“Our stories don’t make us,” said an emotional Jonathan Perry, “they bring us together.”
Perry is a motivational speaker and an AIDS educational consultant. He emphasized the importance of sharing your life stories and taking accountability for your actions Thursday at FAMU.
Perry told his story about discovering he was HIV positive in 2001. He shared his story for the first time to his peers at Johnson C. Smith University, a historically black college in North Carolina, during HIV/AIDS Awareness Week.
Perry said rehashing his past makes him emotional, but telling his story is important to him. He believes everyone can learn something from his experience.
“It’s not a gay thing, it’s not a black thing or a HIV/AIDS thing,” said Perry. “It’s a life thing.”
According to careclinics.org, young men ages 13 to 29 accounted for 38 percent of HIV/AIDS infections among gay and bisexual men, a share that was even higher among young black men at 52 percent.
Because of the effect HIV/AIDS has on the African-American gay and bisexual community, Perry continues to speak at numerous historically black colleges and Ivy League universities.
Perry was also featured on CNN and The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2004.
He encouraged listeners to get tested and get involved.
“Get tested for you first,” Perry said.
However, he also said it wasn’t his place sit back and tell people what they’re supposed to do. Perry also admitted he doesn’t have all the answers to dealing with HIV/AIDS.
“Sharing your story can save a life,” said Perry.
When Perry nationally revealed he was HIV positive, he received a lot of ridicule. He said being African-American, male, homosexual and HIV positive was like receiving an “I told you so” from society.
Perry felt alone and contemplated suicide after finding out his status, but he said telling his story was his way of giving back.
“I am not special,” Perry said. “The difference between me and the other students who have HIV is I was willing to stand up and tell my story.”