NMAC is pleased to announce the 2024 HIV 50+ Strong and Healthy cohort. The 50+ Strong and Healthy program launched in the summer of 2016, and the 2024 affiliate constitutes the ninth cohort, which will now run on a program year that correlates with the calendar year. Since the program’s launch, we have supported HIV and aging advocates throughout the country and Puerto Rico through projects like mini-grants, peer health education events, the National HIV and Aging Advocacy Network (NHAAN), social media campaigns, and webinars around HIV and aging topics. This year, we will continue to engage, educate, advocate, and mobilize this year’s HIV 50+ Scholars, as well as 50+ Scholars from past years.

Each year, we make sure that those selected represent the communities most impacted by the HIV epidemic. This year’s HIV 50+ cohort is comprised of older adults living with HIV and who have a demonstrated record of advocating for PLWH over the age of 50 and/or other Long-Term Survivors. As always, the cohort is made up of a mix of returning 50+ Scholars (38%) and new Scholars (62%).

  • Age: 38% of this year’s cohort are in their 50s, while 50% are in their 60s. It’s important to support these leaders because the majority of PLWH today are in their 50s and by 2030 some estimates project that more than 70% of PLWH will be over the age of 50.
  • Gender: From the selected group of 50+ Scholars, 42% are women, while 57% are men. TGNC and Two-Spirit folks made up 15% of selected Scholars.
  • Sexual orientation: 58% of the cohort is made up of people who identify as LGBTQ+ and 42% of people identify as heterosexual. We are excited that 15% of this year’s cohort are heterosexual men living with HIV.
  • Geography: Scholars represent 15 different states, and 42% of those folks live in the Southern United States, NMAC’s focus this year at USCHA 2024.
  • Race/Ethnicity: NMAC leads with race because we know the highest burden of HIV is carried by Black people and other people of color. 46% of this year’s 50+ cohort is Black/African American, 30% is Latinx, 11% is White, 8% is Native American/Alaska Native, and 4% is AAPI. Black women make up 26% of the cohort, the largest of any group. Black men (19%) and Latinx men (19%) are the next two largest groups of Scholars.

We congratulate and welcome these Scholars and we look forward to working with all of them.

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Paul A. Aguilar, San Francisco, CA

Paul A. Aguilar is a fourth generation San Franciscan and a highly respected HIV/AIDS advocate. Deeply impacted by the onset of the AIDS epidemic in the early 1980s, and following his own HIV diagnosis in 1988, Paul has dedicated himself to fighting for the rights and wellbeing of those affected by HIV/AIDS. His extensive advocacy experience includes leadership roles within the Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club's HIV Caucus, the HIV Advocacy Network, and the California statewide End-the-Epidemics coalition. Paul is also a founding co-author of the San Francisco Principles 2020, which addresses the needs of long-term HIV/AIDS survivors. In addition to his policy work, Paul works at the San Francisco AIDS Foundation (SFAF) as its Long-Term Survivor Community Liaison for Aging Services. He is a resident and board member at Marty’s Place Affordable Housing Corporation, a self-governing housing cooperative for people living with HIV/AIDS:(https://pluslifemedia.com/2023/12/06/martys-place-where-hope-lives/).

Paul's expertise is further recognized by his role as co-chair of San Francisco's "Getting to Zero" HIV & Aging sub-committee. Paul's significant contributions have been honored with numerous distinctions, including "Lifetime Achievement Grand Marshal" at SF Pride 2023. His commitment to both policy change and community support makes him a vital force within the HIV/AIDS advocacy landscape.
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Erick Arturo Lopez Delgado, Chicago, IL

I grew up in Mexico. I'm a social anthropologist, I hold a master's degree in education. Apart from my academic pursuits, I have a deep passion for music, cooking, and movies. In 2004, I was diagnosed with AIDS, and started working with NGOs in my hometown. In 2014, I moved to the US, and the following year, I joined Howard Brown Health as a Health Educator. Presently, I am still a part of the same organization, working as a Linkage to Care for the Latinx community.
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Yolanda Bell, Dallas, TX

Yolonda Bell was not your average 17-year-old. While most teenagers were navigating high school, worrying about prom and college applications, Yolonda was facing a diagnosis that would change the course of her life forever – HIV. Now, over three decades later, Yolonda has become a fierce advocate and activist in the fight against HIV. Through her own lived experiences with substance misuse, mental health, PTSD, and motherhood, she has dedicated her life to educating others and breaking down the barriers and stigmas that surround this virus.

