Thursday, December 9, 2010

BOOM BYE HATE: Homophobia Does Disservice to HIV/AIDS Prevention

In this Part 2 of 2, GET DOWN Blogger Alysia C. continues her series on HIV & The Caribbean by taking a look at homophobia and it’s effect on HIV/AIDS prevention efforts in the Caribbean and Caribbean-American Community.

In order to gain deeper understanding of the "murder music" phenomenon and the perpetuation of fear, stigma and hate, I interviewed "Carlos", a 29 yr old gay Guyanese born man now living in New York City. "Carlos" confirmed that Boom Bye Bye is also one of his favorite songs.

I guess "Carlos" and I, like many others, are so busy enjoying the rhythm and vibe of the music that they just aren’t paying too much attention to the lyrics.

Carlos, who immigrated to the United States from Guyana at the age of 12, confirmed in our interview that though he was just starting to understand what sex was when living in Guyana, he knew of the existence of gay men, known in Guyana as “battyboys” and “anti-men”. “In Guyana, the people are in denial about it (homosexuality). It’s pushed under the rug, not talked about. And when it is known (it’s met) with hostility and hatred.” And there isn’t a wide-ranging network of outreach organizations assisting and educating gay Guyanese men and women. “Gays in Guyana live very isolated lives, here there is more awareness due to the U.S. culture (but among Caribbean-Americans it’s seen as) an outside thing, that it comes from white people and is (the result) of American influence.” As Thomas Glave, a Jamaican professor and writer now living in the States, (and also co-founder of J-FLAG along with Brian Williamson) once said, “The music exacerbates public homophobia. We don’t need this kind of advocacy of violence in Jamaica, which is already very violent.”

So what does this mean for the fight against HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean? Though we know there are multiple ways in which to contract HIV (sharing needles, from mother to child via breast milk, vaginal secretions, etc.), it is still a disease strongly associated with homosexuality. As such, the negative and violent attitudes Caribbean culture harbors about gays have tremendously affected the fight against the virus and disease. Both homosexuals and heterosexuals who in engage in risky sexual behavior fail to get tested as much as they should. Previously, I've covered the statistics of reported high rates of new HIV cases among the Caribbean diaspora in this blog. The stigma and discrimination prevent them from accessing vital HIV prevention, treatment and care services. And with the possibility that their homosexuality (or suspicion thereof) may be leaked to the public5 some Caribbean people may not seek HIV/AIDS education, testing or treatment. The harassment they would receive from family, friends, and neighbours keeps them in the dark and leaves them at a higher risk of contracting the virus and/or needlessly suffering from the disease.

Things are a little different when it comes to the Caribbean-American community. Whether born in the West Indies and now living in the States or the child of Caribbean immigrants, Caribbean-Americans and Caribbeans living in the United States often walk a fine line. They juggle the beliefs and traditions of their Caribbean culture with those of American society. Caribbean-American youths may live in a society where homosexuality is more widely accepted but they are also often raised with / exposed to the harsh Caribbean take on homosexuality and HIV/AIDS.

Though Caribbean-Americans may be exposed to these homophobic views, if living in the States, especially here in New York City, they there are few barriers to accessing HIV/AIDS testing, education and treatment information. According to Dr. Monica Sweeney, Asst. Commissioner of the Bureau of HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control at the NYC Health Department, New York state law recently amended that the public health law, Article 27F. This amendment requires that heath care professionals routinely offer an HIV test to all patients, from 13 years old to 64 years old, in primary care settings, emergency departments and inpatient settings. Patients must also be provided information on HIV/AIDS risk and treatment.

But easy access to HIV/AIDS testing treatment doesn’t equal acceptance or tolerance. Even with our growing acceptance of gays and lesbians, Americans also struggle with negative attitudes and violent treatment of homosexuals. Even among some middle school and high school youth, there exists an unbelievable level of gay bullying. So much so that several teens have committed suicide over the past few months as a result of gay bullying and harrasment. We, as Americans, have come a long way in the fight for gay rights but if there are kids killing themselves because of the treatment they are receiving in school, then we as well have a farther to go.

Both The Caribbean and Caribbean-American communities have a lot of work to do to. We must be willing to talk openly and honestly about our issues. Carlos hit it the nail on the head when he said, “[There must be a] willingness for people to confront their biases and homophobia. (There needs to be a] generational shift. People need to be open to talk about it [homosexuality] and not shun their family.”

If we continue working to erase the stigma associated with homosexuality we will see progress made in HIV/AIDS education, testing and treatment throughout the Caribbean. Grassroots efforts must be made to engage the community in a meaningful dialouge in additon to change in all levels of Caribbean society, politically, financially, socially and emotionally.

Susan Timberlake, a senior advisor on human rights and law with the Geneva-based Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), said it best, "…unless we deal with the stigma and discrimination and the punitive legal environments that exist, we will not have an effective response to this HIV epidemic."

My people, what do you think? Why is homophobia so prevalent in the Caribbean? Should the buggery laws be repealed? What do you think is needed for real change to occur? Do you take issue with ‘murder music’? Is there a place for gays and lesbians in Caribbean society?


