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+TALK

+TALK: ANDY FEDS

He's a straight cisgender male born with #HIV. Karl sits and talks with comedian & activist, Andy Feds.

The following is a transcript of the conversation between Karl Schmid and Andy Feds.

KARL

Straight, married, black and HIV positive, up next.

Hello there, welcome to Plus Talk on Plus Life where we’re all about turning positive into a plus. My guest today is Andy Feds. He’s a teacher, he’s a comedian. He has also been living with HIV since he was born. And we’re gonna just have a chat about all of that and the amazing stuff he does. Hey Andy, how’s it going?

ANDY

I’m well man, how are you?

KARL

You know what I’m doing all right. I’ve got to say I’m pretty good. The sun is shining. Lots to talk about with you, born with HIV. Like this is all you’ve known your entire life or is that so, when did you find out?

ANDY

That’s I guess when I started learning how to talk. Yeah, I was basically drilled with HIV from the get-go and information about HIV.

KARL

So for you, it’s just always been a part of life. It’s never been the big, bad Wolf in the room, right?

ANDY

Right, yeah, yeah. I mean, it was a little bit of that. I mean, cause my mom passed away from Aids, so it was kinda knowing how not to develop Aids from my HIV and staying on top of that. So it was almost kind of a goal just to, I guess, morbidly speaking, not to pass away like my mom.

KARL

Right, and she passed away when you were quite young though. So what did care and life become like for you after that?

ANDY

Well I was raised by my grandmother and it was just always constantly going to the doctors, but my grandmother and my doctor has always tried to make me feel as if I was a regular kid, which I was. I just took my medicine in the morning and at night and from then it was just regular kid things to do. So it was just constantly playing with friends and I had a lot of cousins and simple life.

KARL

Yeah and forgive me for sort of, I guess, pushing, but was everyone aware of it? Because when you look at the statistics in this country about black and brown people with HIV, we know that the rates are increasing. We know that they are on the rise and we know that stigma in particular, in these communities is really extreme. So were you protected from that? Or did everyone know, how did that work?

ANDY

I knew to kinda not tell everybody, cause it was kind of taught to me that it wasn’t everybody’s business. So I did tell closest families and friends but I didn’t really tell anybody publicly until I was 24 years old.

KARL

And what was that like for you holding onto that? Was it like you were keeping a secret or again, because this is just something you grew up with and lived with, it was just part of the deal so it wasn’t a big deal?

ANDY

I tell people all the time, I don’t know if I can say it, but it was like R Kelly. I was sweating like R Kelly at a high school prom because this was a real big secret that I held on for a long time. So it was just kinda telling people, “Hey, look you guys know me for 24 years. This is what I been living with. And it never made you guys think any differently of me. So this is HIV, this is what it looks like. Not what you’ve maybe seen on the internet or on TV and things like that.”

KARL

Yeah, and it’s interesting, you don’t identify as a gay man. And so it was, but you had the experience in a way of coming out of the closet, I guess.

ANDY

Yeah, yeah, yeah. It was almost, yeah, basically that, it was learning how to accept that this was who I am and it doesn’t change me. Similar to how the LGBT would come out of the closet.

KARL

Yeah. Now I know that we spoke of your mother earlier and in 2017 you created Keeping It Positive. What is Keeping It Positive all about, how does it work?

ANDY

So Keeping It Positive is basically me using my platform. So I’ll use like social media, my comedy and YouTube and I always call it the three E’s, my being able to educate, empower, entertain people about HIV. Cause a lot of people don’t really know simple facts or don’t really know the stigmas that they thought they knew were not true. So it’s basically just kind of making a fun way to bring HIV awareness to people.

KARL

And what’s the reaction like when you go into some of these communities and as I said, statistically we know where the rates are on the rise in this country and where there is a lot of stigma. And as you said, misinformation, what kind of reaction do you get from communities when you go into kind of, I guess a cold room and you go, “I’m straight and I got HIV.”

ANDY

It’s basically people look at me like a deer in headlights. They’re like, “Wait, what?” Especially if I’m on stage doing stand up comedy, talking about HIV. Oh it’s like, oh my god, he’s really saying the H word so to speak. So yeah, just kinda shocking people. I love when I, usually my first bit is, “Hey, my name is Andy Feds. I’m the first ever openly HIV positive born standup comedian.” And people’s jaws just drop. So it was, I love the shock factor cause it’s like, all right, now I’m about to teach them real fast.

KARL

Yeah and the great thing is that by the end of your set, they’ve probably forgotten about so much that you’re the man with HIV. You’re just the dude telling great jokes and they’re having a good time.

ANDY

Mm hmm, mm hmm.

