For two days early last month, Daniel Driffin hunkered down at the Westin Hotel working to create ways to improve the lives of young people ages 13-24 who are living with HIV.
As the 31-year-old co-founder of the non-profit THRIVE SS, this is Driffin’s life as he tries to make good on a mission to ensure black gay men no longer feel ashamed about who they are or live in isolation because they are HIV positive.
Driffin has been waging this public fight for nearly a decade now, exposing both his dreams and despair for the sake of making a difference.
His reason is both selfish and altruistic.
Driffin is HIV-positive, diagnosed in the summer of 2009, when new HIV infections among black gay men 13 to 29 years old exceeded new infections among white men who have sex with men aged 13-29 and 30-39 combined.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, black gay men like Driffin were the only population group in the United States to experience a statistically significant increase in new HIV infections between 2006 and 2009. While HIV incidence was relatively stable among men who have sex with men overall, new HIV infections among black gay men ages 13-29 increased 48 percent. The HIV infections for those men rose from 4,400 HIV infections in 2006 to 6,500 in 2009.
Although the analysis did not examine the factors driving the trend, other studies suggested a range of possibilities, including: higher proportions of young, black gay men unaware of their infection than other ethnic groups; stigma of HIV and homosexuality, which can hinder utilization of HIV prevention services; limited access to healthcare, HIV testing and treatment; and higher rates of some sexually transmitted disease that can facilitate HIV transmission.
These are all the things Driffin is waging war against.
Follow the link below to read more of Driffin’s experiences as a young black gay man with HIV.
The Silent Epidemic: In this series