5 ‘Homophobia, Prejudice and Attitudes toward Gay Men and Lesbians

Alysia Christiani

For more information please visit:

Jamaica Forum For Lesbians, All-sexuals and Gays

New York City Dept of Heath and Mental Hygiene

International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans And Intersex Association, Latin America & Caribbean

Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender And Queer Jamaica

Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination- Guyana

Murder Inna Dancehall

BOOM BYE HATE: Homophobia Does Disservice to HIV/AIDS Prevention

In this Part 1 of 2, GET DOWN Blogger Alysia C. continues her series on HIV & The Caribbean by taking a look at homophobia and it’s effect on HIV/AIDS prevention efforts in the Caribbean and Caribbean-American Community.

CHORUS (x2): (Its like) Boom bye bye / Inna batty bwoy head / Rude bwoy no promote no nasty man. Dem haffi dead.

VERSE: (Two man) Hitch up on an rub up on / An lay down inna bed / Hug up on another / Anna feel up leg / Send fi di matic an / Di Uzi instead / Shoot dem no come if we shot dem—(GUNSHOT SOUND)

The words above are lyrics to one of my favorite reggae songs. Boom Bye Bye recorded in 1988 then re-released in 1993 by famed dancehall artist Buju Banton. Hearing the song takes me back to my high school days. Red light basement bashments. Summer time BBQs. Folks on the dancefloor doing the bogle and the buttafly. Good times, right?.

Not if you were a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered teen listening to the song. Why? Because Boom Bye Bye is one of the most hate filled, homophobic songs in reggae music. It’s basically a call to kill / inflict bodily harm on all gays and lesbians. For those not versed in Caribbean slang/patois, I've loosely translated the lyrics as:

CHORUS (x2): (Its like) Gunshots / In a gay man’s head / Real men don’t promote that nastiness / They should be killed.

VERSE: (Two men) are hugging and rubbing / then lay down in the bed / Hugging one another. And feeling up their legs / Get the automatic / And the Uzi instead / Shoot them come let’s shoot them—(GUNSHOT SOUND)

At the time the song came out, neither my friends nor I gave a thought to the lyrics. I knew what he was saying but all I cared about were the rhythm and vibe of the music. And after all, it’s just a song. No one took it seriously. Or did they?

The truth of the matter is that many people did take the song and the sentiment behind it seriously. Homophobia runs deep in the Caribbean community From Jamaica to St. Lucia, Guyana to Barbados and beyond, Caribbean culture is embedded with Christian fundamentalist beliefs and hyper-masculine attitudes that fuel the idea that homosexuality is immoral and a sin. And that anyone who strikes out against ‘battyboys & sodomites’ (gays and lesbians, note: the term batty is Caribbean slang for buttocks), verbally, emotionally, and even physically, isn’t doing anything wrong. Indeed, such behavior is often approved, encouraged, and even celebrated.

Approval of such behavior was witnessed by a Human Rights Watch1 researcher when, Brian Williamson, a leading Jamaican gay rights activist and co-founder of J-FLAG, Jamaican Forum for Lesbians, All-sexuals and Gays, was murdered in 2004. Shortly after his mutilated body was discovered, a joyous crowd gathered around the crime scene laughing, celebrating and calling out “let’s get them one at a time,” “that’s what you get for sin,” and “let’s kill all of them.” Some even sang lyrics from the Buju Banton song as well.2

Williamsons’ murder is only one of many violent acts committed against gays and lesbians in the Caribbean. Numerous men and women are murdered, beaten, chopped, and burned once they were found out to be or even suspected of being homosexual. And usually the attacker(s) face little or no legal punishment. How is this possible? When homophobia is so deeply entrenched in a society it is hard for a victim of gay bashing to find sympathy or legal recourse for what they’ve been through.

Legally speaking, there are currently 11 countries in the English-speaking Caribbean that still have laws criminalizing sexual and intimate conduct between persons of the same sex. Known as ‘buggery laws’, (buggery is a British term for anal intercourse and beastiality) the Inter-American Commissions for Human Rights named the following countries as still having buggery laws on the books: Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago. Punishment for breaking these laws is most often imprisonment / hard labor from two to ten years.3

Even in leisure time entertainment, specifically danchall reggae music, homophobic attitudes and beliefs are promoted and celebrated. Hugely popular songs by world famous dancehall artists contain lyrics such as:

Everytime I see a battyboy (gay man) / me gun it haffi (have to) buss (bust/shoot) / all battyboy (gay man) you know dem must bite de dust / because a dem the boys a bring it / the AIDS virus4

Songs containing such lyrics, which has come to be known as “murder music”, are beloved and sung by many Caribbeans and Caribbean-American’s. I too, being of Guyanese descent, have been guilty. With the recent rash of high profile “gay bullying” incidents, which have been closely followed here at GET DOWN, I decided to take a deeper look at how the music and culture that I grew up might have a negative impact on the ability to stop stigmatizing HIV and AIDS, and provide prevention and education in my own community.

To Be Continued on Friday, December 10th....
Part 1 of 2


1Human Rights Watch is one of the world’s leading independent organizations dedicated to defending and protecting human rights.

