SOURCE: Gilead Sciences
Adonis Timone may be best known for their rap music, but the young, gender nonbinary artist who identifies with the pronouns he/they also works in the areas of HIV outreach and advocacy. When they’re not performing shows or filming YouTube music videos, Adonis is in the Atlanta area at bars, clubs, libraries and parks to conduct rapid HIV tests and educate the community about HIV prevention.
“People don’t want to get up and go out of their way to get tested,” explains Adonis. “It’s good to meet them where they are.”
For decades, Advocates for Youth, a Gilead grantee, has partnered with young leaders across the United States to build communities around everything from reproductive rights to racial justice. Through the organization, Adonis was selected to work with Engaging Communities around HIV Organizing (ECHO), a leadership development program designed for young people living with HIV.
The ECHO program includes a mix of different strategies. Leaders in the program help peers engage in on-the-ground testing and prevention, and they help design and implement educational and destigmatizing social campaigns. One of the largest campaigns to date is a digital storytelling project called My Story Out Loud, featuring photos and short essays written by LGBTQ+ youth of color and young people living with HIV.
The stories fill a gap in much of the HIV narratives. Adonis points out that on many media platforms young people are often left out of the HIV conversation, which can hinder access to prevention.
“I feel like young people are really aware of HIV rates, but they don’t always have the tools they need for prevention,” says Adonis. “That’s part of the reason I’m so big on advocacy.”
For this reason, Adonis also occasionally blends HIV prevention, education and destigmatization into his rap music.
"I use my platform as an artist to always be conscious and aware," Adonis explains. "I make sure to spread the right word about HIV and awareness.”
Recently, Adonis’s energy has been spent supporting a new Congressional bill. The Repeal Existing Policies that Encourage and Allow Legal (REPEAL) HIV Discrimination Act challenges state policies that criminalize people for HIV-related offenses, such as not disclosing one’s status prior to sexual activity.
“We’re really working on the awareness of the bill in the U.S. South,” Adonis says. “There’s no reason people should be criminalized for their HIV status.”
Adonis highlights that being on the front line not just with community outreach, but also in fighting for the passage of a major national bill, is a rare opportunity.
“It’s been great to be in these kinds of environments and to have a seat at the table where people like me normally wouldn’t,” Adonis says. “I’m able to use Advocates for Youth as a platform and to use my voice for what it’s worth.”
After two years with the program Adonis is aging out of ECHO, which only has youth leaders up to age 24. But Adonis is committed to continuing advocacy work through their music and other opportunities.
“I plan on always being a voice for young people, for those less fortunate and for people who have HIV,” Adonis says. “I want to spread awareness wherever I can.”
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