Yolonda’s journey as an advocate began in 2005 when she joined her local Ryan White Planning Council. This council, created by the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency (CARE) Act, is responsible for planning and allocating funds for HIV-related services in their community. It was here that Yolonda truly began to educate herself about HIV and how it affected her and her community. But Yolonda didn’t stop there. She also took it upon herself to educate her family on HIV. Through their family-owned newspaper, she wrote and shared HIV-related articles that reached communities across the U.S. and even in the Caribbean. Her determination to spread awareness and understanding of HIV knew no bounds.

One of Yolonda’s greatest achievements was her role in creating the Peer Support Specialist/Peer Navigator role in Broward County. This role, which provides support and resources for individuals living with HIV, has had a tremendous impact on the community. Yolonda’s vision and dedication played a pivotal role in making this a reality. But perhaps one of the most important aspects of Yolonda’s journey is her personal mantra – “Love is Greater than Stigma.” This belief is evident in the support and unconditional love she has received from her family and friends throughout her journey with HIV. Their love and acceptance have given Yolonda the strength and courage to share her story and empower others to do the same.

Currently, Yolonda works at Abounding Prosperity as a Community Health Worker and HIV Intervention Specialist. In this role, she conducts community presentations on HIV, mPox, and Substance Misuse. She is also a certified phlebotomy technician, further demonstrating her dedication to serving and supporting those living with HIV. Despite facing many challenges, Yolonda has persevered and thrived in her personal life as well. She is a divorced mother of two sons, Tylor and Willie, who she describes as individually amazing. She is also a grandmother to four wonderfully beautiful grandchildren, who bring her joy and purpose every day. Yolonda Bell’s resilience and determination are an inspiration to all. Her journey with HIV has not only shaped her own life, but it has also had a significant impact on her community. She continues to break down barriers, advocate for those living with HIV, and spread love and understanding. Yolonda’s story is a testament to the fact that a diagnosis of HIV does not define a person, and with love and support, anything is possible.
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Von Biggs, Lauderdale Lakes, FL

Von Biggs, an advocate with over a decade of experience, serves as the Vice Chair for the RW Part A Planning Council, an alternate for the Integrated Planning Body, and a founding board member of TransEd. His advocacy, characterized by a disruptive yet effective approach, has been pivotal in fostering collaborative efforts to combat HIV and promote health equity. His work is deeply rooted in understanding the challenges faced by marginalized communities, particularly in the Broward area and among LGBTQ+ individuals. Biggs’s initiatives focus on dismantling stigma and promoting mental health through education, awareness, and trauma-informed care.

His advocacy is enriched by his professional artistry, using visual expression to foster communication, empathy, and a ‘joie de vivre’. He is also a respected public speaker, educating on HIV treatment, prevention, and combating stigma in South Florida. His principles align with Holy Cross Health’s ethos of reverence, dignity, and integrity.

As Community Outreach Coordinator, he engages with the LGTBQ+ Community along with other organizations which include: LGTB+ Chamber of Commerce, SAVE, Equality Florida, and the South Florida Aids Network (SFAN), driving transformative change. His involvement in submitting for the Health Equality Index, which will reflect its impact on Holy Cross and the LGBTQ+ community, marks another milestone in his quest for inclusive health and safety. His relentless drive for change is a testament to his commitment to service, advocacy, and the arts, making him a vanguard in the healthcare domain and a voice for the underrepresented.
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Ivette Chavez Gonzalez, Buffalo, NY