2 ‘Hated To Death: Homophobia, Violence and Jamaica’s HIV/AIDS Epidemic’ Human Rights Watch 2004

3 Caribbean petition to Inter-American Commissions for Human Rights to urge the repeal of anti-homosexual legislation Oct 2010

4 Batty Boy Fi Die – Red Dragon

Alysia Christiani

Friday, October 22, 2010

3rd Annual STAR Project House & Ballroom Conference

The 3rd Annual STAR Project House & Ballroom Conference


Saturday ~ November 6, 2010

2010 Conference & Ball Theme: “Alice in Wonderland: The Dawn of a New Empire”

The Welcome to Wonderland Conference kicks off an action-packed week of exciting events that include: the STAR Project Book Club Launch Brunch, a special presentation from The WIZ group featuring the Icon Mother Jack Mizrahi, Resume & Interview Workshops & a Vogue Class taught by the Legendary Leiomy Mizrahi who was recently featured on America Best Dance Crew as a part of Vogue Evolution. On Friday November 12, 2010, The Opulent Haus of PUCCI will closeout the week with the most anticipated mini ball of the year hosted by the Icon Jack Mizrahi & Symba Snapple.

About The Conference: *The STAR Project’s House & Ballroom Conference is an educational, highly interactive and action-packed empowerment and prevention conference for LGBTQ youth of color. Each year, young people from all over the Tri-State Region, gather at this free event which provides an environment of communication, innovative learning, entertainment and positive messaging. This annual event is designed to inspire young people to make responsible decisions, maintain safe/ healthy lives and Seriously Talk About Risks.

Date: Saturday, November 6, 2010

Time: 12Noon – 6pm

Attendees: 200+ NYC youth

Location: National Black Theater,

2031-33 Fifth Ave (125th & 5th Ave)

Conference Components:

Interactive Workshops ~ Discussion based workshops that address the following topics: Violence & Legalities
Stigma & HIV Testing
Personal & Professional Development and Ballroom 2010

Activity Fair ~ The Activity Fair provides the opportunity for young people to visit interactive tables set up by sponsors and participating organizations to learn about various resources available to assist them with making responsible decisions & living healthier lives.

FREE & Confidential STI (Sexually Transmitted Infections) Screenings &
HIV Testing & Counseling

Have questions? Please call 212-283-9180

Monday, September 20, 2010


GET DOWN will be getting involved with Hip Hop 4 Life's 3rd ANNUAL YOUTHFEST AND RAP SESSION on September 25th in Brooklyn!! This year's topic is “Let’s Talk About Sex” and the rap sessions will cover off on Sexual health, Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), HIV/AIDS, birth control, abstinence, responsibility, prevention, sexual pressure, and
teen pregnancy.

YOUTHFEST is an educational, exciting and highly interactive “back-to-school” empowerment and prevention initiative for New York City’s youth. Every year young people, ages 12-18, gather at this annual free event which provides an environment of communication, education, entertainment and positive messaging. YOUTHFEST is the annual conference of HIP HOP 4 LIFE, an organization founded by Tamekia Flowers-Holland, a Brooklyn, New York native and alumni of Syracuse University.

Tamekia Flowers-Holland founded Hip Hop 4 Life with the objective of providing year-round mentoring, social and educational activities and interactive health-risk prevention/life skills workshops which incorporate celebrities, as well as, health and entertainment professionals. "Music, entertainment and youth empowerment have always been my passions," says Flowers-Holland. It is for this reason that I know Hip Hop 4 Life is my purpose in life. I will continue to dedicate myself to engaging, educating, uplifting and empowering the young people who will ultimately define our future!" Tamekia Flowers-Holland currently serves as the organization's Executive Director.

YOUTHFEST is designed to promote a healthy and safe school year and motivate young people to:
  • Build and foster positive self-esteem
  • Develop confidence and sound judgment
  • Be a catalyst for positive change within their communities

SPEAKERS INCLUDE participants from VIBE, Def Jam, Avenue Pink, FACES NY, Island/Universal, Essence and more!

Event Date: Saturday, September 25, 2010
Event Time: 9:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Attendees: 250-300 NYC youth, ages 11-18
Event Location: St. Francis College, 180 Remsen Street, Brooklyn Heights, NY 11201

Click on the YOUTHFEST poster to the right of this post....
Or go to the website via this link

Download the registration form and get it in.

Hope to see you there!

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Monday, September 13, 2010


Thanks to reality series like “Top Chef” and the “Real Housewives of D.C.” spinoff, Washington D.C. is in our households on a weekly basis. The glamour, elite social circles, power lunches and politics of the nation’s capitol stands in stark contrast to the unseen District of Columbia which was illustrated so brilliantly in Susan Koch’s documentary film The Other City.

In fact, upon the launch of “Real Housewives of D.C.”, NPR ran an article by columnist Neda Ulaby that asserted there are two cities. The first, being “Washington”, which sets the backdrop for “Housewives” and the other “DC..” also known as “Chocolate City”, which you will probably not be portrayed in the hit franchises. It was with these thoughts in mind that, given the opportunity to chat with Susan Koch, I had to ask her – a Washingtonian – what her take on that issue was and more upon the theatrical release of her critically acclaimed film.

Susan, what are these “Two Washingtons”?

To people from the outside, the capital of the most powerful country in the world, you hear them refer to it as “Washington, D.C.” but for people who live here in the city, you very rarely hear them refer to it as “Washington, D.C.”. It’s D.C. They way people refer to it really reflects a much larger and deeper story. We are two cities in so many ways. There are disparities on so many levels. Healthcare, Education, Incarceration rates, Poverty. On the one hand, the Washington that the visitors see are the monuments, the Capitol, the government and seat of power. Then there are the people of D.C. that live there, go about their lives, and many are struggling just to survive. I just attended a forum [held August 11, 2010 at Eastern Market Hall] that the [D.C.] mayoral candidates were speaking at about this issue of HIV/AIDS and it was pointed out that one in three kids in D.C. live in poverty and that 65% of Black men in D.C. have some criminal record. So there are just some many disparities that exist and for people that don’t live here, their view is fairly one-sided.