KARL

You’re also in, to use a big word with lots of syllables that I couldn’t spell if I tried, a serodiscordant relationship, right. You’re HIV positive and your partner, see, your partner is HIV negative. Yeah no, exactly. So to break it down, you’re pos, she’s neg, how is it because I think still, a lot of people assume that if you’re HIV positive, you can’t be in a relationship with someone who’s HIV negative, there’s too much risk. What if the condom breaks? Well, great news is we don’t have to even have sex with condoms if we don’t want to. What’s that experience like? And how has your partner, when going through all of that and how was it for you to communicate that with her?

ANDY

It all really started from a very intimate moment. Things were getting a little hot and heated. And so I was like, “Well, let’s pump the brakes and let’s talk about.”

KARL

And by the way, there’s nothing more sexy than telling someone that just as it’s getting a little hot and heated, right.

ANDY

You know.

KARL

How to pour cold water on the moment.

ANDY

Right. It was basically like, let’s blurt out, I got HIV. I just kinda threw it out there.

KARL

And then back off.

ANDY

Yeah, yeah, throwing a grenade, just leap with explosion. And she just said, “Hey, I’m just gonna support. I love you and I’m not gonna treat you any differently.” And I was like, “You know what? I think you just earned yourself a ring young lady.” So that’s literally how everything went down.

KARL

And do you consider yourself and it sucks to ask this question. Do you consider yourself quote, unquote lucky to have had that response?

ANDY

In a way yeah. For a long time, I was kind of self-conscious especially as a teenager trying to find a relationship. I’m self-conscious because I was born HIV positive and I was like, there’s gonna come a time where I have to tell a young lady, this is what I have and I’m healthy. And a lot of them, I expected not believe me or want nothing to do with me. So yes, I do kind of consider myself lucky.

KARL

And you’re also a teacher, as I said at the top. And obviously you wear your HIV, I think I saw a picture of you and you’re in a yellow t-shirt that says being HIV positive is not a negative thing. So presumably you have a voice and an opportunity in what you do professionally to educate a new generation. How does that go down? Are you able, do your employers sort of let you be free in that sense? Or do you find yourself having to toe the line?

ANDY

Well, I was a multimedia teacher and so we actually did a lesson on underrepresented communities in media. And so I remember we went over disability and of course, that’s kind of how I slipped in HIV. So it was always kind of being creative to where the administration can’t really say, “Oh, you can’t talk about these things.” But it’s like, this is a disability so why not? So I definitely try to slip in that information into my students and teach them. Cause they’re in a generation where they don’t know the HIV epidemic that was going on in the 80s and the 90s. And a lot of them were born in like 2000. So the only pandemic they know is COVID so it was trying to tell them, “Hey, here was the virus that’s still going on and still killing people.” Well, I wouldn’t want to say, well, it’s still, yeah, it’s still killing people.

KARL

Well I mean, people are dying of Aids when, especially the sad thing is when they don’t have to anymore.

ANDY

Exactly. So that’s the thing that I’m teaching my students is that there are people that’s living with HIV and living with Aids that are still healthy, they’re still doing regular human things.

KARL

Yeah, still able to love. I also read that you think that your mother would still be alive today, if it weren’t for the stigma that was attached to HIV/Aids. Tell me about that. Cause I say all the time, HIV doesn’t have to kill you, but stigma will.

ANDY

Yeah. So my mom, when I was born was 21 years old. And so roughly around that age, that’s when she contracted HIV and she was a very outgoing person, life of the party, all these things. And then once she figured out she had HIV, she figured that might ruin her reputation. And also I grew up in the south side of Chicago and like the impoverished neighborhood and HIV wasn’t talked about, people did not want to talk about their status. And so a lot of people in neighborhoods like that, rather keep it quiet and not want to seek that help. So in a way that’s kind of how my mom fell victim to passing away from Aids is not actually getting the help. Or not actually talking about her status.

KARL

And now you’re doing the job of getting out there, teaching not just your students, but in the world of comedy too, that HIV as you said being positive is not a negative thing.

ANDY

Mm hmm, exactly.

KARL

Andy Feds, it’s been great chatting with you. Thank you so much for your time. And thanks for all the amazing work you do. I know you’ve partnered with Keep A Child Alive. You do a lot of stuff and we’ll put all your information up on our website so people can check you out, there it is, Keep A Child Alive, love it. Thank you. That’s gonna do it for this episode of Plus Talk. If you want to watch it again or figure out some more stuff that we do at Plus Life, why don’t you check out the website pluslifemedia.com and of course follow us, please follow us, like us, love us. Give us the validation we enjoy on social media. It’s @pluslifemedia. Until next time take care of yourselves, stay safe. Remember you can turn positive into a plus and knowledge is power, see ya.

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