August 22, 2020 (updated August 24, 2020) Published by Dennis Velco
Tristen Schukraft is the CEO/Founder of Mistr (https://www.heymistr.com) an online source for PrEP, the HIV prevention medication. In our chat with Tristen, an openly gay entrepreneur, we discuss briefly his first business in the travel industry before diving into Mistr. He openly shares how he borrowed $10k from his parents and sold over 450 Razor scooters to gather enough capital to start that business. Tristen demonstrated the scrappy grit of bootstrapping entrepreneurial spirit. That business is still in operation 20 years later and a is significant player in the travel technology arena. Tristen is still a majority shareholder yet not involved in the daily operations. That has given him the ability to focus on building Mistr.
Are you sexually active? Are you meeting guys on Grindr, Scruff, Hornet or other hookup apps? In profiles it appears that most say they are on PrEP, but the prescription numbers prove otherwise. He might be HAF, but don’t put your health at risk. Control your own health and get on PrEP.
OutBüro is for LGBTQ entrepreneurs, professionals, and employers. Create your professional profile, connect, share, and engage with others. https://www.outburo.com/
PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) is a once-daily pill regimen that is 99% effective at preventing HIV. MISTR allows users to consult securely online with a licensed physician, complete the required lab work in the privacy of their home, and have their PrEP medication delivered free of charge each month, all without needing to visit a doctor’s office. Mistr is a telemedicine service currently solely focused on making access to HIV preventative medication convenient and affordable including currently in 12 states completely free. He and his team are working on making it free in all 50 states. Where not yet free, the cost is only $99 every 3 months. That includes the doctor consultations, blood lab work, and the medication.
Often, even those with health insurance can find that under their employer’s health plan they could be paying hundreds of dollars for the same tests, consultation and medication. Your local doctor and pharmacist are not aware of all the programs in place for this necessary and vital proactive health care medication. If they are aware they push the burden of completing all registrations back on to you. It can be cumbersome for many. Mistr on the other hand does all that for you. Again, currently in 12 states through the partnered programs, it is completely free for you.
In the remaining states, the $99 every 3 months is usually a huge saving of money, but also time. You have a phone or video conference with the doctor meaning you don’t have to leave work. Just take a short break at the scheduled time to step outside or into a private space and chat via your phone. Testing is done at home with a simple finger prick. If you aren’t comfortable doing that, there are over 2,200 labs across the US to do in-person tests. Once approved, your medication arrives in the mail and continues on a regular schedule.
With Mistr, getting and staying on PrEP is easy, affordable, if not free, and convenient. Your health is worth checking Mistr out today. Mistr is open to everyone. Gay, straight, male, or female. HIV doesn’t care who you are or who you have intimate relations with. “We’re proud that we have created the most affordable and easy to use online telePrEP platform,” said MISTR’s founder Tristan Schukraft. “PrEP is 99% effective at preventing HIV, and unfortunately PrEP is not utilized as much as it should be. We hope this opportunity will allow even more people to access this vital component in the fight against HIV.” Most insurance plans cover PrEP. For those who don’t have insurance or who are underinsured, MISTR manages all the paperwork needed to qualify users for patient assistance programs ensuring patients have no out-of-pocket costs. With no doctors office, no needles, no paperwork and free delivery, MISTR has eliminated all the barriers to PrEP.
MISTR is a telemedicine (telePrEP) platform offering easy online access to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) across the United States. Gay owned and operated, MISTR has brought together a network of the best doctors, pharmacists, and problem solvers to make PrEP available to all who need it. No doctor’s office, no needles, no paperwork, and free delivery. Get started today at heymistr.com and follow @heymistr on Instagram
August 17, 2020 (updated August 19, 2020) Published by Dennis Velco
Saraounia Mboka-Boyer is a Senior Capacity Development and Inclusion Specialist at Pact. Saraounia is a bilingual organizational change management and development specialist focusing on the intersections of Capacity Development/Building, sustainability, Gender equity, and Climate Change for systems strengthening in an international development context(s). In our discussion, she explains what Capacity Development is and how improving the basic operational skills can improve an organization’s chances of gaining grants or other funding so they may work on their core mission. Marginalized communities include the gay (homosexual), lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer populations within the many countries Pact operates.
Pact (https://www.pactworld.org/) is a nonprofit international development organization founded in 1971, Pact works on the ground in nearly 40 countries to improve the lives of those who are challenged by poverty and marginalization. They work in many areas including HIV/AIDS care and prevention. When called upon, they openly work with LGBTQ focused organizations based in the regions they operate in needing their assistance. They welcome partnerships to further create impactful change. In her role at Pact, she assists non-profit NGOs primarily within the countries of Liberia, Congo, South Africa, Indonesian, and Myanmar.
David Clive Price is an out LGBT entrepreneur mental wellbeing life coach, author and so much more. David has traveled the globe and lived in several countries which have given him a keen perspective on multiculturalism and leadership styles within different cultural contexts. David like so many, particularly persons in the LGBT community, struggled with coming to terms with family and society messaging of norms versus his authentic self. Despite outward signs of success, he like many struggled with internally owning his own narrative and views which lead to depression and anxiety. Over time David learned to reframe the past messages or programs that led to the substance abuse overcome. Through his books and personal mental wellbeing, David has transformed his life into supporting others on their own journey of working through addictions, depression, anxiety, and other issues that hold you back from living a full, thriving authentic and healthy life.
23:00 You cannot change the past yet you can choose how you react and respond. You control yourself.
26:00 You cannot change others, you may, however, set boundaries and enforce them 30:00 Habits create triggers and emotions have brain chemical associations that you become addicted to. Even the feeling of anger, victimization, and all other have a chemical reaction in the brain that you become addicted to. You can learn to reduce and eliminate those addictions and replace them with healthy habits and feelings.
36:00 Having a wellness life coach can help you in your process
David is well known for his clarity of analysis and approach, drawing on his experience and passion for people and cultures all over the world. He brings a strong comparative mindset to the challenges of his clients, enabling them to overcome their doubts and fears and to discover their true inner selves. Combining ancient healing practices such as the Korean art of nunchi (gauging other people’s feelings) with a holistic approach to self-leadership, David developed the Hidden Demons Method™: Discover Your Superpower. With this method he helps clients look within themselves and discover their true inner voice, overcoming their Hidden Demons of anxiety, addiction, and fear of failure. He then sets them on a course to higher performance, fulfillment, and authenticity. This superpower framework has been adopted by individuals, teams, and institutions all over the world and can be applied in any business or start-up. David is a living example of his principle of Daring to Dream. He coaches, teaches mental, and spiritual healing, speaks, motivates, and lives his global mission of helping others to discover their true selves.
Now more than ever we need a guide on how to survive not only with our mental and emotional health intact, but also strengthened, full of resourcefulness and agility, ready to combat our Hidden Demons. Chaos strikes and suddenly we realize we are more fragile than we thought — more exposed, unsafe, less in control. It is easy to invoke resilience. However, resilience is in short supply for many people who cannot quite understand what has hit them, either financially or in the loss of their usual bonds and customs. We need guides on how we can survive not only with our mental and emotional wellbeing intact, but also strengthened, full of resourcefulness and agility.
Now more than ever we need a guide on how to survive not only with our mental and emotional health intact, but also strengthened, full of resourcefulness and agility, ready to combat our Hidden Demons.
Throughout this course and its six modules, David shows that the path to rediscovering your life and purpose starts with tiny steps. It begins with getting yourself up off the floor (almost literally in his case). It continues in the days and weeks ahead as you seek to discover what your inner voices are telling you about your Hidden Demons, about your past, about social conventions, about your true talents – and whether you are really listening. More often than not, it’s two steps forward and one step back. Nothing can be achieved in a day, but everyone has a path to their true self and calling. It won’t come from social media. It won’t come from following movements and demagogues. It can come from the simplest of journeys, even imaginatively – to a college campus, to a forest for a walk, to the seaside, or to an unfamiliar city. But first of all you have to get to the starting point. That for many people is the most difficult step.