I read that Mayor Adrian Fenty declined to participate?

Yes, that’s right.

How was [his non-appearance] received?

Well, I think people were disappointed given that this is the most serious health issue facing our city.

The March 2009 Washington Post article by Jose Antonio Vargas, who worked with you on The Other City, really resonated with me. It stated that at least 3% of District residents have HIV or AIDS, which surpasses the 1% that constitutes an epidemic. There was also a statement in that same article by Shannon L. Hader, director of the D.C.’s HIV/AIDS administration where she compares that figure to that of Uganda and Kenya. As I was doing research for GET DOWN project, these were some of the statistics that really left me unsettled. There was also coverage about D.C. in Essence magazine (“Capital Offense”, February 2009). It almost seemed as though there was more coverage in the media about HIV/AIDS than I can remember in the past decade, especially with a focus on D.C. Do you feel there has been a bump in coverage due to the 2009 CDC funded report conducted by George Washington University School of Health and Human Services?

Well, I hope so. The Washington Post announced it as the report had been done but they did publish a series of articles about the mismanagement of funds and the bureaucracy surrounding providing treatment on this issue. That said, I don’t think it’s getting enough media attention by the general media.

Why is that so?

I think there are a lot of other issues that people are dealing with but I also think it’s the fact people are still not aware that we still have a problem. You know, back the ‘80s, and early ‘90s, it was very visible. It was always in your face. People who had HIV and AIDS…many people knew someone who was dying. There were so many funerals, marches and protests. There was a lot of activism around it. Then, as life saving antiretrovirals came on the market, there was an awareness that people could now live with this disease. Not all people, but many people. People tended to think ‘ok now it’s done, we’re over it’. But we’re not and the fact is people still die of AIDS, in this country and many die all over the world of AIDS. Too many are dying here in the United States and way to many are getting infected. Even if you don’t die from this, it’s a lot to manage. Thirty years after this disease first became known in this country, there is no excuse why we still have people dying of AIDS.

In your film, Larry Kramer, a long-time AIDS activist expressed his concern that people are still “bare-backing” in this day and age. Yet, in Wisconsin the District Attorney sent letters to local school districts, threatening the possible arrest of teachers who teach the state mandated sex education curriculum (as covered on the GET DOWN Blog, so are we contradicting ourselves as a society asking young people not act like HIV and AIDS does not exist yet, and yet in certain cases, preventing the education and awareness from taking place?

I think you have identified a very serious issue in that we are very uptight about talking about sex in this country and especially talking about sex and young people and the fact is, it’s taking place. We can’t bury our head in the sand and say it’s not happening. There has to be as much education as possible and it has to begin at a young age. The statistics are unbelievable. You mentioned Larry Kramer who can’t believe there is so much information out there, it’s been going on for 30 years, that we still have this young generation that’s not taking it seriously. So we need to figure out ways to not only inform them, but to say this is your future, this is your life you are talking about. I’ve been told many times by people in the field, that they will hear young people say, ‘well, at least it’s not diabetes’.

At the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival, where your film played, you stated during the Q&A that AIDS does not exist in isolation. There are many contributing factors such as healthcare, incarceration rates, government funding which affects housing and which ethnic groups get their needs met, the shift from what the “face of AIDS” used to be to what it is now, and the access to medications.

HIV/AIDS definitely does not live in a vacuum. In the case of the film, we have a young woman who is 28 years old. She was infected by her partner that didn’t tell her he, himself, was infected, and she’s raising her three children. She faces losing her home, she’s in an apartment, because she’s in subsidized housing, and the D.C. has decided that her building is one they will no longer subsidize. If you don’t have adequate housing, how do you take your medication? That medication needs to be refrigerated. What happens when you are not feeling well? Where do you go? Are you living on the street? Are you living in a shelter, where one is much more prone to infection? There is no ventilation that exists so they are more prone to respiratory illnesses. Many people who are living in the shelters that are infected, what happens at 7am? They have to be out. So the fact is, there is a very clear link between the need for adequate, safe housing and HIV/AIDS. The rate of infection among inmates is 5 to 7 times that of the general population. If you don’t have access to healthcare, you can’t take proper care of yourself, you are not getting treatment and you can move very quickly from HIV to full blown AIDS. I think this is what we see in The Other City, that this disease is impacted by all aspects of society. It is not in isolation.

The Other City plays New York City’s Chelsea Clearview theater, 260 West 23rd Street, beginning September 17th for one week. It will also be released in Washington D.C. and Los Angeles. Check website for more information about the film’s theatrical run.

— Kim J. Ford

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Friday, August 20, 2010

The Ugly Duckling, the Tortoise, and the Early Bird, Part 2

The Ugly Duckling, the Tortoise, and the Early Bird, Part 2
Preventing HIV & Aids by Preparing & Investing in Your Future Early!

