By TJ Acena, PQ Monthly
POZ Magazine just released its POZ 100 List, which recognizes outstanding ‘HIV-positive person(s) in their community who is an unsung hero in the fight against AIDS’. Portland resident Benjamin Gerritz is on that list this year. Gerritz works as the Prevention with Positives Coordinator at Cascade AIDS Project, the oldest and largest AIDS Service Organization in Oregon and Southwest Washington. From POZ:
Benjamin provides prevention, education, empowerment and advocacy programs for people living with HIV, and he sits on multiple coalitions and community groups throughout the Northwest. He has participated in several national campaigns to address the issue of HIV/AIDS-related stigma.
“I am honored and humbled to have been selected among the POZ 100. To me, this award is really a recognition of my community my source of motivation and inspiration for the work that I do.”
Since December 1st was World AIDS Day, it’s a good time to remember to get tested. Speaking of testing, you can get that done at Pivot, a community space in downtown Portland run by CAP that offers free HIV testing for gay/bi/trans men (ladies and people outside of the Portland area can find a list of testing sites here). And if you should ever see Benjamin there make sure to thank him for the work he does.
I’ll leave you with Benjamin in his own words about eliminating the stigma of HIV/AIDS.
“I ask those of you who are HIV-negative to look at yourselves and consider how you would want to be treated if you were HIV-positive. Together, we can decide whether we willfully accept an annual new HIV infection rate of 50,000 (Centers for Disease Control) year after year or whether we choose a future where we eliminate new infections through first eliminating stigma. The choice is ours and should each of us choose to empower ourselves with HIV/AIDS education, we can make compassionate decisions that create an inclusive, healthier community.”
TJ Acena is a freelance writer and essayist living in Portland, OR. You can reach him through PQ Monthly at info@PQMonthly.com.