Learn the Six Life Strategies that David has developed to keep the mindset, habits and perspective needed to stay centered, focused, healthy, and strong throughout this and future crises.
David’s own life has not always been easy, and he has experienced constant challenges along the way, both as a gay man and as a relapsing alcoholic. However, he transparently shares in every section of his book and course what his “Hidden Demons” were ⎯ and as you follow along, you will discover that the Hidden Demons method™ is not only about fear, addictions and bringing hope and comfort in the darkness. It is so much more; it is a flashlight we all need on our journey to awaken our true greatness.
About David Clive Price, Ph.D.
Born in South London to Welsh parents, David graduated from Cambridge University with a Ph.D. in Renaissance History, won a British Academy fellowship to lecture at Bologna University, and wrote his first books — including his first novel — when living as a farmer-translator in Tuscany. He then moved to Japan and Hong Kong to study Asian cultures while taking up his first professional position at the Economist Intelligence Unit. This was followed by five years as the chief speechwriter for Asia for the HSBC Group during the return of Hong Kong to China. In parallel with his professional career, he continued to develop a passion for the people, religions and cultures of the world, which was reflected in a series of travel books including a study of Buddhism and spiritual beliefs in Asian daily life.
His successful track record in high-level communications for global CEOs, senior leaders, and politicians, which he carried forward in his coaching and writing consultancy on leaving HSBC, gave him a special insight into the challenges of high performance and behavioral change. These insights now inform his work with people of many different backgrounds as they seek to move forward and overcome the stress, burnout, and anxiety they are facing in their personal and professional lives. Speaking English, French, German, Italian and Cantonese, and having lived and worked in numerous countries, Dr. David Clive Price’s multicultural experience informs all his executive coaching, as well as his bestselling books Bamboo Strong with Foreword by Dr.Marshall Goldsmith, and the upcoming Hidden Demons: How to Overcome Fear, Anxiety, and Addiction in Uncertain Times.
Conversation Auto Transcript
The below was created through voice to text recognition. We will strive to edit for accuracy as time permits. It may not be perfect. It is being provided for the hearing impaired to still enjoy the interview.
Unknown Speaker 0:02 321
Unknown Speaker 0:05 Hello, this is Dennis Velco with OutBüro your website for LGBT professional and entrepreneurial endeavors. You are listening to this week’s episode of our new podcast again where we bring you interesting, lively, and sometimes hopefully entertaining conversations with LGBT entrepreneurs and professionals as well as community leaders spanning the globe. Thank you so much for tuning in. If you are watching this on YouTube, take a few moments and subscribe right now hit that subscribe button as well as the bell that will ensure that you are notified as soon as new episodes come available. Also, you’re able to subscribe. Follow us on in places such as Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify I Heart Radio and about 10 other podcasts so that you can listen to out your voices on the go at the gym, in your car on your way to work doing house chores line on the beaches, so much more tuned in with every episode to out your voices. And today we are very happy to have David Clive Price. He is an author, a mental health specialist, and an all-around guru on building change and leadership into your life. Thank you so much for joining us today. David. Thank you for having me. It’s a pleasure to be here Dennis. Wonderful, wonderful and you are hailing from across the pond as from the UK, correct?
Unknown Speaker 1:46 Yes. From Blighty, as they called it, during the war they called it Blighty, so old Blighty
Unknown Speaker 1:56 the United Kingdom Yes,
Unknown Speaker 1:58 wonderful land. For our viewers and listeners, what area of the UK Are you coming from?
Unknown Speaker 2:03 I’m coming from speaking from London. Oh,
Unknown Speaker 2:07 yes. Wonderful and gorgeous city. So, David, why don’t we kind of jump in to you giving us a bit of your background, which is very rich and diverse. And of course we strive for data an hour, I know you could probably speak for six or more hours with as much as going on, and you’re interesting books. But let’s give a little overview as to your background. And then we’ll lead into kind of a chronological step up from back then through your current projects.
Unknown Speaker 2:43 Sounds great, well, that’d be playing it straight in and say that I help entrepreneurs and LGBTQ professionals to overcome mental health challenges, such as fear, anxiety and addiction, so that they can face their Hidden demons and create a more fulfilled life and abundant business. So I’m the author of bamboo strong cultural intelligence secrets to succeed in the new global economy. and, more recently, the age of pluralism, global intelligence for emerging leaders. Okay, so
Unknown Speaker 3:23 just a little bit. Tell us just a little bit about the the bamboo strong. That’s an interesting title.
Unknown Speaker 3:31 Yeah, well, as the title suggests, it’s to do with, with bending in the wind, if you like, metaphorically, strong, but also resisted, strong, but flexible and agile. And that is the central thesis of the book really, which is based on my own travels and experiences around the world, and particularly in Asia Pacific, but also you In the States and Europe, in South America, with different countries and cultures and backgrounds dealing with people of difference of our differences, in other words,
Unknown Speaker 4:13 and the book
Unknown Speaker 4:16 has as its framework, what’s called the cultural intelligence or CQ model, a four part model to help you relate with, make relationships with, negotiate with, understand the differences of and create emotional intelligence for dealing with people of many backgrounds and cultures, races, generations and creeds. So the book goes on the journey through through my own life experiences by using this CPU model.
Unknown Speaker 4:54 Okay, well that certainly, and all the times but especially in today’s since times here in the United States with racial tensions and so forth. I’m sure that your book would be bamboo strong would be an excellent read for for anyone, but particularly those in whatever leadership positions you might find yourself and whether that’s leadership in an organization via an employer or even a community nonprofit sounds like a really good read, especially now in today’s time.
Unknown Speaker 5:30 Yes, we’re dealing with a great deal of tension around diversity and inclusion. We have maybe a lot of celebration of diversity, as we’ve had this month for gay pride, of course, but not so much necessarily of for inclusion. That’s both in society at large and in companies and corporations, etc. So there is a great The more education needed on the diversity and inclusion front, which this book tends to help with. And the follow up book which is called the age of pluralism, global intelligence for emerging leaders. So, those are in the back the younger generations to again with its own framework for dealing with differences personal, cultural, generational. So that is the background to my sorry, say, multi multiracial multicultural work and at the same time that the kind of qualities and capabilities are required for but working together well with people have many different backgrounds are similar to Those that we need in mental health challenges, which are also. So current and particularly now with the global pandemic, increasingly currents and increasing pandemic of mental health issues of all kinds. So,
Unknown Speaker 7:23 agility, looking within
Unknown Speaker 7:28 discovering inner resources, empathy, emotional intelligence, these are the kind of leadership issues and personal issues that that my books and my frameworks address.
Unknown Speaker 7:44 Okay, and just for audience, I can’t believe we didn’t escape. You’re also if I’m not mistaken. Psychologists
Unknown Speaker 7:52 know, I’m also qualified practitioner, as a psychologist. Now I’m a I’m a PhD. I saw the doctor
Unknown Speaker 7:59 guide Yeah, sorry, my mistake without I don’t have my glasses on to look at my notes.
Unknown Speaker 8:08 Okay, but definitely, definitely interesting topics and what is your PhD in?
Unknown Speaker 8:16 It’s in Renaissance history actually. Wow. So I took a great interest in history at college and at school indeed and then Cambridge I studied the Renaissance and actually Renaissance music and and then disappear from courts and country houses of idioms. Initially sauce. That’s what kicked off my interest and then I had a fellowship on the British Academy to go over to Italy.
