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+TALK: JASON ALVIN

The following is a transcript of the conversation between Karl Schmid and Jason Alvin.

KARL

He’s helping break the stigma by taking his meds live.

Welcome to “+ TALK” on +LIFE where we are about turning positive into a plus. My guest today is the epitome of that. He has been taking his medicine, his HIV meds, online every night for the world to see in a way to combat stigma and he joins me now. Jason Alvin, good to see you.

JASON

Hi. Thank you for inviting me.

KARL

Thank you for coming on. This idea that you decided that you’re gonna take your HIV med pretty much at the same time every night on Facebook for the world to see. How did that come about?

JASON

So, I had been HIV positive for about a year before I started the show. And for the first year, HIV was something that seemed to consume my every waking moment and all my thoughts. So it seemed possible that I would ever forget to take a dose, but about a year after, like, it did, I became more comfortable with it, I guess and I missed a dose and I had already been doing a Facebook Live show, just random things like taking naps or making grilled cheese, just some random things. And like, when I missed a dose, I thought, “Well, maybe I could take my pill live,” right? And I came up with the idea of Bi Mouth Daily where I could take my pill by mouth, live, daily, but it’s spelled B-I so you could hear it from a bisexual mouth on the daily as well. So, you know, it’s a way to take the pills and a reminder for me to take it every day, but also as a platform to discuss the issues about HIV.

KARL

Yeah, well, I mean, two birds with one stone and it really… The response you’ve had from people, what’s that been like?

JASON

It’s been definitely varied, but I think for the most part, people have been really accepting. I share the show in odd places like different troll groups on Facebook, different places where I wanna get the message out to people. I don’t want it just to be an echo chamber, I wanna reach people, you know, people that would tend to troll the show are the perfect people that need to hear the message about U=U and netball PrEP, and some of my best, most loyal fans came from people who initially came to troll the show and just respected the fact that I didn’t ban them and gave them an opportunity to speak. And yeah, so I think for the most part it’s been… And people have sent me things like t-shirts and gifts and all sorts of… People have been really, really great, actually.

KARL

Now, you’re a registered nurse, right?

JASON

Correct. Yep.

KARL

So you’re a registered nurse, obviously well versed in a lot of health topics. When you got your HIV diagnosis, was there anything that surprised you that you, now living with HIV, that you went, “Wow, I didn’t fully get that?”

JASON

Oh, for sure. When I was diagnosed in 2015, I think it was right before the U=U consensus statement, but I think it was still pretty well known that the lower your viral load, the lower your risk of transmission. And I had no clue of that. And I mean, I wasn’t aware that PrEP was an option and I certainly would have taken precautions if I would have just been aware of them. And I’ve found many people, like my coworkers in the medical community, weren’t aware of prep or U=U especially at that time.

KARL

How about now? Because I still hear stories of people saying that, you know, they’ve been HIV positive and they’re hearing U=U for the first time through programs like this. I mean, I didn’t even know about it until three years ago, roughly around the same time as you. Does it strike you as kind of outrageous in the medical community that there are still people and doctors out there who don’t believe in this science?

JASON

Yeah, certainly the people that don’t believe in it and then the people that are aware of it and don’t tell the patients about it, I think is another, like, grievous error. My doctors had been aware of it. I mean, I was open with them about my sexual practices and my doctors or nurses or anybody who interacted with me in the medical community could have had the opportunity to teach me about PrEP, so yeah, I think there’s definitely a deficit in the medical community.

KARL

I think it’s so great that you’re using your platform in this really creative way and really normalizing. We just take our pill, that’s it. But I’m sure some of the responses have been crazy. What is the craziest thing you’ve heard from someone who’s seen the show?

JASON

I guess people are just deniers, like mean people that deny the fact that it’s science, especially people within the medical community. I’m a nurse and I know that that’s not true. There’s always a risk of transmission. So I think that’s not the craziest thing, it’s the most frustrating thing that I get is people in the medical community that deny.

KARL

Right. And you’re also, I should mention, you’re a father to two kids. How has that conversation been with your kids and sort of general acceptance, because there’s still a lot of people out there who believe that people like us shouldn’t have kids which is absurd.

JASON

Yeah, with my kids, I’ve been really open about the fact that I have HIV and I’ve always just really wanted to reassure them that I’m safe, that when I take my medications, that it keeps me healthy and it’ll keep them healthy as well, that I’m not contagious when I take the medication and I haven’t been… I still have withheld some information about how I contracted the virus and I guess I just haven’t been ready for those kinds of conversations with my kids yet. But yeah, for the most part, I think the fact that I have kids when I’m on the show, ’cause I’m sometimes I bring them on as guests on the show, and I think that it makes the message more accessible to a wider variety of people. I think kids kind of disarm people sometimes.

KARL

Yeah, totally. I mean, like I said, I think it’s fantastic. I mean, you’ve created this platform and you, in the most simplest of ways, just normalizing HIV. And if it helps foster conversations with people, whether it’s within their own community or online with you, “Hey, we’re talking about it,” and that helps de-stigmatize. You’ve said that Josh Robbins, who’s a fellow HIV activist is someone you really admire. What’s it about Josh that strikes a chord with you?

JASON

Well, he was really visible when I was diagnosed, and he just seemed really open with his diagnosis and not afraid of it and just still proud of who he was. And I just really admire that.

KARL

You know, do you consider yourself an HIV activist now?

JASON

I mean, I guess I would have to. I mean, I think it’s been… Yesterday was 1600 pills in 1600 live shows. So I think I am an activist of sorts. I think.

KARL

I liked this quote from you. You’ve said, “When life hands you HIV, turn that shit into cool AIDS.” Explain that for us.

JASON

Well, I think it’s probably fairly obviously like a play on the words, you know, like when life hands you lemons make lemonade. And I think, just take something that I really have a lot of shame about. You know, HIV was, yeah, just tons of shame about it and to instead wear it almost like a badge of honor or a badge of pride and turn it into something not cool, I guess.

KARL

Well, as we say, turn positive into a plus.

JASON

Yeah, exactly. Exactly.

KARL

Well, Jason Alvin, thank you for your amazing creativity for putting yourself out there for complete strangers in the world to throw their opinions at you, but to also normalize what it means to be living healthy with HIV and undetectable. Thank you so much for your time today, Jason.

JASON

Yeah, thanks again for inviting me. I really enjoyed it.

KARL

Absolutely. Good talking to you. Unfortunately, that is all the time we’ve got for this episode of “+ TALK.” If you want more information, you can go to the website, pluslifemedia.com and be sure to check out our social media pages. We are @pluslifemedia. Until next time, if you’ve got to, put on the mask, wash your hands, stay safe, take care of each other. We’ll see you soon.

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