Ivette Chavez Gonzalez is a Latina woman who is HIV-positive and used to use substances. She now does harm reduction work as a peer outreach worker, helping the community to see that there is a way out. She conducts mobile outreach and provides clean syringes in the community to help individuals reduce their risk of HIV transmission. She encourages HIV testing and provides education to people with HIV about the importance of taking HIV medication to stay healthy and to become and remain undetectable. Ivette is the CEO and founder of the Giving Back Foundation, an outreach and street-based grassroots organization built on the spirit of unconditional, radical love for those facing barriers to overall stability. The Foundation seeks to support the population's basic needs to restore dignity and promote the well-being of the underserved. The vision of the Foundation is to build a community of care and love that assists New Yorkers impacted by drug use and/or homelessness to facilitate health equity, empowerment, and dignity.
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Juan Chumpitaz, Bronx, NY

I am a Latino immigrant from Lima, Peru, and came to New York in 1987 at 18-years-old with dreams for a better life, after suffering from discrimination in my country. I started to work at different jobs in the restaurant industry, and in 1990 started advocating for Latino immigrants living with HIV and AIDS, volunteering with different organizations doing outreach. In 2001, I was diagnosed with AIDS and started treatment, continuing to educate myself and my community. I have been a certified NY State peer educator for over 15 years.
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John Curry, Palm Bay, FL

I, John Curry, consider myself a quiet storm in the HIV/AIDS arena. Accepting a position with an AIDS Service Organization in 2007 led me to the Black AIDS Institute (BAI) in 2011. As a Fellow and dual graduate of (BAI) Flagship cohorts, Community Mobilization College, and Science Treatment College, I’ve gained the accolade of National HIV Educator. Being a BAI graduate left me yearning for a higher level of education, and in 2019 I became a master’s level collegiate graduate. As of today, I’ve completed the License to Practice Nursing course with DOXA Academy and I’m studying for my exit exam and the State Board for my nursing license.

As an African American long-time survivor of HIV, I’m well-received in the community I reside. I am the Founder of the Black Treatment Advocate Network (BTAN) Melbourne Initiative, “formerly of the Black AIDS Institute.” I now serve on the Florida Black Leaders Group and am a National “United We Rise” planning member, changing the narrative of HIV. I have been a leader on the Area-7 HIV Planning Body, Church Treasurer, and a Board Member for the largest Community-Based Organization in Brevard County, Florida.

My personal and professional life experiences are needed when educating community members on evidence-based practices surrounding HIV disease. While working in HIV prevention, I’ve continued my mission to marry HIV and SUD (substance use disorders). Currently, I’m positioned as the Chief Executive Officer and Certified Addiction Professional of Safe Place Treatment Services Corporation in Melbourne, Florida.
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Paul Edmonds, Desert Hot Springs, CA

I moved to San Francisco in 1976. I was 21 years old. It was an incredible experience until the early 80s. People began getting sick. No one knew what was going on. In 1988, I tested HIV+ and received an AIDS Dx because of my low t-cells.

In 2018, I was diagnosed with MDS which progressed to AML. I entered City of Hope Hospital in Los Angeles and began chemotherapy. The AML went into remission by January 2019. On February 6, 2019, I received a bone marrow transplant. My donor had a CCR 5, Delta 32 mutation which has cured my leukemia and HIV. I am the 5th person in the world that this has happened to.

Now I am on the CAB of RID-HIV, one of ten Martin Delaney collaboratories for HIV Cure Research. I have been speaking at Universities and HIV events bringing hope and encouragement to people living with HIV and to Researchers.

I am an Artist. I paint abstract paintings. I presently have the honor of being the 2024, Artist in Residency at Lakehead University in Canada. I have been with my husband, Arnie House, for the last 32 years. We live in Desert Hot Springs, CA, with our 17-year-old cat, Missy.
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Antonio Elmore, Cleveland, OH

Diagnosed in 1992, for 30 years I was isolated with no support, only attending doctors' appointments and taking my meds. After 26 years, I attended a MetroHealth support group session and picnic. There, I met and exchanged information with Bryan C. Jones, who invited me to my first HIV healing weekend, Sankofa, an initiative created and implemented by people living with HIV. This was my first time being in a safe space with others living with HIV. There, I learned that life could be normal after being diagnosed with HIV. Two areas in particular that stood out to me were modernization of HIV laws, which I never knew existed, and U equals U which I feel is a basis for changing unjust HIV laws. It was then that I realized if I were to survive and help others to survive, I had to put aside my fears and become part of the solution.