Unknown Speaker 8:52 And
Unknown Speaker 8:53 I studied the northern Italian Renaissance courts. Wow for one, two years. At
Unknown Speaker 9:02 a beautiful period, but I would not want to live in that era. Just, you know, being being obviously also a gay person assuming that I grew up in a gay person then as well. But what’s what’s interesting though, is you know, from your your PhD in history looking at that, you know, and your, your travels in and around you, you live in so many places around the world, in in Asia and Africa, us and so forth. And, you know, being able to take a look at a historical and a cultural perspective because I firmly believe that for leaders and for you as an individual to really look forward, you also have to be able to look in the past and it’s not dwell on the past, but he is acknowledge the past right? So just like if you’re wanting to make changes in your own life, changes in your behaviors, you have to be able to acknowledge the past because if you just ignore it, and you have no no reference for it, when it comes to your own personal issues, then you’re less likely to successfully overcome it because you haven’t dealt with it properly. Yes, and when it comes to a business practice, being able to fully lead and drive new products and services, you know, like new product developments, one of the other guests. Two weeks ago, we talked about how, how important it is to be able to understand for example, the adoption of technologies, new products and services, and to to understand how your new product or service might be adopted today, you know, we might, it might not take us today. 10 years to a gap, for example, as it did from black and white television to colored television. And of course now, we all have basically one sitting here. You know, whatever I grew up, we had the big black huge console with the built in huge fingers. I mean, it was a piece of furniture, right? Yeah. Yeah. And and here we are, and same, you know, with you as well, you know, back back then that television, you had one TV per household, it was a coveted item. Everyone sat around it. Well, now everyone just walks around basically TV on their phone. And and so, you know, that that but being able to look at the past and say, you know, how did cultures or how did individuals consumers or or businesses adapt to this is that is a very strong point in Understanding how you can move forward when there are some gaps. But it definitely relates to your mental. Yes. mental challenges and mental mental opportunities. Yeah, looking,
Unknown Speaker 12:15 looking into your past Yes. or looking into analyzing the stories that you tell yourself. That’s one of the lead strategies in hidden demons, which is, you know, we have, some of them are conscious stories, but many of them are unconscious stories they may lay hidden within us that we’re not entirely aware of, and they may in some curious way still dictate our behavior and perhaps our mental health challenges as well. And so being able to analyze the stories or look within yourself for the stories, I think these are big and that relates more generally on the on the widest Scale to being able to look at our history to be able to look at the history of other cultures and have other people put to putting things in context. And to have more than one perspective in mind at the same time is Yeah,
Unknown Speaker 13:18 so that, you know, I heard I heard some other people perhaps this is try to explain as I understand it, and perhaps it’s explaining exactly what you said in a slightly different way. But I’d love to hear from you if it’s if it’s this similar kind of concept. And through some of the the work that I’ve done, I’ve heard it called, they termed it as your programming, right, having a track seven green, conscious and unconscious memory as programming. And so, you know, for example, if you grew up with a parent who from an early He gave you the signals that you were not worthy you are not going to amount to anything via verbal and or just through their actions through not paying attention to you through not helping you with your schoolwork. And then well, you know, I knew you weren’t going to do well in that. So why bother? Those are approved that’s laying down programming within the brain that says, I’m not worth spending time with. I’m not good at anything. And, and so it can affect how then you see the world view and interpret and interact with the world today.
Unknown Speaker 14:44 Yeah, and of course,
Unknown Speaker 14:46 and so
Unknown Speaker 14:49 there’s ways so does your book in modern demons goes into ways to kind of rewrite those stories or rewrite those programs and you
Unknown Speaker 15:00 goes very much into how we can use those stories to move forward. And of course, for LGBTQ people, often the coming out story is the biggest story of all. And you know, all the what to say the the influx of emotions and secrecy and shame, perhaps that goes before coming out, especially to your family. And these can have reverberations throughout your life unless you’re aware of them. And of course, we can address these demons by becoming aware of them and that means looking at them. sounds simple, but it’s not so simple in reality, Ray’s story stories.
Unknown Speaker 15:56 Yeah. Well because you know, it is such a struggle that is partly due to the underlying reasoning why so many years study after study shows that some of the some of these studies I have written about some of them, I’ve just not gotten around to but they’re out there. So do Google them folks, is you know, study after study shows that LGBT you persons suffer from higher levels or more frequent levels of anxiety, depression, more a higher attempts of suicide. There’s just there’s lots of studies in and around the LGBTQ mental
Unknown Speaker 16:38 mental health. Yeah, and that
Unknown Speaker 16:40 and that I think goes a lot into you know, the rejections the bat because of religion, different religions around the world, who, you know, preach and or whatever they call it. I mean, I know I don’t misprint mistake for other religions and cultures. But you know, I grew up in a very fundamentalist right wing environment myself. To this day. My own father is extremely right wing I can’t even say the word community without him beginning his, quote scripture. So and and I know what that is what part of that is done for me and I’m not going to get into the whole story. I’ve been told I could write books about my youth and teenage years, not off centered around me but it all centered around religion and how it was used in a very negative way. And so so I really get that’s one thing why this really stuck out to me because I personally know how those stories you know, sometimes you’ll find or antidote to flee that LGBT people work, you know, x men You know, x times harder, x times more, it’s like we’re always trying to prove ourselves. So yes,
Unknown Speaker 18:07 exactly. And
Unknown Speaker 18:08 I think is trying to overcome those stories overcome those programming. But then there’s also a string of self destruction. also kind of going into those programs or stories as you call them. And it’s like, well, if I’m not worthy, why bother? Why shouldn’t I just drink myself into a stupor every night? No one cares, right? I mean, that’s what does the programming that gets put into your mind if I’m not worthy enough for my own family from my own parents love and my own father’s acceptance in my own mother’s acceptance, or my own siblings acceptance then then why should I even exist, so who cares I’ll just go out and party every night and have fun because I’m not going to live anyways. Because you know, all those negative kind of stories come in and can lead to a life and Like style of kind of nonchalant, nonchalant pneus yet, yet, what’s interesting is the dualism, I work Work, Work work, you know, I, when I say I, you know, putting this in framework of the listener is, you know, you work, work, work, work work to try to prove yourself, but then also have these destructive behaviors kind of happening simultaneously. So, if I could do a chunk about those,
Unknown Speaker 19:27 yeah, I mean, I maybe had a less less than tolerant family and mother and father. But there probably was something there that particularly for my father that was always kind of in the background, even when I came out and he more or less accepted it and my mother more or less accepted it, etc, etc. But there’s just one little example is the school play. I was playing Hamlet course as a little achiever to at school. So I had to be, you know, handwritten Could school play and as kind of honor that last night and the parents came along and I was quite pleased with myself, I thought it went well. And I went up to the balcony later to see them and expected them to say, David, that was terrific. You know, we really enjoyed it. I know how they got peak, they more or less got up and said, I think it’s time now to go to the car. And I realized that that I didn’t realize then but later on thinking about it, it’s because they thought that confirm certain tendencies. This is before I came out to be fair, you know, confirm certain tendencies. And it’s, you know, it’s, you’re always achieving a lot of people a lot of LGBTQ people continue to achieve achieve achieve throughout their lives and always have a slight sense of they’re not quite good enough, which is what I explore in the book as well. But however much you do, whatever success you have, there’s something not quite right. And I have clients in my local LGBT few Leaders Program now who do talk about this kind of underlying our knees but needing to refine that purpose. And and listening to those stories. As I said earlier, that’s one of the techniques that we use to go deeper down. And then living in the present too. That’s another big strategy that we’re always projecting. unease or dissatisfaction onto the future or will it will it? Will it realize my fears that I had when I was a child or when I was a adolescent boy, young man will the next 10 year will the next five When will something go wrong? Even when we’ve got you know everything going for us will something go wrong?
Unknown Speaker 22:08 Which is
Unknown Speaker 22:12 things that we have to deal with and come out on the other side off.
Unknown Speaker 22:18 Personally I struggled with alcoholism, depression, anxiety, and not constantly I achieved in between, you know, I was speechwriter for one for one of the world’s largest banks. I wrote several travel books about different countries around the world a show etc.
