Jazzelle Bonilla, Community Liasion
Rochester Victory Alliance CRS, Rochester, NY, USA
I was introduced to HIV and the surrounding prevention work at an early age as a peer youth advocate for the MOCHA center, an organization focused on supporting LGBT youth of color in Rochester, NY. I learned about the devastating impact the disease was having on my community, and how community engagement activities are critical to providing education and tools to those who need it most.
When I first learned of my own HIV diagnosis in 2015, it lit a fire within me. I wanted to turn my diagnosis into something positive. In 2016, I joined the Community Education & Recruitment team, where it has been my mission to not only recruit new study volunteers but also educate people from all backgrounds about HIV prevention research.
Recently, I played an integral role in the University of Rochester Artist in Residence Project. This project aims to break the cycle of stigma surrounding HIV and to foster awareness through a series of watercolor portraits (of folks within our local HIV community), painted by our Artist in Residence. As part of the project, a short documentary was created about the process entitled, “Don’t Define Me”, where I shared my story of being an African American trans woman living with HIV.
Being a part of the HVTN feels like belonging to a big family of superheroes from different walks of life all around the world. From Africa to South America to cities all over the USA, we are all doing the hard work of engaging our communities toward a common goal. I’m proud to be a part of that.