Young people have been trying to be grown as long as I can remember. I think what's so scary nowadays is that there's much excess here in America (as well as any urbanized or metropolitan area of the world's biggest cities). Today's generation and society is way more complicated- and will continue too. This is the fear and the reality that my generation realizes- and some of us fight hard to equip this generation and the next with the skills and abilities to compete and get their equal share of life.

Being sexy for image or popularity sake, sex, love, diseases, and getting pregnant are all adult activities and concerns – or should be. If someone of a youthful age is practicing in those things, usually means they’ve to moved too quickly into something they are not prepared for. Sometimes it can also mean they’ve not figured out who they are yet and what their life’s goals are. Sometimes just being unsure, can open the door to being lead in wrong direction.

Peer groups often socially pressure individuals to conform or adapt to group think. I currently work at a middle school (and have worked with youth for years). At my school I have observed what makes certain students do well and not do well. I came up with four archetypes based on my observations of youth social cliques who are successful in life or in school settings. Basically, my approach is looking at five types of cliques that have healthy self-esteem and goals to succeed and compete through life. Thus being busy and having found purpose they have less time to be sexually active early. All of them require strong self-discipline and focus. The fifth type is a combination of 1-4.

1. the Talented - These kids have been told (by loved ones or themselves that they are good at- ) and or they find their niche, the passion, their talent (what they are good at) early (in life) and stick to it like glue- not allowing anything to distract them or get in their way. They often socialize with like-minded people. Can be sometimes labeled as the 'it' crowd or the 'cool crowd. Everybody wants to be like them; however this group really does work hard at what they do. Academics, sports, hobbies, social groups, etc.

2. the Independent, the Non-Conformist – Although they may be “labeled” as other, an 'outcast', a the rebel, or social misfit; they are just fine in their own skin and aren't in a rush to be 'cool'. As such, they are not pressured to perform or live up to an ideal (beauty, popular, dating expectations, etc.) The key to this individual being positive and or productive is that they may require more self-control and or self-esteem to be able to maintain their inner strength to not be 'normal' or fall in to the 'it' crowd. Underground or alternative cultures are their activity usually.

3. the Traditionalists - He or she waits for the person who is suitable or worthy of him or her and takes their time to explore their sexuality. Unlike the other three types- this person or people have made a inner or personal choice to wait to explore their sexuality. The other three use their activities or outer expression to focus their life. This one has taken a moral obligation to wait.

4. the Loyalist, the Tribe, the clan member - they have strong parents or and or a big family. The family does everything together. Most social activities are family centered. A strong sense of sticking together is valued here. Family business, family goals are clear, etc. Often these are newly immigrated people. The family protects them from negative and or unfamiliar people and influences so that if and when he/she makes a mistake parent or family helps rescue or protect them from further harm or mistake.

5. the Hybrid- this individual or group is a combination of one or more of these choices and personality types. They have qualities of one or more of the above. I would say depending on the age and or maturity that a lot of young people fall in and out of this group all the way into adult life. Because the above four take a lot of will-power and inner-strength; many of us might not have been born talented but have the interest or the passion. . Let's face young people and humans in general are constantly growing and changing.

These are simplified categories or groups, I know, but where I work I see these groups everyday. When you go to a job, there are similar behaviors and types of people there too! Especially when the numbers grow. The bigger the population the more fragmented or cliquish humans can become. And the more you can get lost and want to identify yourself more.

Yes, sex and violence is power and pays. However the younger you get sexually involved and or over emphasis your physical appearance, the easier you can get exploited by someone older, smarter, and wiser. You may get paid and famous; you might stand out- but beauty is not long term. Over emphasis on outward beauty can be expensive and detrimental to your inner beauty. The above four success groups focus on their inner selves first and their outer selves second.

Take care of your body and be careful with whom you share your body. Sharing your body is like sharing your personal information - the more your name, phone number, address, is out there more you are vulnerable to misuse. Same with your mind and spirit.…If you give those away and or share it freely too soon then it says something about your self-identity and your possible lack of future planning.This is why the above four types do so well. Because they seldom have time to worry about that and they are personally invested in what's inside them that makes them special.

The world you have yet to encounter is vast and glorious, yes, and the entertainment industry is there to magnify the sexiest parts of it for profit. It is often the way society glorifies success to young people- this is the illusion. However, having a life plan, you can take in all the world has to offer – protecting yourself along the way!

Hey, protect your mind, body, and spirit, here's some parting tips-

1. Realize your health and inner beauty, your inner well being is not an illusion…and neither is HIV & AIDS!

2. Think about what category you are in, and if none of the above, where you may need additional support in your life..then seek it out!

3. Learn the difference between perception and reality and never compromise your body for the sake of fitting in or being successful.

4. Ask yourself this: If you would not give that “special person” all of your personal banking information, then ask yourself are they “special” enough to give your body to before you have sex?

5. Tap into your inner strength- Know you are stronger than you think!

Love, Luck and Life!

The Life Student

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Friday, August 13, 2010



Launches Online Fall 2010

Introducing the GET DOWN PSA project and our RADIO PROGRAM. Inspired by the writing of a 16-year-old girl, this project was conceived in 2008 after the Executive Producer walked away from 16 years in the corporate world. No longer content with just sitting on the sidelines, she decided to give back to the community by creating a PSA that will launch a movement. Like all grassroots endeavors, this movement starts from the bottom up. It’s independently produced, and the best part about it is that teens/young adults were involved in the production – both in front of the camera and behind the scenes. Each PSA features a “where to get help” at the end, which drives to the online site for FACES NY. If viewers of the PSA are outside the NYC area and want help, they can check the project’s MySpace page ( For ongoing updates, friend us on Facebook ( and follow us on Twitter. We partnered with a great charity, FACES NY (, for the launch. Check them out.