Unknown Speaker 22:42 And I you know, I then
Unknown Speaker 22:46 always rebounding to alcohol
Unknown Speaker 22:50 even though I found my life’s true love, you know, we call so you know, there’s always a sort of underlying, eventually I got through it. And now I’m a reasonably successful entrepreneur life coach, but you know, you have to go through certain phases unfortunately as a gay man or at least be aware of them as an LGBTQ person or at least be aware of them because they are there to trip you up and that’s why the book is called hidden demons how to overcome fear and anxiety and addiction to thrive in uncertain times. Okay,
Unknown Speaker 23:29 well in and this you know, for for those listening is and watching is it’s this is about dealing with your your past and helping to frame that and put perspective around it. You can’t change your past, but you can change the way you view it. That’s your choice. Okay, you can’t, you can’t change what people have said to you and done to you. However, what you can Choose is how you react and respond to that. Because you have, it’s you who control you. Right? Yeah. If someone makes you angry, No, they didn’t. You made yourself angry. You chose to take that reaction and take that response. If someone disrespected, you know, you chose to take it that way. It’s all in your own choices right here has nothing to do with the other person. They’re going on. They’re going about their lives. If you know if you happen to be like me, and even as of two Christmases ago, I mean, it was chaotic. You know, I my father was asking about me moving further south, which was to Fort Lauderdale. Oh, well, why are you moving Being down there. And you know, I’ve learned throughout the years to avoid key words that would set him into his religious tirades. And finally, but he has learned keep pressing Dennis with question and question and question and question until I hear the question or until I hear the the the trigger and then I get to go off and I can justify it and I can be my religious asshole. So, well. Do you know what that particular Christmas was? I stopped reacting. I simply put my finger is from his nose and I said stop. You stop. I’m a 15 year old man and I will not tolerate it any longer. It’s your choice. You will not you will not get the upset, but I will not tolerate it. We chose to say that we are going to respect each other. And that means if you ask me a question you have to be adult enough to leave Listen to the answer. And so that was a big step for me. Yeah. And you know, I’ve always have been the person who pushed and asked questions and questions and yeah, we’ve always as I like to say we’ve always had great pleasantry conversations pleasantries, just talking about the little niceties, gardening, housework and so forth, but when it comes to, and his job and all of that, but really not about life, you know, and, and that’s unfortunate, but you know, you can’t change other people. You have to be able to take your life and control you. Right. Sometimes you have to put boundaries on other people, because they they purposely try to poke and prod, which is what he did for years. Yeah. Kind of childish. But
Unknown Speaker 26:56 so
Unknown Speaker 26:58 but you’re right you control you I think that’s very right. Yeah. You control you
Unknown Speaker 27:05 laterally. Yes. Yes. You You control you,
Unknown Speaker 27:08 you are not controlled by the outside forces, whatever they are external forces you control you. Absolutely.
Unknown Speaker 27:18 Yeah. And so when when you then utilize books like these, and all of them sound like incredible worthy reads is you’re then able to put those into perspective and put your own history to perspective and say, Alright, and you know, the past is the past you can’t change it. You can’t change the way you reacted and responded based on those triggers that were very ingrained that programming that was very ingrained. But what you can do is you can change the way you react, you know, it’s just like, just like stopping drink, or for pay out. I will share something have you guys here? Okay, so if you’ve even just listened to these, you know, about three years ago, I had a divorce and a 17 year relationship Well, me being me, because I’ve had a two, a NINE and a 17 year relationship. So I’ve been in relationships like 98% of mine and not always good. I would stay in them for all kinds of reasons. convenience. Just, I would stay in bad relationships. But, so just three and a half months after being out of the will, three and a half months of being on my own living on my own. What does dentists do? Next? prep basically next guy that comes along, man, within a month, we’re living together. I mean, this is as my friends like to say. That is yours, that is u haul packing. lesbians. You know, as soon as you start dating someone, you’re like, boom, boom, boom, you know, you’re picking out the chick next trying to patterns. like omg. Well, this this fella smokes cigarettes. I’ve never smoked cigarettes in my life. outside of here, there’s, you know, one or two, you know, kind of a thing now and then like once a year kind of thing. And this guy smokes, regularly, constantly, almost every day says he’s going to stop. But, you know, as we started to go out, he would, you know, pass me a cigarette, and say, Okay, and then another and then another. Then as I started to stay at his house, he began to leave two or three a day for me. Then it became five or six, then it became half a pack. Within within about three month period, I went from not smoking basically my entire life to smoke today, and it took me almost two years. And finally, one day, I just had to say, Stop. What the f are you doing? Hmm. And and to be honest, it’s turned off other guys that I was interested in. Yeah. And it’s like, if for nothing else I need to stop because of that, right. But it was that little bit of, I guess a little bit of social programming that happened in a very short time period. So when you now is
Unknown Speaker 30:29 a habit,
Unknown Speaker 30:31 yes. which create triggers. And this also when you’re a child, and when you’re a young person and you’re growing up, also the experiences that you have have chemical triggers. Yes. And those Exactly. And those become you become addicted to those chemical triggers in the brain.
Unknown Speaker 30:54 Yes, but you can and unlearn them. Yes. It’s a big thing. But that’s what the book talks about a lot. Just like fear, anxiety, depression, they are kind of addiction. They’re definitely a habit. And just like those habits can can be unlearned. They can be you can learn new habits that take that place, not immediately. Not, you know, I got, I got a box, the one out of the box, kind of a quick solution to that. Not immediately, but one step at a time. In my case, one day at a time, I was throwing myself off my bedroom, balcony at high up in Hong Kong until the airport expressway I was about to
Unknown Speaker 31:48 you know, and but somehow I came back from that thinking of my my loved one, I mean my other half
Unknown Speaker 31:58 but the habits Gone to this extent that I was that I was on the anti suicide. The habit also was taking one step back, taking two step back, thinking of Simon three steps back, getting to the sofa, holding on to the sofa clutching x, then finding the phone, then finding the Samaritan number from directory inquiries, then getting that then them talking to me. Then by eight o’clock in the morning, this was like four in the in the morning by eight o’clock in the morning, I knew I could get down in the elevator down to the lobby, and then call up a friend and then go over to a friend’s house for two days. But the steps back from those black holes in our lives are so important, and everything can be replaced with a new habit. Yes, new and new habits of sobriety. For example,
Unknown Speaker 33:00 of absence of fear of not projecting
Unknown Speaker 33:07 nervousness or anxiety onto the future, with living one day at a time, etc, etc. So, and happiness
Unknown Speaker 33:17 and this new habits taking time is is, you know getting Where’s kind of going would be the that temporary smoking thing because it’s just like I learned that that new habit over about a two month period it took about two months also for me to once I finally made the decision, it took about that same amount of time to end. And, you know, those long held ingrained beliefs. As David was saying, you know, they just don’t go away immediately because they are long held ingrained. Yeah, stories slash programs and they take a conscious effort To adjust. And so so you offer Well, a mental well being life coaching. Yes. And so do you then help your clients make these adjustments?
Unknown Speaker 34:16 Yes, that’s part of the programs Very much so. And not all LGBTQ clients but I do have a special program for LGBTQ professionals. But yeah, I help them with the these kinds of issues. It was a six, six module six parts program really to overcome your hidden demons to lead a more fulfilled and abundant life, the most satisfying with free of unease and curious unease that we LGBTQ people have until he’s, in my case well into my second adulthood or boyhood, or whatever I’m in at the moment. Right?
Unknown Speaker 35:11 Well, and you know, it’s no disrespect to, you know, any mental health care practitioner, you know, out out there. But you know, when it comes to authenticity, knowing that someone has gone through something in my personal opinion, makes them more relatable
Unknown Speaker 35:33 and more
Unknown Speaker 35:36 you know, again, no, no disrespect and maybe maybe someone in the comments will say, No, that’s absolutely not right. You don’t have to have been a you know, addicted to drugs or alcohol in order to be effective counselor. No, no, I you know, I guess not. But I had several people in my my my life who have gone through rehabilitation from both. And the the over arching or the commonality in the several people that I know. They, again, no please don’t hate on me whatever and comments and all of that, but there, they had a better success. And they opened up more when they knew that the that their counselor had gone through something that they like, was it always the exact same thing? You know, like one was addicted to methamphetamines, unfortunately, which is very rampant in the LGBT community, especially the gaming community. And but the person his counselor was an a, you know, a recovered alcoholic, that made him just feel more like Oh, you’ve you’ve gone through something you’ve overcome something so therefore you get me. And it was, maybe it was just from this one person that a friend has done for you. She was a total like Christine person hadn’t, you know, perfect life perfect. Everything had hadn’t had anything. And, and I don’t know if maybe she conveyed to too much of that to my friend, but it was just they were not he was not opening up to her. And I think it’s because he felt like she was just had couldn’t relate, you know, like clinically, you know, one thing is to be clinically textbook. The other thing is to have life experiences and wisdom. Does that make sense? And I’m open to people having comments and so forth. If you do, folks, just whatever platform you’re on, put comments down below what your thoughts are on that. What are your thoughts on that game?
