RSS Feed
  1. This isn’t 1982. This is March 2016.

    May 21, 2016 by Pastor Ingram

    Again, I give thanks for the voice of Sean McKenna. I give thanks for the voices of ALL Long Term Survivors. Please read. Please share. Please care. The virus may use up our bodies, but WE are not used up.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~
    dying

    Scroll down, this isn’t just me babbling.

    This isn’t 1982.

    This is March 2016.

    This is a man who fought to the end and was built like tank a year ago but was a Long Term Survivor.

    This is why I occasionally wake up crying.

    May he Rest in Peace and get the respect he deserved on earth, while in heaven.

    May the people here on earth remember that we are still dying.

    May the people here on earth see this, and realize, that Long Term Survivors should, and can, share the political agenda with Trans, PrEP and HIV criminalization issues without detracting from any of them. We should not be ignored.

    Silence=Death indeed.

    Share.

    ‪#‎LongTermSurvivors‬


  2. We are STILL DYING!

    January 5, 2016 by Pastor Ingram

    Sean McKenna

    Sean McKenna is my featured Guest Blogger this month. I was moved by something I read on his FB page. His is an important message for us all! Thank you, Sean!

    30 years later I want a cure. Not a preventative and argument, but a cure!!!

    Not just for white gay men but for everybody!

    My resolution this year, is to make people realize that people ARE STILL DYING FROM AIDS! My friends who weathered the brunt of the storm have made things like PrEP possible. Not the Long Term Survivors you see on here, or in the news. Not the lucky ones with money and fame and energy and connections to make their lives something to live for, but the thousands of others still in the closet at home: Crying. Depressed. Isolated. Suicidal. Empty. Purposeless. Aging rapidly. Paralyzed by physical and mental issues; one of which is: Living with AIDS SURVIVOR SYNDROME!

    My resolution this year is to get them help because between PrEP and Trans issues, issues I too am concerned about. Long Term Survivors, once again, as during our fight for marriage equality have slipped right through the damn cracks and WE ARE STILL DYING. There is no need to exclude us. All three issues can be dealt with at once.

    Until there is a cure, we are all just Long Term Survivors.

    Sean can be reached here: https://www.facebook.com


  3. And here’s to you, Ernest Robinson

    December 8, 2015 by Pastor Ingram

    Who's at your table?

    If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it. – 1 Corinthians 12:26

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Last week many “celebrated” World AIDS Day. I am the sole pastor of a congregation with many challenges, and so I am not able to simply take off. I make time, when I am able.

    I was able to put aside an hour or two on Friday, December 4th for a time to get together and support one another. It was publicized. I went over, and set up a circle…and waited. And waited. And waited.

    Now mind you, this is not the first time. I have been trying to get some sort of HIV group going in this area for a few years, to no avail…and will continue to do so.

    It just stymies me, that no one ever comes out for these events in this neighborhood. It is almost as if HIV doesn’t exist. Or could it be “stigma”?

    I sat there in the circle for a minute, and then got up and Spirit said to rearrange stuff…and so I did. I placed one chair at the table, the cross, the water and candle…and waited for Spirit to speak again….and this is what Spirit said:

    “Ernest R.”

    A young man who was living with HIV for a looooong time…long before I came to St. Michaels, and had left the church for some unspecified notion. When he found out I was here, and that I was living with the virus, he came back. And we would talk. And as his journey progressed, and he was in and out of the hospital, I went to wherever he was. I administered his last rites on one particularly horrendous event. Thank God he came out of that one.

    The stories he would tell me about stigma were alarming. Even within his own household. Stories of having an accident in his room, and his room being taped off and treated as a biohazard…stories of being used. Just sad stories of being made to feel less than.

    …and yet, he would show up on Saturday morning to take the men out to a particular meat store he had a “hook up” with and the owner would provide the men with meat to take home. Sometimes he used his own resources to provide for the ‘men’ of the community meal.

    Eventually Ernest was placed in a nursing home…and even there, I encouraged and helped him to lead bible studies to the residents. During our talks, he always expressed the desire to go out with me and share his testimony. When he realized that was not going to happen, he asked me to write about him.

    Ernest died a few years ago. His service was to be at St. Michael’s, and I had even gotten a few of my FB HIV Support Group to come out and support, but when the family got an inkling that I might talk about HIV, they stopped the service, and had it somewhere else. Where? They never shared the location with me.

    I think it was one of the most painful experiences I’ve had.

    Ernest..

    ….who was so happy to be of service to others, especially the menfolk, whom he could probably identify with, being down and out, he made sure they had a piece of meat they could take home.

    …who was so happy to bring the word of God to others in the nursing home and living under less than ideal situations.

    We bumped heads often, but I rejoiced with him….and I suffered quite a few times with him: when he went into a coma, as his personhood was diminished, as his family situation deteriorated…I suffered with him, as I listened to his stories.

    …And so, it was somewhat of a surprise as I sat in the quiet of the fellowship hall, hoping for an HIV Support Group to appear, that Ernest would appear instead…to be my support.

