This article is part of the Proud U series, a component of U=U & U, Pride Media’s year-long initiative to get the word out about HIV prevention, treatment, and testing, especially the groundbreaking news that people living with HIV who have undetectable viral loads can no longer transmit HIV.
HIV is full of misconceptions, which is why it’s important to lead with facts first. And the fact of the matter is that people living with HIV who are undetectable and on continued treatment cannot pass the virus to anyone, including sexual partners. That fact is reflected in the scientific consensus, undetectable equals untransmittable (U=U).
While HIV treatment and prevention are critical, the Southern states have been hardest hit by lack of access to care. But many local organizations in Orlando are trying to fill the gaps.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Orlando, Fla. ranked fifth in cities with the highest rate of new diagnoses. With the skyrocketing numbers, the community of Orlando has been inspired to push a lot of nonprofits and advocates on a local level.
Tyler Hurt is one of those people pushing for more inclusion and HIV awareness in his city. As marketing coordinator at Impulse Orlando, an organization focusing on educating gay and bi men about HIV prevention and safer sex practices, Hurt knows all too well the uphill climb the city is treading.
In August, Hurt organized Kamp!, an HIV advocacy weekend sponsored by Impulse Orlando, which aimed to destigmatize the kink community in the sexual health sphere. The weekend included Kink 101 courses, nightly shenanigans, and of course, a deep dive into HIV education.
Sex-positive activist Tyler Hurt is bringing kink to the HIV conversation.
“I was someone who wanted to see more kink-inclusion, so we created an entire event around kink reliability,” Hurt explains.
Hurt tells Plus there are plenty of events and spaces in Orlando for HIV education to flourish. Check out some of the city’s annual health events, testing sites, and nonprofits that are putting their money where their mouth is, including these faves:
The Bros in Convo Initiative
Created by Daniel Downer, Bros in Convo is a grassroots initiative empowering young bisexual, gay, and same-gender-loving men of color in Central Florida to live their best and healthiest lives. In collaboration with the Human Rights Campaign and Miracle of Love Inc., the initiative initially launched a six-month sexual health and wellness program that provided young men of color at risk or living with HIV access to HIV prevention and treatment services, education, and referrals to community resources and support services. Several other projects followed, including workshops focused on empowering, engaging, and supporting young mxn of color to use their voice through voting and a partnership with Equality Florida on a 5-week HIV Advocacy Internship.
Bros in Convo executive director Daniel J. Downer and community outreach liaison Andre Nelson Austinare
Miracle of Love
Miracle of Love is a nonprofit that provides comprehensive, multicultural HIV care, education, testing, and prevention services that are responsive to the Central Florida communities. To date, it’s had a drastic impact on the community of Orlando and has branched off to create other initiatives and programs.
A social connection center created by Miracle of Love, Stafford House is a safe space “drop-in” center for marginalized youth looking for a place where they feel a sense of belonging instead of discrimination and alienation. The center provides a space where youth can meet and discuss life issues, giving them the necessary tools to be empowered. Stafford House provides support for life skills development by offering a computer lab, resource area, and various workshops. Some activities include movie night, karaoke, kickball, softball, games nights, and other daily activities.
There's programming for adults as well. Last Easter, Stafford House organized an adult Easter egg hunt, putting different sex-related objects in plastic Easter eggs — all of which inspired participants to talk about sex while having fun.
Gay Days at Disney World
Nearly 180,000 LGBTQ folks have gathered at Walt Disney World Resort in years past for its annual Gay Days. A celebration that began in 1991, the August event blankets the park in a sea of red (participants wear the color red usually). Among the many inclusive events timed to Gay Days — such as an adults-only experience, a two-spirit trans lounge, and pool parties — HIV organizations and activists also set up camp to educate participants about prevention tools.
Test for Tickets
Test for Tickets is a quarterly event hosted by Impulse Orlando. This October, the organization sets up a booth and testing truck outside Stonewall Orlando where volunteers and workers give people HIV tests throughout the weekend. In the end, people can sign up to win concert tickets.
LGBT Center Orlando
Founded in 1978, the LGBT Center in Orlando is one of the oldest in America. With free HIV and STI testing every day of the week, it’s become a beacon of refuge for LGBTQ folks across the city. With non-stop events on the calendar, the center remains one of the strongest assets to Central Florida.
AHF Healthcare Center
Committed to providing cutting-edge medicine and advocacy to people living with HIV, regardless of their ability to pay, AIDS Healthcare Foundation offers easy access to specialists, medications, and services they would need to be healthy and happy living with HIV.
Health Care Center for the Homeless
Founded in 1993, the Health Care Center has committed to addressing the health care needs of the uninsured as well as those experiencing homelessness in an atmosphere of dignity and respect. The center has grown to address multiple areas in health care, centralized in its main clinic building located just a few blocks west of downtown Orlando.
Find out more about U=U, and what that means for you, at our U=U&U channel.