Unknown Speaker 37:54 Well, I think as a coach in general, as a life coach Pat’s particular You need to trust you need to build that relationship of trust. And sometimes it’s more difficult if you’re only working together on a high powered professional level or as the achieving coach and the you know yet to achieve. Coaching is something to do with trust and particularly in these areas of mental health. But that is really, really important. relatable. I think a lot of coaches try to be relatable and the coaching relationship is based on on being relatable and integrity. But sometimes it’s the trust factor is missing the full trust and being, as you say, able to to relate to someone who been there and done that in many ways and has a lot of experiences to tell. which gives me You know, I’m, I’m privileged to do this work and but, and honored to, to help people because I’ve also been incredibly lucky to have so many experiences all over the world to have a rich and diverse background, I’m very lucky if I’m able to say that now beforehand, if when I was drinking, I probably there was another one, or I did not flatter my back in my Tokyo flat for the 12th time, you know, Night after night, waking up at six in the morning in your own body, etc. You know, and and that’s after writing a couple of books, and that’s after being well respected. I wrote my first novel setting in New York again, otherwise it happens called Alphabet City. I’ve had a little bit of success that the gay writer on white wrote a great review of it and endorsed it, etc. But then I went back to Italy and then things began to fall to pieces again and then I’m back on the old vino from I had a little farm in Italy. After I finished my fellowship together my first partner we bought a little farm, but two or three, four years there, I wrote my first books and and was a wine and olive farmer which I loved. But also titling the wine. You know, as a wind farmer, you’re allowed to triple A wine at five in the morning, right with a garlic bread and tomato. So while you’re doing your vines, so yeah,
May 24, 2020 (updated May 24, 2020) Published by Dennis Velco
LOS ANGELES, May 20, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — A new study published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders finds that eating disorder patients who identify as LGBT have more severe eating disorder symptoms, higher rates of trauma history, and longer delays between diagnosis and treatment than heterosexual, cisgender patients.
“While we know there is a higher prevalence of eating disorders among LGBTQ folks, particularly trans and non-binary folks (with rates estimated to be anywhere from 40% to 70%), our field is in its infancy with researching this health disparity, so I believe research like ours is especially important,” said clinical psychologist Jennifer Henretty PhD, CEDS, one of the study’s co-authors who serves as the Executive Director of Clinical Outcomes for Discovery Behavioral Health, Center For Discovery.
Eating disorders are a serious mental health concern: At least 30 million people—of all ages, sexual orientations, and gender-identities—experience an eating disorder in the U.S. alone, and every 62 minutes at least one person dies as a direct result of an eating disorder. In fact, eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. (Source: National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Eating Disorders)
The most common eating disorders are binge eating disorder, where people regularly eat a large amount in a short period of time; bulimia nervosa, where people regularly eat a large amount in a short period of time and then try to offset the food using harmful behaviors (like vomiting); and anorexia nervosa, where people regularly eat too little due to a fear of gaining weight and thus are malnourished. The causes of eating disorders are not clear but both biological and environmental factors are thought to play a role. Eating disorders typically begin in adolescence but it appears that the rate of the disorder may be on the rise in middle-aged and even older adults.
The peer-reviewed academic study analyzed data from 2,818 individuals treated in residential (RTC), partial hospitalization (PHP), and/or intensive outpatient (IOP) levels-of-care at a large eating disorder treatment organization; 471 (17%) of the participants identified as LGBT. The facilities were operated by Center for Discovery, a U.S. healthcare provider specializing in the treatment of eating disorders.
Research shows that individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or other non-heterosexual/non-cisgender identities have significantly higher rates of mental and physical health conditions compared to their heterosexual, cisgender peers.
“LGBT individuals are more likely to experience housing and employment discrimination, and to struggle with multiple mental health challenges related to minority stress; this perfect storm of barriers means eating behaviors are often overlooked,” said Vaughn Darst, RD, who serves as Operations Advisor for Discovery Behavioral Health, Center For Discovery and who also discussed in a TedX talk the complex issue at the intersection of gender, body image, food and identity.
Center For Discovery, which opened in 1997, is a leading provider of eating disorder treatment in the U.S. Weekly residential programming includes two to three individual sessions; one to two family sessions; dietary, medical, and psychiatric sessions; and between 35 and 40 therapeutic groups. Modalities such as Exposure Response Prevention, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, and a Family Systems Approach are utilized. Importantly, Center For Discovery is trans/gender-affirming and trauma informed.
The study found a full 12-month delay in treatment for LGBT patients compared to non-LGBT patients. “Delays in accessing treatment are especially widespread for transgender and nonbinary individuals with eating disorders. Some of the causes include delayed diagnosis by providers who fail to assess non-cisgender female patients for disordered eating, as well as limited access to trans-affirming treatment options, particularly at the residential level of care” said Darst. Center For Discovery hopes to reduce this delay by being a trans-affirming treatment center and by providing trainings for staff and community providers on best practices for addressing eating concerns within LGBT communities.
Discovery Behavioral Health is a leading, in-network, U.S. healthcare provider delivering accessible, evidence-based community care for substance use, eating disorders, and behavioral health. Discovery’s programs include residential, partial hospitalization, and intensive outpatient care for teens and adults. The company was established in 1997 and is headquartered in Orange County, California. More: https://discoverybehavioralhealth.com
May 23, 2020 (updated May 25, 2020) Published by Dennis Velco
Being an entrepreneur is challenging. The LGBTQ entrepreneur can face additional challenges that our couterparts likely won’t face such as biased limitations to captial funding to launch or grow your business, access to business mentors, hurdles to reach revenue growth due to biases, lack of strong suplier diversity practices, and so much more. This can lead to gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer business owner to still in today’s time hide their true self causing yet other stresses.
Happiness is important. There are some LGBTQ entrepreneurs who have sacrificed their health, sanity, happiness, life balance, and personal relationships in pursuit of success. Like all professionals, LGBTQ entrepreneurs who are authentically happy, are those who have found a way to balance all of the various facets of their life.
Happiness matters, more than you might realize. It’s important to your physical and mental health and in your resiliency in the face of challenges and crises. Additionally, your happiness is important to the happiness of those close to you, the community at large, and the success of your business.
Are You Happy?
Do you feel you are working on supporting your big “why” that sparked your passion that sparked the idea of your startup in the beginning?
Do you feel you have quality time with your life-partner, family, and friends?
Are you taking the time to focus on your physical health – taking care of yourself?
Are you “out” in your professional life?
Would You Change?
It is often said that no one on their death bed wishes they spent more time at the office, more time marketing and pursuing customers or more time perfecting the fundraising pitch deck. Most say they wish they spent more time being present physically and mentally with those they care about.
Take a moment, now or schedule it. Take a walk and really think about this. Are you happy in all facets of your full life and if not why?
What small changes can you make to work on that? We’d love for you to comment and begin a discussion of the struggles, opportunities, strategies, and success – in happiness you have encountered. Are you putting on your busy calendar time for yourself and time with others? If not, give yourself permission to just do it.
As we are going through the COVID-19 it has added a whole other level of stresses. Things to consider putting on our calender as you can while still being safe:
Once a month catch up call with a long distant relative or friend.
Weekly or bi-weekly special date night with your life-partner – doing something that makes the day or evening special quality time to stay deeply connected. Share some ideas in the comments.