We have a blog, facebook, twitter…and now GET DOWN PSA RADIO! GET DOWN RADIO is about OUR VOICES, OUR HEALTH from an “edutaining” and inclusive point of view. Hosted by Anita B. a renown youth activist, mentor and entertainment industry marketing diva, GET DOWN RADIO is not just about HIV/AIDS, but also about sex, sexuality, and gender identity. We also like to show our love for people, places and things that are relevant to you, our listeners, and shed light on organizations and events that are supporting the cause of raising awareness, and promoting testing and safe sex. It’s by and about people like you, people who care about what’s going on in the community and understand how HIV/AIDS affects everyone. It’s a global pandemic.

Launching in Fall 2010 as monthly online “blog” radio show, GET DOWN will grow to full internet radio in 2011. Cycle is from Fall 2010 to Spring 2011.

We Are Looking For Two Co-Hosts!! Are you energetic, opinionated, like to keep up with latest topics and care about your peers and community specifically in the areas of sex, sexuality, gender identity, and self-esteem? Do you keep up with latest news, trends and images in media and pop culture? Do you desire a career in radio or as a media host and want something great for your reel? Do you want to network with executives and personalities in media and entertainment? If this is you, and you are at least 18 years of age, take a look:

Co-Host should:
  • Be at least 16+ years old (High School Junior/Senior or higher). Anyone can apply but under 18, will be required to have Parent’s Permission at time of acceptance.
  • Have a desire to participate in the movement to spread awareness of HIV/AIDS and related topics of sex, sexuality, and gender identity.
  • Stay current on the politics, policies and “newsy” hot topics around HIV/AIDS both domestic and internationally.
  • Stay abreast of newsworthy events and happenings going on and people, place and organizations that are doing things in the area of HIV/AIDS.
  • Have a unique POV and be unafraid to express it.
  • Have a love of media and be Internet savvy.
  • Have the ability to research the topics being discussed, fact-check and cite your sources independently.
  • Be detailed and deadline oriented.
  • Be able to contribute at least two (2) 250-400 word blog entries to GET DOWN PSA BLOGSPOT and turn them in on time. Must occur within the Cycle period (Fall 2010 to Spring 2011).
How to GET DOWN with the RADIO SHOW? Just do this:
Tell us about yourself. Send a brief :60 sec video clip of yourself — your “audition” — and resume (or attach or send link) to us:

When? Now! Submit from August 13 – September 24, 2010

How Do We Choose? We will post the best candidates’ submissions on our Facebook ( where you have your friends vote for you by clicking “LIKE”. The top “LIKE”-getters will be the finalists from whom GET DOWN will choose.

We will get back you with more details and next steps. That’s it! We are so looking forward to hearing from you! And remember, NO MATTER HOW YOU GET DOWN, PROTECT YOURSELF AND GET TESTED.

About Anita B:

Anita B. is an entertainment marketing guru, community activist and emerging media personality. She began her rise at Atlantic Records working projects for Lil Cease, Trina, Trick Daddy, Lil Kim, and Terror Squad and then Sony Music before transitioning to corporate America as New York Marketing head for Remy Amerique, Inc. (Remy Martin) and then Kobrand Corporation (Alize). After partnering her brands with renown female centric music showcase “Sista Factory”, she was tapped to consult “Sista Factory” and in 2001 launched her own her own Marketing/Special Events company called A-Marketing. Always community minded, Anita B. has a long list of civic activity to her credit including the 2004 MOVE Against AIDS Fall Dance-a-thon, 2005-06 Youth PrideFest, 2005-05 NYC Mission Society Girls Project –“It’s All About Me” and the 2003 Artists for Life’s Sake AIDS Benefit Fashion Show for NYC Fashion Week. In 2010, Anita B. is going to the next level, combining both her entertainment background and passion for cause marketing, as the inaugural host of GET DOWN Radio, a monthly online radiocast which is about OUR VOICES, OUR HEALTH from an “edutaining” and inclusive point of view.

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Ugly Duckling, the Tortoise, and the Early Bird, Part 1

The Ugly Duckling, the Tortoise, and the Early Bird, Part 1
Preventing HIV & Aids by Preparing & Investing in Your Future Early!

My wife has a big family. I don't. We are close to her sister's children and we recently had them stay with us and our kids. It’s always interesting seeing the changes kids go through. I often find kids lives way more interesting than adults. Recently I was talking with my nieces, ages 11 and 13, about their school and their hobbies, interests, etc. They said that their school didn't have a lot or resources i.e. basically no team sports sponsored by the school. I was amazed. These are two great girls - both smart and have a loving, big, family; and are tall. They like to be active. Their physical energy is not being utilized. Athletics in the school is very important. Keeping busy could keep them out of trouble and or proactive. I also realized that they are growing up and maybe will start to think about boys - God forbid. Bored and curious could move them into a negative direction - like engaging in sex too early.

