Rolling Out

Morris Singletary teaches others that HIV is not a death sentence

Morris Singletary is an HIV/AIDS activist

Morris Singletary’s HIV diagnosis didn’t stop him from educating others. Instead, he created PoZitive2PoSitive, a nonprofit that gets important messaging surrounding HIV to communities of color, whether the topic is about prevention, medication, or stigmas.

Tell us about your HIV story.

In 2006, I was wasting, and wasting means that you’re literally disappearing because HIV has taken over your entire body. I had a friend who cared enough about me to not be a part of the crowd that was talking about me. She said, “Make me a promise.” I told her I don’t make promises because then I have to keep them. She said, “Well, we’re not going to move until you make it,” and we sat for probably about an hour. I had low energy; I had no energy because I had what was called cryptosporidium and giardia in my body. Those are bacteria that eat you up. After I stopped eating, they began to eat me. What she made me promise to her was that I would go get tested. I did, and I found out my status on June 23 at 3:15 pm. That’s how I found out because I made a promise to a friend who cared about me.

What were your emotions after learning you were living with HIV?

Mentally, the entire world went black, and all I saw was black and me. That’s a real thing. I then had to be set up with an infectious disease doctor, which was the scariest. I had to go to [my friend’s] nurse and she said, “Why are we sending you to this doctor?” I then had to immediately say I tested positive for HIV. I thought I cried all the tears that I could cry at that moment. Every nurse in the office was going around to give me a hug, but then I had to get in my car and drive to leave the doctor’s office. That was the very hardest thing for me to do. I was in front of Piedmont Hospital and I was at a light. I felt as though everybody was looking at me and I had HIV written across my bald head.

I couldn’t contain it because I felt as though I let down Black people, Black gay people, and Black gay people who love God. More than anything, don’t go around messing up your mama’s name. I felt like I embarrassed my entire family and lineage. I am my father’s only son and my mother’s only child, the oldest [grandchild] and the only grandboy. I felt as though I was a failure to all things African American. I felt as though I let our ancestors and our elders down.

I had friends who loved me, but I didn’t know how to be loved. Nor did I want to receive the love. There are people who want to love you and your imperfections. After going through the drugs and having a moment of “I need to get out of the city of Atlanta,” I developed what was called the circle of five. It’s five friends that can’t go anywhere come hell or high water, whether they get mad, no matter who they marry, I am going to be in their life, and they will be in mine. These five people began to love me unconditionally. I already had it, but I didn’t accept it. Once I started to accept the love, the medicine was working. The science works, but the love heals, which means not only can we get rid of HIV, but we can also love each other better.

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