Since my first healing weekend I've attended several national conferences and retreats. I've attended HINAC 5, and currently I am a cohort in the 2023-24 SERO Project Justice Institute. Recently, my advocacy took me to AIDSWatch where I talked to Congressional staffers about my story and how their work impacts people living with HIV. I currently work locally with Sankofa HIV initiative and volunteer with We Think for a Change, a community-based organization serving people living with HIV. I am co-chair of the men’s group there and a member of the Ohio Health Modernization Movement.
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Arlene Frames, Santa Monica, CA

Arlene Frames is a native New Yorker, a mom and grandmom, who at the age of 28 in her third pregnancy learned of her husband’s diagnosis of AIDS in 1987. After the death of her husband, Arlene took control of her destiny. She used her love and faith of God to obtain courage, hope, and tenacity to fight against all odds. Many odds were against her, being an African American heterosexual now-single mother with children. Learning early on how to advocate for her newborn baby, who was diagnosed with HIV, was essential. 36 years later, Arlene is now advocating for herself and others to the LA County Commissioner Care and Wellness collaboration, and other community outreaches and service providers. She has also been a member of the Presbyterian Board of Bible Enrichment International Fellowship for over 20 years. In addition, she started the first HIV faith base program in South Los Angeles in 1994.
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Bernardo Gomez, Los Angeles, CA

Living with HIV since 1996, I began my journey as a Volunteer within the HIV Prevention Programs at BIENESTAR Human Services. A few months later, I was hired to work for BIENESTAR under the Shaman Retreat Program, recruiting gay and bisexual men to participate in the retreat. I became an HIV testing counselor in 2004 and have been providing HIV testing services since then at different HIV organizations. Currently, I work at The Wall/Las Memorias as a Senior Project Coordinator.
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Bill Hall, Seattle, WA

My name is Bill Hall, I am a Tlinget Indian from the Raven Clan from Hoonah, Alaska. I am the Community Advocate for the Native American Community here in Seattle. I work with the Seattle Indian Health Board, and the Urban Indian Health Institute as a consultant on HIV/AIDS. I tested Positive for HIV in June, 1986, and I have been involved with many groups on HIV for 33 years.
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Tiffany Hartman-Stroud, Roanoke, VA

Tiffany Hartman-Stroud has graciously allowed HIV to live with her for over 30 years. Tiffany is a graduate of the Black AIDS Institute in California and holds a Bachelor of Psychology from Old Dominion University with a specialty minor cluster in World Health. Tiffany has a DEF. MPH from ODU where she is studying public health and has concentrated her thesis on her work in HIV/AIDS and mental health. Presently Tiffany is a Mental Health Practitioner at Hall Community Services of Roanoke Virginia for over ten years.

Tiffany has her own peer nonprofit 501c 3 organization that helps people with supportive services for comorbidities and aging aspects of HIV. Tiffany worked under The Minority AIDS Initiative grant in the early years of the pandemic at the Tidewater Community Task force in Norfolk Virginia for over ten years helping those lost to care and new to care to gain access back into quality care. Today she is the CEO of the Empowerment Project for Life (EPFL) and she works with people with HIV/AIDS in the mental health service field. Some of her other accomplishments are other public health initiatives, including the COVID 19 equity grant to get people vaccinated especially those with HIV/AIDS and in special populations.
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Monica Johnson, Columbia, LA

In the 1990s, I was a single Black mother living with HIV. The support groups in the rural South were a 45-minute drive from where I lived, and either didn’t welcome children at meetings or kept women shut out or didn’t address any of our concerns or issues. At the same time, Black heterosexual women were acquiring HIV at an alarming rate. It was clear that if I wanted a support group for people like me, I was going to have to make one myself.

So, I did.