Do you have kids? Consider a board game night or other unplugged activities that allow interaction, discussion, and fun. What other ideas do you have?
Consider some alone time too – maybe that is walking around your neighborhood or parks. While walking listen to the birds and crickets, relaxing music, or even podcasts on topics you enjoy. Maybe your alone time is starting or rekindling a meditation practice. What activities work for you that you could recommend to others?
Are you involved in any local charities? If not, consider volunteering a few hours a month.
Get and stay fit. Exercising releases happy mood endorphins. With COVID-19 you might be stuck in-home workouts, but luckily there are tons of free instructional videos on YouTube with both male and female instructors.
Due to COVID-19 are you in or near financial ruin? Have you considered bankruptcy? How are you dealing with that?
If not out as a business owner, would you like to talk to others and to get their stories and support?
What resources would you recommend to others? What has been working well for you? What areas would you like to find support in?
Please share those in the comments.
Consider joining the private Out:Startups group here on OutBüro to connect with other business owners, share ideas, methods, and all tactics in a safe space where you can be yourself.
May 21, 2020 (updated May 21, 2020) Published by Dennis Velco
Disruptive Technologists mission is to inspire, guide, advise, teach, change, and create disrupters. Their in-person New York City meetings draw a weekly impressive crowd of 300 with standing room only. It is graciously hosted by Microsoft in their NYC building auditorium. Their communication distribution reaches over 20,000 developers, founders, investors, hackers, startup teams, professors, students, journalists, other media, vendors, corporations, and entrepreneurs.
Each week the panel of regulars and guests discuss pressing issues of the day and how technology can be positively leveraged as well as issues such as security and privacy. The May 20th discussion revolved around the COVID-19 pandemic. This week, Dennis Velco of OutBüro was invited to be a panelist bringing an LGBTQ perspective to the discussion.
The full panelist line up:
Esther Dyson, Executive Founder at Wellville & Angel Investor
Q1: New York Cities’ poorest are dying at more than twice the rate of more affluent neighborhoods. Is this just to be expected in Modern America? – Poorer areas lack adequate medical care.- Diabetes and Hypertension are more prevalent in low-income communities.- 94,327 US Deaths. – What could we do better?
Q2: The Apple/Google contact tracing app update was released today. Is it too little, too late? – Combined Market Cap over $2 Trillion Dollars.- First Chinese cases December, US cases in February. – Only for Bluetooth enabled smartphones.- What are the better solutions?
Q3: Amazon has called itself ‘The New Red Cross’. Without useful Government assistance, is this the new reality? – A workforce of 270,000 in the US and 800,000 globally. – Vast majority working in warehouses at $15 per hour. – During this talk Jeff Bezos made an additional $9 Million dollars.
There are more important things than living and that’s saving this country.
Dan Patrick – Lt. Governor of Texas – March 31, 2020
Who is your: Hero of the week and villain of the week What technology or Diversity & Inclusion approaches do you like right now?
To learn more about Disruptive Technologies find them on their many soical media chennels listed below:
HIV-AIDS taught us that silence = death, and information = power.
Picture this: It’s 1985. You’re a young gay man, living in Washington, DC.
AIDS has been all over the news since the actor Rock Hudson went public with his own diagnosis in July—and died in October. A new test to determine whether you have been exposed to HIV has just become available, although even the AIDS organizations are advising against taking it because no one yet knows what a positive result means.
Every morning you look up above the escalators going down into the Metro station at Dupont Circle and check the latest tally of AIDS deaths flashing across the ticker board—like a silent bell tolling across the gayest neighborhood in the city, reminding you that a deadly virus is on the loose, killing people, mostly other gay men, right there in your own neighborhood.
On the streets you see guys you knew from the gym, muscle boys now looking like shriveled old men, their faces polka-dotted with the purple lesions of Kaposi’s sarcoma.
You see more and more of their obituaries each week in the Washington Blade, the city’s LGBTQ newspaper and the most reliable source of information about the growing HIV pandemic.
The virus haunts your intimate moments, each coupling now an unwelcome and terrifying ménage á trois with one of the three not even visible and yet dominating the exchange, standing between the ecstasy of sex and the precipice of potential death.
Posters, flyers, and newspaper ads yell at you to protect yourself and your partners against the deadly microbe. Most heed the warnings; many do not.
And the Blade publishes yet more obituaries.
It’s a frightening experience to live through a deadly viral pandemic, especially one as lethal as HIV. But an important lesson from the HIV pandemic is that it is not only possible, but imperative, to get on with your life even as you practice the safety precautions that credible public health experts recommend.
In the case of the novel coronavirus now spreading across the world and throughout America, it’s particularly important to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations—including regular hand-washing, disinfecting frequently used surfaces, and ‘social distancing’ from people who are sick or crowds in which the virus can more easily be transmitted.
Something we learned in the HIV-AIDS pandemic that is highly relevant to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus: Words matter. Facts matter. It matters how we talk about something like a virus, the illness it causes, and those affected by it.
We learned that silence (and ignorance) equals death—and information equals power. Armed with fact-based information, we are best prepared to address the challenges that will lie ahead for many of us.
As the World Health Organization makes clear in its recommendations, it’s not useful to talk about a “plague,” and COVID-19 is not a “Chinese” or “Asian” disease. People diagnosed with the virus are not “vectors” or “carriers”—they are people first and foremost. “Stigma can undermine social cohesion and prompt possible social isolation of groups, which might contribute to a situation where the virus is more, not less, likely to spread,” the WHO says.
The first people diagnosed with HIV-AIDS—openly, proudly gay men—understood that words and language can make all the difference between hope and despair, between fear-driven hatred and compassion. “We are people with AIDS,” they insisted, not ‘AIDS victims.’” HIV-AIDS was an illness they had; it was not who they are. Their humanity defined them, not their diagnosis.
We are susceptible to the novel coronavirus, and the multitudes of other microbes around us and within our bodies at any given moment, simply because we are fragile, physical humans living in a sometimes dangerous world—not because of our ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, skin tone, or any other immutable trait.
These five steps will help us get through our latest public health crisis:
Stay informed about the novel coronavirus—it’s the best defense against anxiety and to avoid ‘groupthink‘ and hysteria;
Practice the recommended safety precautions;
Seek testing and treatment if you’re ill;
Respect your own and others’ humanity if you or they become ill; and
Use words and language that don’t stigmatize anyone.
There is no need to panic or catastrophize (“the end of the world is here!”), and there is no room for hysteria borne of ignorance. Remember: Information equals power. Take it from a formerly young gay man who, beginning in 1985, lived through the “dark years” of AIDS in our hard-hit nation’s capital.
This article was originally posted on Physcology Today on March 12, 2020 and issued here OutBüro on by the author.
Being resilient means controlling how much we let our traumas define us.
We’re hearing a lot about what in the COVID-19 pandemic is becoming “the new normal,” including face masks, hand-washing, sheltering-in-place, and social distancing.
Unfortunately for tens of millions, even billions, the new normal also features tremendous anxiety, depression, grief, and financial hardship.
I can only offer empathy where it comes to financial hardship. I truly feel your pain as I know this hardship all too well. But I also know a few things about resilience that have helped me through some really tough times when I have experienced all of these emotional and mental health challenges.
For one thing, it’s unrealistic to expect yourself not to be changed by the trauma of losing a job, struggling to pay bills, worrying about a high-risk loved one’s health, or the new and widespread fear of simply going into a grocery store with unmasked shoppers. These experiences can rattle us to the core, make us question ourselves and our value, maybe even wonder whether life is worth all the effort it requires.
We’re also hearing a lot of talk about “getting back to normal.” But resilient people understand that there is no such thing as going back to “how things used to be.” We understand that there are only two options: Either stay stuck in the anxiety, depression, and fear by repeatedly rehashing the details of your trauma and the suffering it caused you. Or you move on.