    To encourage me to go on, and not to let appearances distract me. That my voice is being heard, that my actions reflect my care for the community when it comes to HIV; and to stay the course…

    …to continue rejoicing with others and suffering with them as well. Our Creator has given us more than enough grace to carry this through…

    Grace will lead us home….

    …who is on the other side of your table, encouraging you from the other side?

    Amen and thank you, Ernest R. – Here’s to you!


  4. Viscerally yours….

    December 1, 2015 by Pastor Ingram

    Sound familiar?

    Y’all know what day it is!? You should…it’s been going on for 27 years!

    Today is World AIDS Day!

    So, we all gather in some spaces and places and pin a red ribbon to our lapels or shirts, and:
    we sit…and wonder…
    we sit…and hope…
    we sit…and give thanks.
    we sit … and light a candle
    we sit … and shed tears.

    Or in my case…we sit and write.

    …and on any given day, my writing may reflect the wonder and the hope and the thanks and the tears and the sadness…or the joy of being a long term survivor!

    But today, right at this moment: I think of 34 years (27 of them living with HIV, myself) and I get angry.

    My God, we had hoped to be done with this by now…

    People are still contracting this disease…why?
    I know I have enough condoms to share with this community for a long time!

    It has been delegated to a ‘chronic’ disease…why?
    — To placate us, to take the edge off the enormity of all the unseen issues going on in our bodies? To keep the pharmaceutical companies rich?

    We do what we can, and we receive affirmations and accolades…we write our hearts out…

    …but it doesn’t take away from the truth of the matter.

    Truth is: HIV is still here.

    Happy World AIDS Day. Never Forget….sound familiar?

    Viscerally yours….Pastor Ingram

    ‪#‎Geteducated‬ ‪#‎StopTheStigma‬ ‪#‎ProtectYourself‬


  5. Long-term Survivor: WAD2015

    December 1, 2015 by Pastor Ingram

    Poz 100 Longterm Survivor

    So this year, I was chosen, as one of Poz’ magazine’s 100 Long-term Survivor List … and I guess, oddly enough you can say that I am very grateful. Twenty-seven years of living with this disease is nothing short of miraculous; but the miracle goes way beyond me, way beyond those living today. I feel the recognition belongs to many other people.

    People like those who contracted this disease in the early 80’s who had no idea what they were up against. They had to fight for understanding, those foot soldiers of ACT UP, who fought the government for action and answers. They deserve thanks for paving the way for us with their very lives.

    For the Poz Survivors List event, I was asked to share a little about my life… so I will just say this: my childhood sexual trauma began the ball of confusion. I am a survivor of domestic violence, 27 years in recovery for crack and alcohol, I have been homeless for a time and I am living with depression and anxiety. As I told my bishop upon applying for seminary: “There’s no shame in my game”. That’s a very important component of living positively with HIV… there has to be no shame. Shame in and of itself can be a killer: a killer of the spirit, a killer of any semblance of positive thinking.

    I received my diagnosis after my husband died of an AIDS-related complication. I contracted HIV from being homeless and living in the streets. After receiving my diagnosis, it took me quite a few years to internalize and accept. You see, I self stigmatized myself. I thought of myself as contaminated and dirty. As Charlie Sheen stated the when he came out: “HIV is a hard 3 letters to absorb”.

    A hard 3 letters to absorb indeed!

    When Charlie came out, a lot of activists were busy trying to rectify the language the media was using on social media. Such stigmatizing language hasn’t been heard since the beginning of this fight. It was heart wrenching to see that people still had horrific things to say. No one deserves HIV.

    I must admit that I do not know Charlie Sheen. I don’t condone his public life and choices he has made. But hey, that’s Charlie’s life. I don’t like how he talks about sex workers; basically vilifying and demonizing them. I don’t condemn Mr. Sheen for things he has inadvertently said… this early in the game, he probably doesn’t know better himself. We all have made bad choices. For whatever reason Mr. Sheen came out, it can be viewed as ‘a positive’ for our community.

    He is a public figure and as he says: “I have a responsibility now to better myself and to help a lot of other people.” Time will tell if he lives up to his responsibility as a spokesperson in the HIV field. For that reason, I stand behind Charlie Sheen (some of his remarks, not withstanding).

    But I digress…

    How does it feel being a long-term survivor? It has been 34 years of fighting stigma, fighting fear and rejection, fighting stereotypes, fighting against the perceptions and expectations of others “moral values”.

    Because I am a person of the cloth, I particularly pay close attention to how we are treated in the religious institutions. The religious institution has done a lot of damage to our community. To many communities; myself included.

    Many fear the church because some people in the “church” have yet to fully understand what Jesus means when he said to “love one another.” Some in the church play at compassion while hiding behind what I call the “sanctimonious flapping of lips”doing whatever they need to do publicly to “show that they are doing something”, but really doing nothing — instead worrying about the sexual behaviors of those who dare to disclose their status. I must say this is not the church on a whole….and yet…I hear stories.

    “Longterm survival” for the most part, has been 34 years of dealing with ‘society’s feelings’, while WE were and are the ones fighting for our very lives. Many are still living in secrecy.I give thanks for my husband. His shame propelled me to be as transparent as possible, and to be a vessel of people’s shame.