I started HEROES out of my house 29 years ago. Since that time, HEROES has grown to include educational programs, after-school programs, a voter registration project, and so much more. We are proof that the word “no” can lead to something bigger and better than you ever imagined.
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Evonne Kaho, Jackson, MS

Dr. Evonne Kaho is a trans spiritual activist and educator. As a Black Transgender woman and survivor of domestic violence, Evonne struggles everyday against intolerance, pain and injustice with an open heart. She holds a B.A. degree from Alcorn State University and an MBA in Technology and Management from the University of Phoenix. She recently received her DBA in Business Administration in December 2022. Evonne is the founder and CEO of the first Black Transgender nonprofit in the state of Mississippi, Love Me Unlimited 4 Life, an interdisciplinary organization that offers resources, education, counseling and support to Mississippians! She is known all around the world as Queen Mother of the South.
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Eddie Lowry, Philadelphia, PA

Edward Lowry is a 57-year-old African American man and US Army Veteran who was diagnosed with HIV in 1998. Eddie received his formal training in advocacy from Philadelphia FIGHT’s adult health literacy program known as Project TEACH in 2003.

Eddie began his advocacy around ensuring quality healthcare for people living with HIV who were incarcerated. Soon after, Eddie would become a member of ACT-UP Philly where his advocacy broadened to include LGBT and all marginalized groups of people along the social justice spectrum. Currently, Eddie works in the field of mental health. Employed by Project Home’s Gloria Casarez Resident, where he is a mentor to LGBT youth guiding them toward self-sufficiency. Eddie provides support for community members diagnosed with HIV or AIDS, mental health disorders and substance abuse. He continues to support formerly incarcerated community members with re-entry service support.

Working on HIV criminalization with the SERO Project, Eddie has attended and presented at HIV is Not a Crime Academy and is member of the local PA Work Group to Avert HIV criminalization in partnership with the AIDS Law Project-PA. Aligned with Positive Women’s Network- Pennsylvania Chapter, Eddie is the co-founder and facilitator of an advocacy support group for heterosexual men living with HIV known as Phila Positive Men’s Initiative. That group continues to meet at the Institute for Community Justice. As a former member of CHAMP {Community HIV AIDS Mobilization Project], Eddie has had the opportunity to travel to South Africa on two occasions providing trainings in HIV Prevention Justice.

Eddie and AIDS Activist, Waheedah Shabazz-El, have been married for nearly 10 years.
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Mary Lucero-Hill, Denver, CO

Mary Lucero-Hill is a Ryan White Case Manager with 10 years’ experience in metro and rural Colorado and has been living with HIV since 2002. Mary helps those who are newly diagnosed through long-term survivors, get connected to services and remain in care. Mary is an advocate fighting for the rights of the People Living With HIV/AIDS (PLWH), LGBTQ+, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color), marginalized groups, aging HIV population, and individuals in her community. Mary is a former member of the Colorado Alliance Committee, and currently the Co-Chair for PWN-CO and Co-Chair for Improving Health Outcomes for PLWH COHAS Workgroup. Mary has participated in numerous other workgroups and advisory boards to help improve treatment and care services for those affected and at risk of acquiring HIV. Mary’s focus is to be an educator of external and internal stigma related to HIV, mental health, and substance use. Mary enjoys peace and solitude on the weekends, which contributes to rejuvenating her spirit to continue the work she does. Mary enjoys collecting positive affirmations to share with friends, family, coworkers, and clients.
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Greg Mahusay, San Francisco, CA

Aloha, everyone! I'm Greg Mahusay, and I'm a Long-Term Survivor of HIV/AIDS. I was diagnosed in 1989 when it was considered a "death sentence." And 3 years later, in 1992, I was diagnosed with AIDS. A couple years after my AIDS diagnosis, I began volunteering as a speaker with the Monterey County AIDS Project. I utilized my diagnosis as a tool to educate the public. From high school and college speaking engagements to non-profit organizations, there was a lot of stigmas regarding the disease but most importantly, there was a lot of support from my family, my friends, and the community.