By moving on, I am not suggesting you must forget what you’ve suffered, as if it’s even possible. No. I mean you deliberately choose—yes, it is a choice—not to allow the emotions and thoughts linked to the trauma control or define your present. You can’t undo what was done, but you get to decide how big a part it plays in defining you now.
The important starting point is in how you frame the story you tell yourself about what the traumatic experience—in this case, the COVID-19 pandemic—”means” in the bigger story of your life, your relationships, your place in the world.
Instead of thinking of yourself as a victim—singled out by fate for cruel and unusual punishment—it’s important to recognize the difference between events and forces beyond your control, and how you handle and respond to them. You can tell the story either as a victim—or as a survivor. The first reflects a sense of powerlessness, the second resilience.
I am here to say from experience that even resilient people continue to face challenging times—like COVID-19. But I can also say from experience that it’s possible to give the pandemic the attention and priority it requires without letting it become the dominant, defining event and force in your life.
First, you do that by staying informed and practicing recommended safety precautions, as well as actively taking steps to care for yourself—including getting exercise, eating properly and staying connected with others.
I learned how important these things are after my HIV diagnosis in 2005. After telling so many others’ stories as a reporter for so many years by that point, I had to learn how to tell my own story.
I had to decide what having HIV was going to mean to me. I had to choose how big or small a role I would allow my positive HIV status, and the things I had to do to care for my health, to play in my life and my sense of myself. I had to learn to understand that even with something as personal as a serious medical diagnosis, there had been events and forces beyond my control that brought me to that moment. That’s how I moved from wondering “why me?” to “why not me?” as I came to understand the traumas in my own past that had wounded me psychologically and put me at such high risk.
What things look like “on the other side” of COVID-19 for us as individuals, after we have a cure and/or preventive vaccine will depend largely on what they look like now, as we move through it. Either we take steps while it is happening to protect our mental and physical health and well-being, or we risk long-term harm.
Expecting to “go back” isn’t a smart personal reopening strategy. Try moving forward instead, but knowing you and everyone around you have been changed by the public health crisis. Live in the “new normal” even if it continues to mean masks and social distancing. It’s not a personal punishment. Focus on how you have pulled through this tough time and earlier tough times, on your resilience, rather than on all that has changed.
Just because COVID-19 has victimized all of us in one way or another doesn’t mean we have to live our lives as its victims.
This article was originally posted on Physcology Today on May 7, 2020 and issued here OutBüro on by the author.
Just as we gay and bisexual men measured our personal histories in relation to AIDS — starting in 1981 — everyone now speaks of the world, and our lives, “before” and “after” COVID-19.
Organizations created in the 1980s to serve very ill, homebound people with HIV/AIDS are demonstrating in this “after” that there is a greater-than-ever need for what they know about feeding and caring for people with life-challenging illness.
To get a picture of COVID-19 from the point of view of people whose work in local communities is rooted in caring for ill people in a pandemic, I checked in with some of the country’s leading service organizations created in the 1980s to serve people with AIDS.
What I found are organizations that pioneered volunteer-driven food programs and buddy services that today, in the midst of another public health crisis, are brilliantly demonstrating how to provide the strongest kind of social safety net — friends and neighbors, communities, caring for one another.
A Legacy of Love in Action
The word “legacy” came up a lot in these interviews. Each organization was founded across genders, often by one individual who brought friends along, and grew out of a simple sense of neighborly kindness.
Carrie Stoltzfus, executive director of Washington, D.C.’s Food & Friends, spoke about “the legacy of the amazing outpouring of love and generosity” that led a small group of volunteers in 1988 to begin preparing food in the kitchen of Westminster Presbyterian Church and deliver one meal a day, five days a week, to homebound people with AIDS.
“The moral and ethical leadership of those people in those early days…that’s what we stand on now,” Stoltzfus says, referring again to the legacy of the AIDS epidemic.
In 2020, Monday through Saturday, more than 8,000 volunteers help Food & Friends deliver free meals from its 11 specialized meal plans, medically tailored to meet clients’ specific nutritional needs. That includes the option of pureed or chopped foods and accommodations for special diets.
Sheltering-in-place during the COVID-19 pandemic has increased many people’s need for support who aren’t ordinarily homebound.
Only one in five clients today is living with HIV, thanks to reduced new infections and effective medical treatment that allows many HIV-positive people to live normal lifespans. Nearly half of Food & Friends’ clients are living with cancer; another third have other life-challenging illnesses such as heart or kidney failure.
With COVID-19 in the mix, even family caregivers are turning to Food & Friends’ services.
In the pre-COVID past, said Stoltzfus, a caregiver might be able to directly help their loved one with food and may not have been referred to Food & Friends based on the circumstances in the home. But now, caregivers may be self-isolating so as not to put the one they care for at risk.
Sheltering-in-place during the COVID-19 pandemic has increased many people’s need for support who aren’t ordinarily homebound. While many of us have had a hard time getting used to spending so much time at home, community-based nutrition and buddy programs have been working hard to care for their clients who were already, or are newly, homebound.
Food & Friends and other nutrition agencies around the country have taken strenuous precautions to protect staff, volunteers, clients and, of course, the food through sanitation and disinfection. This includes changing staff schedules to reduce building traffic, control the number of volunteers present at one time, moving operations outside, workspaces with six-foot markers, screening visitors, and “dropping and knocking” rather than hand-delivering meals.
Food Is Medicine
“Serving people in a pandemic is in our DNA,” said Leah Hébert Welles, executive director of Open Arms of Minnesota, in Minneapolis. “The need has never gone away for us.”
Founded in 1986, Open Arms’ staff dietitians, chefs and over 7,300 volunteers prepare and deliver more than 600,000 nutritious and free meals a year to people in the Twin Cities. Open Arms offers nine menus medically tailored to clients’ particular needs.
Welles told me in a telephone interview that HIV clients “have always gone off and on our services” as their health has waxed and waned. People living with HIV/AIDS today are referred to as “legacy clients” as the agency, like Food & Friends, serves clients with other life-limiting illnesses.
“In the early years,” said David Waters, CEO of Community Servings in Boston, “the establishment — whether it was the government, Reagan or public health — weren’t really stepping up. A lot of gay men invented the programs themselves.”
Community Servings was created in 1990 after a group of HIV-positive gay Jewish men went to the American Jewish Congress and said Boston’s Jewish community wasn’t doing enough to address HIV/AIDS. Seventy different groups — including AIDS activists, faith groups and community organizations — joined forces to create the agency.
The lines blur as to whether one’s need is defined by chronological age, HIV status or another of the chronic health conditions that frequently affect older people.
From delivering hot meals to 30 clients in the Roxbury and Dorchester sections of Boston, Community Servings today serves thousands of people in Massachusetts who are unable to shop or cook for themselves because of illness. It offers 15 menus tailored to clients’ medical needs. All of the food is locally sourced and made from scratch. Depending on a client’s illness, Waters said, menus can be “cross-prescribed” —different diets for multiple health conditions addressed in the same meal in a way that mimics a prescription.
Like so many who stepped up in the early AIDS years before effective treatment, Waters, a former restaurateur and caterer, went to work for the agency because he could help with fundraising “and it was a way for me personally to cope with my own fear of the virus.”
Demand for the agency’s services is increasing in the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re getting a lot of calls,” said Waters, “and I think we’ll get even more in the near-term. We’re certainly ramping up with the expectation that there’ll be more people to be fed — both those who may be positive for the virus, but also those who have lost their jobs and are very isolated and don’t have the money.”
That the work is no longer about serving only gay men or HIV-positive people is beside the point; it’s all about applying what was learned in the AIDS pandemic to meet the bigger needs of the larger community. Besides, as effective treatment lets people age with HIV, the lines blur as to whether someone’s need is defined by chronological age, HIV status or another of the chronic health conditions that frequently affect older people.
“I sometimes say I came to this to care for my own,” said Waters. “And then I just kept realizing that what I called ‘my own’ was bigger and bigger, from feeding gay men to feeding people of color, to feeding people with other illnesses and feeding mothers with children. You just realize that they’re all very artificial distinctions.”