A little later, my oldest niece told me she liked rap artist Nikki Minaj (like a lot of youth nowadays). Oh no, I think! Nikki Minaj's style is overly sexy and her image is provocative (just like Beyonce, Britney Spears, Pink, Rihanna, Lady Ga Ga to name a few). Her fashion sense is over the top and accentuates her womanly assets (My niece also informed me that Nikki is heavily influenced by Japanese 'baby doll' fashion/culture….).

Am I concerned for my nieces? Yes! Why? Why wouldn't I be? Is this entertainer influencing my niece? Maybe. Is there anything else going on I don't know? Possibly. Will they tell me? Not sure? Mind you I don't see her a lot; which also is why I wanna know. But we have a good, usually open and honest relationship. Both girls are honest and friendly and we have many good conversations. This is good. Does this mean my niece or any other young person will be just like Nikki if they listen to her? No! However, as some of us know, if someone is bored with life or don't know what they are good at, then provocative entertainers/entertainment could influence the individual (and parts of communities) too behave and or think in unhealthy ways.

I think my nieces are “Neutral”. I define “Neutral” as being undecided for a period of time or until persuaded otherwise. “Neutral” kids have a sense of self but aren't necessarily driven by or have invested purpose or activity. They are also not necessarily “bad” or “problematic” kids (nihilistic, lost souls who have no empathy or care for life), however the danger in being too neutral is that peer pressure or outside sources (media, etc.) may influence them and they don't even know it, or these “forces that be” may move them into a negative direction. Now being confused, “Neutral” , or undecisive is characteristic of pre-teen behavior and that's normal.

How do I know this? I was once a kid, a teenager. I was rebellious but also an independent thinker but sometimes I fell into peer pressure. Coffee! At first taste it is nasty. Caffeine is a legal drug. It gives you energy. Starbucks are everywhere. You see everyone with a cup of joe in their hand walking down the street. Even teenagers. You say to yourself they look happy. At some point you might go in and try it. Eight years later, trying to keep up with young people, I am a habitual coffee drinker. See where I'm getting at? Cursing or curse words are provocative. It has somehow broken society down and made it’s way into popular culture and TV.

Books and moral messages have to compete with music videos, cartoons, commercials, movies, marketing everywhere. In my title I pull from various classic children's stories. The animals (in the stories) learn something as they grow. The animals or the stories symbolize innocence and a simpler life. All of the animals face a personal challenge. In the process, each animal determined, focused, and patient in the end get to their destination/goals! Or in the case of the early bird, pre-planning gets the bird ahead of the crowd. So each animal (in it’s story) knows it’s goals and purpose to achieve what they have to. The animal might not be popular or cool but in the long term they get to where they gotta go in life. Along the way, the tortoise doesn't get distracted or side-tracked by his ego or vanity or the fame of being “fast” like the rabbit does.

Often in our current society, innocence is lost and messages are blurred or confused because there's so much access. Access via the internet or TV or cable. It is hard for family; for a parent; for an uncle/dad like me to insulate and protect family; protect and empower our children. Fortunately my nieces are part of a tight, big family that can be protective and insulating (a lot of family activities and a lot of family near by). Family can help protect innocence and share empowering messages to our children.

Here's some good news and possible hope - Kaiser Family Foundation found in their 2003 study that:

Among teens aged 15-17 who have never had sexual intercourse, 94 percent said that concern about pregnancy influenced their decision to wait. Similar numbers said that concern about HIV/AIDS (92%), other STDs (92%) and feeling ‘too young’ (91%) contributed to their choice.

We want our children and our family to grow and become less “Neutral” - minded and become independent thinkers with a stronger sense of self-purpose and future-oriented thinking. I learned from my nieces that day, that I have to take the time to listen to them, hear what they are saying. I have to support their interests. Ask questions after I have heard what they have said. Be less critical and or look for the positive within but also be aware of the negatives. Be open to discuss or hear the provocative.

I want share with the children I know the skills needed to lead themselves into the right direction and ways they can protect themselves from being led into the wrong direction! Are you?

Lots of Love and Respect!
Amir Thornell
The Life Student

To Be Continued Friday, August 20th...

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Monday, August 9, 2010

Suleyka Brito ("Lauren") on her role in the GET DOWN PSA

On the set with Suleyka Brito ("Lauren") on her role in the GET DOWN PSA and what motivated her to get involved in spreading the awareness about HIV/AIDS and getting tested.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean: Haiti (Pt 2)

EDITOR'S NOTE: The following blog is the second of a four-part series on HIV/AIDS and the Caribbean. Look for Part 3 of 4 in August 2010.

On January 12, 2010 an earthquake measuring 7.0 on the Richter scale leveled much of Haiti. Among the many building collapsed, lives lost and services interrupted, were those used in the fight against HIV & AIDS. The buildings of the Ministry of Public Health and Population, and countless hospitals and community organizations that worked with the HIV infected population were partially or completely destroyed.

Outreach and education activities such as condom distribution, HIV/AIDS education, testing and distribution of the life saving antiretroviral drugs have been interrupted. And as the country moves to re-establish basic needs and services to all affected by the earthquake, it is important not to forget the importance of re-establishing those services as well.

