Dizz was "very grateful" for the support system, his friends and boyfriend, that didn't allow him to "sink into a darker hole. It was their strength and their love and their encouragement that really kind of raised me up. And from there, I was able to connect with an incredible doctor, within two days I was on medications, and from there, it was like the rebuilding of the new me started."
He is just one-fourth of the band, rIVerse, who "is all about authenticity, and being truthful, and living in our truth and embracing our truth."
Dizz is sharing the news just a couple months after the group's latest album release. He hopes his story has the power to change attitudes and minds.
"I don't want to feel like I'm out here with any secrets. I need to be authentic, I need to feel like no matter what people know the truth about me." Now is the time, he says, to "speak on this, and to really take the challenges that the world has gone through in 2020, and let people know that despite their idea of me, of what they see in music videos, on YouTube, they have this idea that, 'Oh, Dizz, you're perfect. You're kings, you're queens, you're flawless.' Nope guys, I'm real. I am a human being just like you guys, I've been diagnosed with this condition, yet I'm still deciding to chase my dreams, and to still go after it all, and to still believe in magic and goodness. And despite the challenges in our lives, you can too."
If Dizz can be a light for a single person out there, then sharing his story is worth it.
"I'm hoping that I can be a mirror for them, that they can find strength in living their truth, living in their authentic selves, and going after their dreams as well, despite whatever they might be going through."