35 years later, and undetectable since 1998, I am proud to be a thriving Long-Term Survivor. Despite the stigmas that still exist that’s associated with the disease, I still rely on the support of my family, my friends, and the support of the HIV/AIDS community, which I look forward to reconnecting with. Over the years, I've become reliant on something very instrumental while thriving with HIV and AIDS. A quality I've always felt I was not worthy of. It’s one of the qualities that can be robbed from those navigating through the challenges and obstacles of being diagnosed with HIV and AIDS. And that quality is “Self-love.”
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Eugenia Rogers, Durham, NC

I am Eugenia Rogers, and I was born in Durham, North Carolina where I reside. I have two amazing adult children, a son and a daughter. I attended North Carolina Central University for both undergraduate and graduate studies. I earned a BA in Mass Communication with a concentration in Public Relations in 2009 and an MLS in Special Libraries in 2013.

I love working and volunteering in my community with homeless shelters, educational programs, and anything about HIV/AIDS education. I worked as a librarian in a Charter School for 5 years, fostering my love for education. I have a passion for literacy and educating people. I am currently employed at a non-profit literacy center. Education is a way out of poverty and when those who know teach those that do not, we give hope.

I like to use my educational skills to work towards eliminating the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS in my community. I have served as the Chair of the Community Collaborative Council(D3C) of the Duke CFAR for the past two years. That role has allowed me to expand my knowledge base of HIV/AIDS. I had the opportunity to be a co-director on a research grant to combat stigma in African American Faith-Based Organizations the National Institutes sponsored the grant.

I am a person living with HIV, and a Long-Term Survivor. In the beginning, my diagnosis was delivered to me as a death sentence, and I am happy to say that is no longer the case, thanks to medication and a tribe of people who love and support me. I now live my life, undetectable and full of faith, life, love, joy, and happiness. One of my purposes in life is to fight against stigma by educating people everywhere I go about HIV/AIDS. I believe if we eliminate the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS those who are living afraid and in silence will no longer have to live that way.
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Yolanda Ross, Houston, TX

Yolanda Ross is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker-Supervisor (LCSW-S) and a Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor (LCDC) with more than 11 years of clinical and addiction counseling experience. She is a woman in long-term recovery and is a mother to an adult daughter who is living with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). She is also a woman who is thriving and living strong with HIV for over 18 years.

Ms. Ross currently works at Santa Maria Hostel, which is a residential treatment facility that helps empower women and their families to lead healthy, successful, productive, and self-fulfilling lives. She is very passionate about serving women and families who are in recovery from addiction and trauma and building a strong foundation for long-term success. She has dedicated her life to helping women achieve long-term sobriety and is empowered to be a champion for the cause of social justice and diversity.

Ms. Ross has a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) from the University of Clear-Lake and a Master of Social Work (MSW) from the University of Houston. She also has a second Master’s degree in Healthcare Administration (MHA) from the University of Houston-Clear. Ms. Ross is also in the process of achieving her Doctor of Social Work (DSW) from the University of Kentucky. More importantly, Ms. Ross is committed to promoting positive changes on the micro, mezzo, and macro levels of society regarding women struggling with substance use and living with HIV/AIDS.

Andy Roybal, San Antonio, TX

My name is Andy Roybal. I'm grateful for all the support and kindness and information I have learned about living with HIV from the 50+ Strong & Healthy group. It is a great and truly special community. Thank you to NMAC for the opportunity to be a part of this community. I'm 56 years old and was diagnosed with HIV in 2021. I'm married and have 4 children, two of which are grown and in college. I live in San Antonio, TX.
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Reggie Stroud, Roanoke, VA

Reginald Stroud, AKA Reggie, is a 61-year-old African American heterosexual man who has been living strongly with HIV/AIDS for over 20 years. Reggie is presently the Director of Education at the Empowerment Project for Life in Southwest Virginia. Reginald is a graduate of Norfolk Tidewater AIDS Community Taskforce (TACT) HIV University, and he worked under the Minority AIDS Initiative as an Early Intervention Service Counselor in 2008-2009 and worked at the Tidewater AIDS Community Taskforce as a Community Outreach Worker. Reggie got people tested for HIV in communities of color. Reginald served as a Certified Peer Educator for the Eastern Virginia Medical School, AIDS Resource Center for five years before moving to Roanoke. Reggie currently serves on the Council of Community Service CAB where he advocates for people aging with HIV. He gives his passion by using his face and voice to support aging aspects of HIV/AIDS.
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Nathan Townsend, Atlanta, GA

Nathan Townsend is a singer, songwriter, producer, motivational speaker, international trainer and presenter, professor, writer, social advocate, philanthropist, creative director, fashion designer and consultant, and world-renowned emcee. However, out of all the titles that pose as preludes to his name, the one that matters the most is Social Advocate.

