April 2, 2010
Terry Fluker Delivers HIV Prevention Messages Through Ministry, Fashion and Music
by Willette Francis
After an HIV-positive diagnosis floored him in 1991, Terry Fluker, a minister in Pittsburgh, first educated himself about the virus. Then he reached out to teach others about HIV/AIDS. To do this, he launched Love Ministry Outreach Victors in June 2000. Real Health spoke with Fluker about his program and his journey.
What inspired you to become an HIV/AIDS advocate?
I became an HIV/AIDS advocate after the death of a cousin who committed suicide as a result of her AIDS diagnosis. At the same time, I was struggling with my own positive diagnosis. I made a vow to the Lord that I would go anywhere He sent me before someone else in my family, or anyone who crossed my path, would have to die alone from AIDS. I cried out to the Lord to save me and heal my body for His glory. It’s been more then 18 years since my diagnosis. *I’m undetectable, not on HIV medication, and I’ve never been sick. I can’t sit on the sideline…I must be active and speak about AIDS. This disease is 100 percent preventable and is killing all of God’s people.
What kind of HIV/AIDS programs does your organization offer?
We do a lot of outreach with the inner-city community, youth, church events, community organizations and health fairs. Recently, we launched the prevention party, a new project designed for African-American young men who sleep with men (MSM). We do it as a social gathering with refreshment, free condoms, education pamphlets, DVD presentations, question-and-answer sessions and prizes. We got people to attend the party by networking with [organizations sponsoring] community-based balls, black pride weekends, AIDS service organizations and by building a relationship with the gay community. The young men who attended the event thought this was a great approach and said there needs to be more prevention and education vehicles to reach the black gay community.
You’ve worked with the Southwestern Pennsylvania AIDS Planning Coalition. What kind of outreach have you done with that agency?
I got my start and training with the Southwestern Pennsylvania AIDS Planning Coalition who saw my passion and drive to educate and raise HIV/AIDS awareness throughout the community. The coalition oversees many other organizations and speaks on behalf of people living with HIV. They make sure [HIV-positive people] get what they need, such as housing, a connection with resources and into treatment and care. They also have quite a few committees: an HIV prevention committee and one to connect people in the county jails and prisons with halfway houses.
You helped produce an HIV awareness rap CD. What were some of the messages on the CD?
I worked as a faith-based coordinator on the No Test No Rap CD, a project the Southwestern Pennsylvania AIDS Planning Coalition produced in 2007. We decided to do something different to reach young people. The CD was a challenge for hip-hop artists to get involved and use their lyrics to write positive rap songs about HIV/AIDS. Some felt uncomfortable writing about AIDS; others saw it as a way to show their skills as true hip-hop artists. Participants used the Internet as a resource for AIDS information. Many accessed the BET and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention websites. Some other states— Florida, Atlanta, Philadelphia and Alabama—heard about it and requested it. Then, some hip-hop artists who dropped out because they had felt uncomfortable because the songs had to be about AIDS, they later returned and wanted to do the CD. But by then, it was already finished. We distributed about 1,500 CDs and had a CD release party. Its focus was wrapping it up [safer sex], understanding that HIV/AIDS is real and the importance of getting tested and educated.
I read about the Positive Divas fashion show you held to create HIV/AIDS awareness. Do you organize the fashion show each year?
That was a one-time event that included the Pittsburgh AIDS Taskforce and the Positive Health Clinic. It was designed to address stigma and was also a way for people living with HIV to educate HIV-negative people about the virus. I used condoms and AIDS ribbons to design my collection. The event was sold out. Local designers based their outfits on condoms and references to AIDS. It was really outstanding because it was a way to express stigma and fear as well as to implement HIV/AIDS [education]. A lot of people [youth and teenagers included] feel like it’s so stale to keep hearing about the virus. But when you use art, poetry and rap to get messages across, it’s an effective way to educate people about it.
Outside of fashion, music and ministry, what other ways do you get HIV-prevention messages to the community?
We try and meet people where they are. If they’ve chosen abstinence, we give them the tools. If it’s prevention, then we line them up where they can get tested or get condoms. Most important of all, however, is that people be educated about whatever they decide to do to live a healthy life. Ministry plays a part by reaching out to people where they are, just loving them and letting God do the rest.
(*Editor’s Note: Less than 1 percent of people living with HIV are considered “elite controllers,” those able to keep their CD4 counts high and viral loads below the level of detection without antiretroviral treatment.)
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