Making Room at the Table
I reported for The Washington Post in 2000 about Food & Friends’ expanded mission to serve more people than only those living with HIV. The organization’s decision to assist people with life-threatening illnesses in the Washington, D.C. area was a controversial step at the time. The gay community that had given rise to, and raised lots of money for, the agency was concerned that those “legacy” HIV/AIDS clients would be shortchanged.
Back then, it was only possible to think about serving others because, beginning with the 1996 advent of combination therapy, people were starting to live with HIV rather than almost inevitably die from AIDS. It was certainly good news for people with HIV, but it meant the organizations created to serve them had the capacity to serve more people than those with HIV who no longer needed their support.
As Food & Friends’ former executive director Craig Shniderman said at the time, “If our mission is to serve people who are profoundly ill, and we are adequately serving those we have as clients and have excess capacity, isn’t there a duty to serve others?”
Food is far more than something to satisfy hunger pangs.
Open Hand Atlanta — founded in 1988 when Michael Edwards-Pruitt rounded up his neighbors to help cook and deliver meals to 14 friends dying from AIDS who were too sick to cook for themselves — also expanded its mission in 2000 to serve people with other critical illnesses, plus those living with disabilities and homebound elders. Its $500-per-month grocery bill in 1989 is now over $85,000 a week. Each day, the agency prepares, packs and delivers nearly 5,000 meals for people with HIV and people battling cancer, heart disease, renal failure, diabetes or other “nutrition-sensitive” diseases.
The expanded mission has likewise expanded the range of funders who support Open Hand Atlanta and other nutrition agencies like it in other cities. This is important for groups that have to raise all their money — and already faced a growing caseload even before COVID-19.
Working through the Food Is Medicine Coalition, these nutrition agencies advocate in Washington, D.C. to persuade federal funders to cover the relatively modest cost — relative to the cost of acute medical care, that is — of medically tailored nutrition for people whose condition warrants a specific diet.
Matthew Pieper, Open Hand Atlanta’s executive director, says the Food Is Medicine organizations are uniquely positioned to work with health plans and managed care plans willing to reimburse them for their services.
Food is far more than something to satisfy hunger pangs.
“It’s actually a tool all of us can use to better prevent or manage chronic disease,” said Pieper. “Food is medicine, but food is also love, and I think right now in this COVID-19 pandemic, that packaging up and delivering a meal for someone is still a profound way to say you’re cared about, your community has not forgotten about you. It’s a way we can show love.”
A Brave New World for Buddies
When New York City’s HIV/AIDS service organization GMHC (formerly known as the Gay Men’s Health Crisis) revived its buddy program in 2015, no one had any idea how vitally important it would become five years later as clients were forced to stay in because of COVID-19.
GMHC created the buddy program in 1982, one of the world’s first AIDS service organization’s first services. Back then, volunteer buddies visited and called their client, provided practical assistance and really helped people with AIDS know they were not alone. The program had stopped in 2005 when effective treatment meant there were far fewer seriously ill clients and a far greater need to help HIV-positive clients prepare to return to the workforce. But over the years it had become clear that too many long-term HIV survivors — those diagnosed before 1996 — were becoming depressed and isolated, some to the point they stopped taking their medications.
Susan Rowley, a former lawyer and licensed social worker, runs GMHC’s buddy program after managing the agency’s hotline since 1995. She says most of GMHC’s buddy program clients were mobile before COVID-19 forced them to become homebound.
Required isolation presents a challenge for a program whose purpose is to foster connection, but GMHC’s buddies are staying connected with their clients via phone calls and texts.
Rowley said that while buddies are expected to reach out at least weekly to their clients, “people are staying in touch daily just to let them know someone is there.”
Buddies are now also beginning to meet for the first time in Zoom video meetings.
“I don’t think it works for everyone, and I don’t think it’s necessarily what people need,” says Rowley. “It may be the only way to work with a client, and we’ll work with it. But we know that getting out of the house is critical. Even if it’s for a cup of coffee — that one-on-one interaction helps people.”
“One of our volunteers just a week before had helped his client get an iPad, and so the two of them have been having daily Skype sessions.”
Much like GMHC’s buddy program, the Friendly Visitor program at New York City-based LGBTQ elder advocacy nonprofit SAGE provides social support to elders who may be homebound and are often living with HIV or other health challenges. Friendly Visitor volunteers traditionally have visited clients once a week for an hour or two and made calls between visits. Sometimes, that has involved picking up groceries or prescriptions; other times it may be helping with such tasks as sorting mail or navigating the internet.
Although SAGE on March 15 put in-person visits on hold, volunteers have kept in touch with their Friends at Home, as clients are known. “One of our volunteers just a week before had helped his client get an iPad, and so the two of them have been having daily Skype sessions,” said Friendly Visitor program manager Bill Gross, who also ran GMHC’s buddy program 20 years ago.
Gross predicted that even after COVID-19, more Friendly Visitor check-ins will be conducted by Skype or Zoom. Friendly Visitors also are using phone calls and email to stay in touch, and middle-school students are creating postcards the program will use to connect with its Friends at Home.
In response to the coronavirus, SAGE has also launched SAGEConnect — a phone service where LGBTQ elders are matched with volunteers for weekly phone calls for six weeks. (Next Avenue Influencer in Aging Michael Adams, CEO of SAGE, wrote about SAGEConnect in his recent article, “Individual Heroism Propels LGBTQ Elders in COVID-19.”)
Stepping Into the Health Care Void
Forced to fend for ourselves as HIV/AIDS struck down tens of thousands, our community had to create our own service organizations.
We learned how to channel our love, power and resilience through organizations like Food & Friends, Open Arms, Community Servings, Open Hand Atlanta, GMHC and SAGE.
Today those organizations, created in the depths of a deadly pandemic that has continued for nearly 40 years, are not only rising to the new challenges of another pandemic but are demonstrating how to provide excellent, cost-effective care and support for people who are homebound — whether due to age-related debilitation, illness or shelter-in-place orders.
Informal caregivers are who mainly tend to the long-term needs that are “mostly ignored by the health care system.”
Amy Knowlton, a professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, researches how people are connected in communities and how diseases happen within networks. Her work focuses on how people take care of one another, particularly those with limited resources.
“Unless we really take seriously how people are connected, the important relationships they have, how infections are transmitted as well as how support and care operates, we’re just not going to be able to have a meaningful impact on pandemics,” Knowlton said.
“Informal caregivers” — family members, friends, neighbors, community-based organizations — are “the only safety net we have,” she noted.
Informal caregivers are ones who mainly tend to the long-term needs that are “mostly ignored by the health care system.”
While AIDS brought about what Knowlton described as “a phenomenal galvanizing of communities and demonstrating what communities have to do for themselves,” volunteer-focused agencies that must raise the volunteer corps (as well as every dollar it costs to provide free services) can’t do the job without bigger support.
Knowlton said public resources must be invested in helping “to facilitate communities’ capacity for helping themselves and each other.”
As the live-in caregiver for my late mom until her passing last fall at 84, as the recipient of support from my own HIV case manager and others and as a longtime chronicler of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, I can attest to the essential role of informal caregivers and nonprofit organizations in plugging the gaping holes in our health care system.
I’ve spent a career documenting the extraordinary outpouring of caring, community and connectedness generated by HIV/AIDS because I believe it provides the absolute best homegrown solutions for serving America’s booming population of elders and those with health conditions that prevent them from being able to care for themselves.
“We need a public health care system that recognizes and strengthens supportive relationships across the lifespan and ensures their resources for meaningful assistance in everyday coping as well as in managing health problems,” Knowlton said. “Such a holistic approach recognizes that mind, body and relationships are integrally linked and important to tend to for truly promoting health and well-being.”
In other words: a health care system that the pioneering organizations profiled here have envisioned for decades and worked to bring about. Responding to AIDS taught them what is needed and how to provide it. COVID-19 is proving again how visionary, and necessary, they will continue to be going forward. As Knowlton put it, “COVID-19 is going to be a wake-up call in so many ways.”