If HIV/AIDS services and education are not given priority in the rebuilding of Haiti, the current living conditions of many Haitians, may serve to exacerbate the spread of the virus. Many Haitians are living in crowded tent cities with little to no privacy or security. These cities are quickly becoming the sites of an increasing number of rapes, sexual assaults and transactional sex acts.⑤

Kofaviv, a local grass-roots organization that gives aid to rape victims in the capital of Port-au-Prince, has counseled triple the amount of rape victims since the earthquake than they have in the same amount of time last year.⑥

But despite these obstacles, Haiti and her partners in the fight against HIV/AIDS are committed to rebuilding the country’s infrastructure so as to continue servicing and educating the population. Both in the short-term with stop gap measures designed to get the much needed antiretroviral drugs to those infected with HIV or condoms distributed among the displaced. To long term goals such as rebuilding the health systems and the national network of people living with HIV.⑦

This tiny island nation has, for many years, suffered through political and economic upheaval as well as numerous natural disasters. But despite the magnitude of destruction the recent earthquake has dealt the Haitian people, it is still possible for the country to rise from the rubble and rebuild the network of individuals and organizations that helped to educated, treat and prevent HIV/AIDS infections. With a renewed focus, and help from international partners, Haiti can once again serve, service and arm their people for the continued fight against the virus.

For more information please visit:

Partners in Health…
The Haitian Centers Council…

Alysia Christiani

5 UNAIDS 2010 Helping Haiti Rebuild Its AIDS Response
6 Sexual Assaults Add to Miseries of Haiti’s Ruins, NY Times June 2010
7 UNAIDS 2010 Helping Haiti Rebuild Its AIDS Response

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean: Haiti (Pt 1)

EDITOR'S NOTE: The following blog is the second of a four-part series on HIV/AIDS and the Caribbean. Look for Part 3 of 4 in August 2010.

Growing up a Guyanese-American girl in the predominately West Indian neighborhood of Flatbush in Brooklyn, NY, I’ve run the streets with people from all over the Caribbean. But Haitians and Haitian-Americans have always had a special place in my circle of friends. Must be all those cute Ayisyen dudes I’ve dated throughout the years, ;-)

But I remember a time when being Haitian or of Haitian decent was not a thing to be proud of. When kids would make fun of, be rude to, or just straight up mean to anyone claiming Haiti as their homeland. Though there were a few reasons why this happened, predominant among them was the mistakenly believed link between Haiti and the emergence of the HIV virus.

When the virus hit Haiti, it hit hard. And as the rate of infection rose on the island nation, many Haitian immigrants to the United States were found to be carrying the HIV virus as well. By 1983 the Centers for Disease Control had officially listed ‘Haitian entrants to the United States’ as ‘persons who may be considered at increased risk of AIDS’.① This statement decimated the Haitian tourism industry and created a climate of discrimination, stigma and isolation towards Haitians and Haitian-Americans.

Ever since then, the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Haiti has been one of the most severe in the Caribbean. Before the earthquake that devastated the country this past January, the adult HIV prevalence rate was estimated at 2.2%. An estimated 120,000 people were living with the virus (53% of whom were women). And those living with HIV in Haiti accounted for 47% of all people living with HIV in the Caribbean.②

The virus was running rampant throughout the Haitian community. But thanks to the coordinated response of local and international doctors, nurses, community workers, public health experts, and organizations the tide was beginning to turn. The work of organizations like Partners in Heath and the Group for the Study of Kaposi’s Sarcoma and Opportunistic Infections (GHESKIO), the HIV infection rate had started to come down. ③ These groups, and others, were able to:

1. Educate the population on safe sex practices
2. Get antiretroviral drugs into the hands of 41% of the infected population
3. Prevent mother-child transmission of the virus by 22%④

And though there was still much to be done to contain the disease, things were moving forward.

Then the earthquake hit...

Alysia Christiani

1 MMWR Weekly (1983) 'Current trends prevention of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS): Report of Inter-Agency Recommendations', March 4, 32(8);101-3
2 UNAIDS 2010 Helping Haiti Rebuild Its AIDS Response
3 UNAIDS 2008 repot on the Global AIDS Epidemic Helping Haiti Rebuild Its AIDS Response
4 UNAIDS 2010 Helping Haiti Rebuild Its AIDS Response

To Be Continued Thursday, July 22...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


June 27th is National HIV Testing Day. Talked about HIV/AIDS lately? Get Tested. It begins with knowing your status. Erase stigma, talk about it.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010



Each year, on June 27, the National Association of People With AIDS (NAPWA), in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other national and local entities across the country organizes National HIV Testing Day. This unique initiative sends the message, “Take the Test, Take Control,” to those at risk from HIV from those already living with HIV.

Take the Test, Take Control. National HIV Testing Day – 6/27/2010

NAPWA was one of the first AIDS organizations to advocate that people at risk of infection should seek out voluntary HIV counseling and testing. As people living with HIV/AIDS, NAPWA members and staff understand that knowledge of HIV status is essential to making informed decisions about their lives. NAPWA took this knowledge one-step further in 1995 by launching the National HIV Testing Day campaign.

National HIV Testing Day was developed in response to the growing number of HIV infections in communities of color and other heavily impacted communities. More than one million people are living with HIV in the U.S., and approximately one in five of those are unaware of their infection. NAPWA believes HIV testing is a critical first step in taking control and responsibility over one's health.

To learn more about how to participate in NHTD, visit the NAPWA HIV Testing Day Web site or e-mail