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November 12th, 2014

VIDEO: This Gay Teenage Couple Defies HIV Stereotypes

When Chanse, a 19-year-old gay man living in Shreveport, Louisiana, tested HIV positive a few months ago, his mother reacted with understandable emotion and concern. And then she did something both odd and beautiful: she threw Chanse a coming out party.

“We had a couple of dozen family members and friends there,” Chanse told me during my recent visit to my hometown. “And halfway through the party we started pinning red ribbons on everyone. They didn’t know what to make of it.”

Josh ChanseHis mother then called the group to attention and said she had an important announcement to make. “She wanted everyone to know that something had happened and I would need their support,” he said. “And then she told them that I had tested positive and that she loves me.”

The response from the party attendees was immediate and moving. There were tears, yes, but they also congratulated Chanse for taking charge of his health and starting treatment. Since then, several family members have begun to volunteer for The Philadelphia Center, the local HIV services agency where Chanse was tested and participates in ongoing wellness programs.

HIV continues to devastate the South with alarming infection rates. One might assume that in the most stubborn of Red States, gay men have lives of rejection and misery, that they are apathetic about HIV, that they are ignorant about seeking treatment or accessing prevention strategies such as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), or that living as a gay teenager brings so many challenges that HIV falls far down the ladder of priorities.

That is clearly not the case for Chanse or for his boyfriend Josh, also 19 years old, who both swept into action when Chanse tested positive and, in another room of the agency, Josh learned he was HIV negative.

“I told him right away that I wouldn’t leave him,” said Josh. “We cried in the hallways for a few minutes, and then we both wanted to know right away what to do about it. One of the men at the agency, Eric Evans, told me about PrEP. I did some research and knew I wanted to start taking it.”

(I wish to thank the very good people of Allied Media Productions in Shreveport, Louisiana, for sharing this interview clip with me. They are real public servants, producing video content for agencies like The Philadelphia Center and The Deaf Action Center.)

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10 Responses to “VIDEO: This Gay Teenage Couple Defies HIV Stereotypes”

  1. Bruce Garner Says:

    November 12th, 2014 at 12:34 pm

    I cannot tell you how thrilled I am about these two wonderful young men. PrEP is a fantastic advancement in our efforts to eliminate HIV. But, as these young men know and share, it also doesn’t eliminate the need for condoms. I’ve been HIV positive for over 32 years. I have engaged in sex without a condom one time since 1985. It was a moot point since I was already infected. PrEP does NOT protect against Hepatitis, which can be as deadly as HIV. Nor does it protect against other STD’s. A condom protects against something as innocuous as non-specific urethritis or other infections caused by “contamination” of the urethra during sex. I hope their story gets a lot of very high profile attention! Hooray for them having a lot of good old common sense….and a great love for each other and each other’s health and well being. There is hope for future generations.

  2. Taylor Agee Says:

    November 12th, 2014 at 6:56 pm

    Chanse I am so proud of you and what you have become over the last couple of years that I’ve known you. This just shows your character and how strong of a person you are that in this tragic time for you, you may help others going through the same thing. It is such a pleasure to be able to call you and Josh not only friends but family. We all love and support the both of you through this difficult time!! Stay Strong!! With lots of love… Xoxo

  3. Ian Says:

    November 13th, 2014 at 3:32 am

    This is all well and good, but I notice no one has addressed the issue of how he became positive in the first place. We have had 30 years or more of education about condom use and other measures to stay safe, but it obviously failed in this instance. Why? I think addressing that issue is extremely important as it will, hopefully, ensure other teenagers don’t become infected.

  4. Robert Says:

    November 14th, 2014 at 11:18 am

    Fantastic interview!!!

  5. jan lester Says:

    November 15th, 2014 at 11:28 am

    am very happy things are going well. but I wish he had used prevention in the first place. and i wish he had addressed how he became infected. we all make mistakes..reinforcing proper behavior helps us all.

    (While I don’t believe Chanse owes anyone an explanation for his testing positive, I will offer this: he is 19 years old and the product of the Louisiana Public School system, so you can bet that teenagers are having sex years before understanding the ramifications. The point is that he stepped up, got tested, immediately began treatment, and rather than hiding in shame he is willing to discuss it publicly and educate his peers. Nothing can ever ensure that teenagers will ever say or do anything to our satisfaction, but Chanse is doing his part to shine a light on the risk of HIV infection. — Mark)

  6. andy Says:

    November 18th, 2014 at 12:18 am

    Satire right? This totally proves Quinto’s points.

    (These young men weren’t even exposed to frank HIV prevention information until they took it upon themselves to get tested. Remember, this is Louisiana. They are anything but complacent, using their test results to educate their peers. Check your privilege, Andy, and be grateful that they refuse to be shamed into doing nothing. — Mark)

  7. andy Says:

    November 18th, 2014 at 12:02 pm

    Weren’t exposed? Do they have TVs? Computers? Excuses excuses.

  8. Ian Says:

    November 19th, 2014 at 2:45 am

    The point is that he stepped up, got tested, immediately began treatment……..That’s not the point at all. The point is all the money spent in 30 years plus on education and prevention failed him and still fails people. I just wonder why because I would love to see this teen and others like him NOT become positive in the first place.
    Idiot adults proudly barebacking definitely sends the wrong message.

  9. Gary Says:

    November 19th, 2014 at 9:44 am

    Anyone who’s concerned about sexual transmission of hepatitis should get vaccinated for Hepatitis A&B and stop worrying. There have been reports of sexual transmission of Hepatitis C in MSM, but the virus is transmitted by blood-blood contact, so it’s extremely unlikely.

  10. Christopher Says:

    January 26th, 2015 at 1:38 pm

    It doesn’t matter how Chanse was infected, be it unsafe sexual practices or a condom break. It’s not our place to judge. He is infected, and in every question about how it happened there’s a subtle judgment. He’s doing the right thing to protect his health and so is his boyfriend. That’s all that matters.

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