Atlanta gay men share their stories of resilience, living with HIV

This is how resilience looks in the face of heteronormative expectations and health challenges.

Dwain Bridges and Jerome Hughes, two Atlanta gay men, shared their stories of living with HIV earlier this week in a Story Corps in Atlanta audio podcast.

The timing is significant following the Feb. 7 observance of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day and an alarming increase in new HIV infections among black gay and bisexual men in Fulton County.

Bridges and Hughes both recall their personal and familial challenges around coming out, HIV testing and dealing with the reality of their diagnosis.

“We are not defined by our status,” said Bridges, who also opens up about experiencing suicidal thoughts that were interrupted by the love and wisdom of his father.

“I don’t think he knew that at that moment he made me rethink all the things that were going on. He let me know that I can make it regardless,” said Bridges.

Hughes, who was faced with a grim congestive heart failure diagnosis in 2012 and is now thriving, agrees with Bridges.

“Despite your diagnosis or what life has given to you, don’t let that define you. Be happy, be loving, be caring and do what you want to do, because only you can define you.”

The power of Bridges and Hughes’s story is already beginning to resonate on social media:

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Listen to “We Are Not Defined By Our Status” below.