    My longevity can be attributed to the medication we have access to. I began my treatment with that monster drug AZT. I give thanks for being able to go from 13 pills twice a day to 3 pills once a day. I give thanks for my family. One cannot walk this journey without some sort of support. My family has supported me and has learned as much as they can from day one. I also give thanks to my Facebook family of HIV positive brothers and sisters. I have two groups, one open and one secret.

    Living with HIV this long, simply means doing what I need to do to live, having a great relationship with my doctor, and my therapist who helps me with issues from my childhood, and integrating the different parts of me, into the whole of who I am.

    I get strength from helping others along the way, remembering how my early days felt. I reach out and make my self approachable to those who are newly diagnosed and filled with that initial fear. I encourage. I let them know that they ARE loved by their Creator, whomever they chose to call it. I remind myself that: “I praise my Creator because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful; I know that full well” (Psalms 139)

    It is by the grace of God I am still here. I know that full well, too!

    As we go forward into the next decade, we need for everyone to get tested. HIV is still here, and is not going anywhere. Our special focus along with young people from 13-24, is the 50 and over generation.

    I’m supposed to have some inspirational slogan to pass along, which has helped me: “HIV is not a death sentence”: Grab on to life, and live it … and love those you meet along the way”.

    For the general public: get tested, know your status. Protect yourself and your partner(s). You can do it.

    There’s a 100 (and more!) long-term survivors out here to help you and each other along the way.

    #WAD2015 #LongTermSurvivor


  6. AIDS Walk Philadelphia 2015

    September 10, 2015 by Pastor Ingram

    Please donate for Philly AIDS Walk

    If you know anything about me, you know that one of the things I am most passionate about is HIV Awareness!

    27 years of living with this virus is the result of a few things: God’s grace, the determination to live, and the advent of medication and services to help me live – and lots of donations from people like yourself. My sisters, brothers and myself thank you!

    It’s another year, another time to walk…another time to ask for donations.

    Please do not “consider” donating…but donate! $5, $10, $15, $20! Anything!

    The name of my group is “MichaelsManna”.  The link is below.

    If you care, share … and donate.

    Thank you…and hugs!

    http://www.aidswalkphilly.org/profile/detail/180684


  7. Reverend Canon Gideon Byamugisha

    August 9, 2015 by Pastor Ingram

    mepatriciagideonThis picture is from 2007 and it is during a visit to Kenya, where I participated in a forum called “Women, Religion and HIV.  You may read my speech here.  It was an awesome gathering; especially since I was able to meet two very influential persons in my formation as an activist in the HIV arena:  Reverend Patricia Sawo on the far left, and Reverend Canon Gideon Byamusha, in the middle with the red sash.  He most of all helped to form me, actually helped me to understand disclosure at a time when I was planning to disclose nationally to the Evangelical Lutheran Church, that I was HIV positive.

    I was not always as confident, and strong, and fearless as I may appear at times (heck, sometimes I still struggle).  It was surrounding and meeting folks who helped me during my disclosure stage of my journey…the figuring out if I wanted to keep hush, hush about it because I was studying to be a pastor.   I watched and listened to others on the journey ahead of me.  I give thanks for Patricia and Gideon.

    I originally met both in Toronto, Canada in 2006 at the AIDS Convention.  Reverend Sawo impressed me, because she was filled with such determination and strength…and Gideon, because he helped me understand what I call “The Circles”.  Indeed, I wish I had kept the napkin that he illustrated them to me.  I was so blessed to be able to share a meal with him…and ask him how he disclosed, and how he got to the point of having such a platform to share his story and information:

    He drew the first circle:  this is your family.  You begin with your support here.  Family is very important.

    He drew another circle:  this is your church family, they are very important too.

    Another circle:  these are your close friends.

    Another circle:  perhaps your fellow workers.

    By now, you have a nice amount of support around you.  You just continually find more circles to include in your journey.  It was magic to my ears!  Most of my circles had already been a part of my support….but there were others I still had to work through.

    Working through your circles may take a short time, or it may take some time to get comfortable enough to disclose.  Once you have enough circles (you will know)…you may find that there are some that you really don’t care if they are in your support system or not.

    By then you will have more than enough.

    I have always remembered and loved Gideon from afar, keeping up with him as I have been able…because I have my own ministry now.  I have always googled his name to see where he is and what he is doing…once in a blue moon, have exchanged emails, especially as I began getting my own *footing* in the public eye as a religious leader.  He has and always will be a mentor of sorts in my eyes, and very instrumental in helping me, and taking time with me – especially the time it took to eat dinner.

    Last night, I was sorry to hear about his latest challenge:  colon cancer.  I am so sorry to hear about that.  He has a gofundme page, and I am just so sorry that I am not in the position to donate.  I am hoping some of my followers are.   It would mean the world to me.  

    Here is his gofund me page:  Friends of Canon Gideon

    In the meantime, please keep him, his family and friends in your prayers and thoughts.

    God bless you, Gideon!

    God bless you my brothers and sisters.  Amen