Meet Roger, Current-Situation’s Millennial of the Month for August. Roger is an LGBTQ Youth Advocate and a Public Health Manager. After finding out he was HIV+ almost 10 years ago, Roger decided to dedicate his life to educating the youth about the HIV disease. In 2015, Gay & Bisexual youth between the ages of 13 – 24 accounted for more than 22% of newfound cases of HIV which is roughly 1 in 5. Roger believes that this number will decrease if the right education and mentors are provided for the LGBTQ youths. Although he has been featured on various panels, hosted several events, and gives speeches at schools through out the country, Roger feels his work has just begun.
On July 27, we sat down with Roger to learn more about him, the HIV disease, his work with the LGBTQ youth, and his plans for the future.
1. Why is this your passion?
Youth Advocacy is a passion because in this new millennium, we are focused more on our societal status, than listening to the youth, how they feel and what they need to prosper. Also, as an HIV+ black man speaking to HIV+ black youth, the message I am putting forward, is being received differently. A Caucasian woman in her 40s who has studied urban youth and their areas, but has lived a life outside of that, won’t have the level of compassion that someone you can relate to does.
2. How do you feel about the state of Youth Empowerment Advocacy today?
As time has progressed, I feel that the LGBT community has become somewhat reactive instead of proactive with their health. These days, you see children/teens coming out of the closet younger and younger, while this is great that most are learning who they are at an early age, it can be a detriment if they’re isn’t proper education into what this lifestyle can become. If we take some numbers the CDC has published back in 2015, you’ll see that Gay & Bisexual youth between the ages of 13 – 24 accounted for more than 22% of newfound cases of HIV which is roughly 1 in 5. I’ve had experiences with youth who now say, “It’s not the 80’s anymore, I can take a pill, and be fine.” This rhetoric enables sexual and promiscuous activities which lead to infection. That is completely unacceptable. I want to change the conversation that youth have about staying healthy whether positive or negative, the narrative has to change in order to become a PROACTIVE society instead of REACTIVE.
3. Who/What inspires you?
Over the last 2 years, I’ve had the pleasure of growing closer to someone who I respect immensely and call a sister. Kecia Johnson is an international speaker and author who I’ve gotten so much positive reinforcement from when things seem hard or I come across a hurdle that can’t seem to be jumped over. My family is also one of the main reasons I do why I’m on a mission to educate and inform. My family , both sides, have been affected by drugs, HIV and other illnesses that are linked to the black population. It is my duty as a member of my family to ensure that we all stay on top of our games and rise above anything holding us back from maximum potential.
4. What makes you different from other Youth Advocates?
I’d like to to think that there is no difference in my drive or goals when compared to others in the Public Health field, sadly to say some are motivated on notoriety and money. I’m motivated by the idea that in 35 – 40 years the youth of today will become the leaders of tomorrow, do I want to sit back and watch a train wreck happen or do I try and veer said train onto a path that can lead them to their final destination? I’m also an open line of communication, through any contact methods. That’s not very common in this field but how can you help others if you’re unavailable when they need you most?
5. What do you think 40-year-old Roger will be doing?
40 year old Roger will have a network available for young men and women of the African American and LGBT communities, where they can gain knowledge and insight on how to better become apart of their health care and education. I. Will. Win. Not just for me, but for my family and my community.
6. What advice would you give other Youth Advocates?
Stick to it, fight, and never take NO for an answer. Nothing in life that’s worth fighting for, if its very easy to attain.
7. What motivates you when the chips are down?
There come times when I feel like I can’t do this anymore, or that I am just a statistic because of my status or my background as a black man. This is normal, when I get in these modes, I like to think of the young man or woman that is in need of guidance or how I can change just one persons mind to spark awareness and thirst for knowledge into others..
8. What are your proudest accomplishments?
I am most proud of myself for sharing my status with my family and garnering more support than I had beforehand. I’ve been living with HIV since 2010 and it wasn’t until 2 years later I began to share with my family. At first you feel all alone and then wonder how life will work. It wasn’t until I realized that no amount of stress or worry is going to change my situation, but I did need support and I look back and wish that I would have shared the info earlier than I did. My family has been nothing but supportive in any and all things that I do. They are my motivation.
9. Do you have any hobbies?
I often love to take time and explore different parts of the city I haven’t had the chance to visit, I’m a big kid at heart, so video games are my thing. Music is LIFE to me and I can’t live without it. There is literally a song for every event that has happened in my life.
10. If you weren’t a Youth Advocate, what would you be doing?
Acting has been one of my passions since I was very young. I am currently in talks with a company about joining on to a reality TV show, but I would want my brand to be shown…properly.
11. Anything coming up we should look out for?
I am currently gearing up for a summit called “Brothers Connec+ed” which I created as a platform for others whether postitive or negative, to come and gain a fellowship or support system. This will be a small group of young men/women and their support systems if they have, to come and relate to others in their communities on the issues we all face. I’m looking to premier this event around Winter/Spring 2018. I am also in the process of writing a book about my experiences dealing with society, LGBT and the HIV community.
You can contact Roger on Instagram or Twitter, @realliroe | Facebook, Roger Evans | E-mail Roebaht@icloud.com.