Nathan is most passionate about his ever-widening work for HIV Awareness. His primary desire is to help others renew, recover, and rebuild. “I’ve lived. I’ve cried. I’ve fallen. I’ve climbed. I’ve recovered. I’ve survived.” Nathan is most dedicated to helping others achieve greatness—even during life’s searing circumstances.

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Nathan has been a creative canvas for positive change for several decades. After being diagnosed with HIV in 1984, he immediately embraced an inspiring and life-changing journey to educate, uplift, and inspire those who share his same diagnosis. His commitment to educate, empower, and elevate are the themes of his mentoring, teaching, and advocacy. Whether for human services or educational institutions, Nathan spreads positive strategies concerning a growing epidemic. In His workshops and intimate sharing, he unveils challenges that encircle HIV diagnoses, such as denial, anger, and helplessness.

Since 2007, Nathan has been a State Certified HIV Presenter; he understands the importance of emotional wellness while trying to conquer diagnoses. In his inspiring lectures, Nathan unveils coping tips that help others discover their ability to maintain emotional, physical, and behavioral health.
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Victor Velazquez, Lake Forest Park, WA

Victor Velazquez isn't just a name; he's a testament to resilience and community spirit. For three decades, he's navigated life with HIV, embodying the essence of a long-term survivor. From his early days as a pioneer in HIV activism to his current role as a respected board member at Seattle Roots Community Health, formally known as Country Doctor Community Clinic, Victor's journey is one of unwavering dedication and advocacy. But Victor's impact extends far beyond the boardroom. With over twenty years of experience in curriculum development, education, and nonprofit recruitment, he's been a force for change in organizations like Exponents, Inc. There, he pioneered the groundbreaking Patient Peer model, revolutionizing how we approach HIV care and support. His strategic prowess and knack for building meaningful relationships have fostered collaborations that transcend boundaries. Whether through his writing, presentations, or interpersonal skills, Victor is a beacon of enthusiasm and expertise. He's not just contributing to collective success; he's shaping it. So, when Victor Velazquez speaks, the community listens. And with him at the helm, the future of HIV activism and support shines brighter than ever.
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Jo Ann Vertetis, St. Paul, MN

Jo Ann Vertetis is a white working-class woman of mixed cultural heritage – Polish, Hungarian, German, and Irish, to name a few. Being born on the hottest day in 10 years at a hospital with no air conditioning on the summer solstice of 1953 might explain her preference for warm weather. She grew up in Hudson Valley with her parents, five sisters and one bother. A social justice advocate since high school, where she and her friends circulated and carried racial equity petitions to their school board concerning busing for all; she learned early on how freedom of speech paired with timely accurate press coverage are powerful assets in not only achieving equity and fighting racism but essential components of a healthy democracy. She has a BA in History from the Minnesota State University, Mankato and is certified to Teach English as a Foreign Language K-12. She has certifications in both Yoga and Oriental Bodywork. She has served on numerous boards and committees for both non-profits and community-based organizations in New York, Maryland, Arizona, and Minnesota.

Jo Ann has two grown children. She has spent a lot of time learning the laws governing young people and folks with disabilities. She used this knowledge to advocate for her children and their friends in school and in court. During this time, she has also enjoyed writing grants and raising money for arts and community organizations. Her favorite remains an aerial dance company that did a workshop which helped young people build confidence through trapeze arts.

Currently, she is both the president of the MAC (Membership Advisory Committee) and a board member at the Aliveness Project in Minneapolis, Minnesota. A lifelong learner, she is now studying herbs for use as healthy food and medicine as well as treatment of pain through movement and manipulation. She develops practical plans to address long and short-term health issues; for once, she co-owned and managed a medical family practice.

In her spare time, she enjoys reading, listening to folk music, and container gardening on her balcony. Her favorite quote is “Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.” John Lewis