What is #unapologetic?

#unapologetic is a campaign created to raise awareness about the marginalization of transgender communities of color.

12524363_637112899778671_7263117059296407472_n (1)Why #unapologetic?

Transgender people of color lack visibility, voice, and culturally competent resources due to assimilation and social stigma.  To be a trans person of color is to be both taboo and fetishized at the same time.  Trans visibility is greatly influenced by white community standards of what “different” is in the context of sexuality and gender. Transgender icons are predominantly white, which creates distorted views of what transgender people of color are expected to be both socially and culturally.  There are high rates of internalized hate and transmisogyny within this community based on a “pass/fail” mentality, meaning if you “pass” as a cisgender individual your transgender experience is deemed invalid (and vice versa).20160412_160657Trans people of color are often ostracized by family, friends, communities, and each other due to racism, religious beliefs, economic status, and expectations of gender norms. #unapologetic is designed to empower transgender people of color to view themselves as complete and not through the lens of a culture that is not their own.

Shaping Our Focus

Minister Rob Newells

Spring has sprung, and April is here! Now that Spring Break has ended, I imagine that young people everywhere are focused on the end of the school year and summer vacation. Our YouthLink staff is working to make sure there is a safe space available in East Oakland for gender nonconforming youth to relax, learn, and grow. TRACY House, located at 5001 Foothill Boulevard, is open for business! Drop-In Center hours are currently Wednesdays and Fridays from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., with additional hours to be announced via the YouthLink Facebook (www.facebook.com/YouthlinkAPEB/) and Instagram (www.instagram.com/youthlink/) accounts.

As we all observed the International Transgender Day of Visibility on March 31st, the staff at APEB was hard at work on #unapologetic, a new campaign under our Project Transcend banner designed to raise awareness about and promote empowerment among transgender men and women of color. Over the next several weeks we will share photos and stories highlighting the resilience and determination of trans men and women who live their truths without regard for societal norms.  I am eager to share the stories that we have already collected, and I’m looking forward to reading stories posted on social media accounts from trans-identified community members willing to share their experiences living #unapolgetic lives.

See, what you see is what you get

Oh, and you ain’t seen nothin’ yet
Oh, I don’t care if you’re upset
I could care less if you’re upset
See it don’t change the truth
And your hurt feeling’s no excuse
To keep me in this box
Psychological locks
Repressin’ true expression dread-locked-like-lauren-hill-then-get-in-here-466x300-wplok2
Cementin’ this repression
Promotin’ mass deception
So that no one can be healed
I don’t respect your system
I won’t protect your system
When you talk I don’t listen
Oh, let my Father’s will be done

And just get out
Oh, just get out of all this bondage
Just get out
Oh, you can’t hold me in chains
Just get out
All these traditions killin’ freedom
Knowin’ my condition
Is the reason I must change

                                – Lauryn Hill, “I Get Out”

 Follow APEB on Facebook to keep up with all the latest news. Our Board of Directors is engaged in strategic planning with assistance from AIDS United; staff members will be attending the National Black Trans Advocacy Conference in Dallas, TX; and The Wellness Center is continuing to grow into a true community clinic offering primary care, STI screening and treatment, and transgender health services, in addition to the top-of-the-line HIV specialty care that our clients expect and deserve. We’re busy getting better!

Peace & Blessings,

Minister Rob


naesm flyer

See Reviews of NAESM’s 2016 National African American MSM Leadership Conference on HIV/AIDS and other Health Disparities, by Executive Director, Minister Robert Newells, Linkage Coordinator, George Mizrahi Jackson and Community Outreach Specialist and Pharmaceutical Training Liason, Camryn Crump of APEB, at  APEB Blog


Sex Positive 101

Camryn Crump 

lets_talk_sex (1)
Youth amaze me! On behalf of AIDS Project East Bay (APEB), George Mizrahi Jackson and I, Camryn Crump, were given the opportunity to facilitate a Sex Positive 101 class as The G Thought and Cam’s Verbal Vomit at Realm High School in Berkeley, Ca.
Like every adult, I was curious how we would be perceived by our sexually diverse younger Black and Latino Brothers and Sisters.


As two young Black Gay Men, being judged is always a thought in the forefront of our mind, especially when the audience is mostly made up of heterosexuals. It is like coming out of the closet all over again. In the end the students and participants thoroughly enjoyed our presentation, activities, discussion and authenticity. We left with them begging to have us back next month.

We taught 5 different classes throughout the course of the day, each one 50 minutes. Our presentation consisted of HIV prevention, both contraceptive and biomedical. We also discussed Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and how they are treated, along with substance use and utilizing the harm reduction model for high-risk negatives. Using pictures, scenarios, and interactive games with incentives, George and I were able to engage the youth and enrich them with much needed information. According to the Pre and Post tests taken by the participants, we were able to increase their knowledge and efficacy around HIV prevention, STIs, and contraceptives by 70%.

We enjoyed all of the youth that participated in the Sex Positive 101 class at Realm High, and Ms. Molly, the Public Health Teacher for having us. We are looking forward to teaching more classes at Realm High and will release the schedule for these classes on the APEB website.

“It was wonderful seeing my students engage and partake in curriculum that is important and be excited about it.The safe space that George and Camryn provide and set as a standard helps bring a lot out of the youth .”
-Ms. Molly, Public Health Instructor, Realm High

Young Men With Detectable Viral Loads Are More Likely to Engage in Risky Behavior


Untitled design (13)A new study on HIV-positive men and transgender women who have sex with men reported that participants with detectable viral loads were more likely to have anal sex without condoms than those who were virally suppressed, and that condom use was closely related to substance abuse.

The study conducted by researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health examined a group of 991 participants, age 15 to 26, at 20 adolescent HIV clinics across the United States from 2009 to 2012. Of this group, nearly half (46 percent) reported having condomless anal sex within the past three months. Among those who had detectable viral loads, a full 44 percent reported condomless sex, a significant percentage higher than those who were virally suppressed but had condomless sex (which was only 25 percent).

But the study showed more than just a possible correlation between risky behavior and viral suppression. The reserachers also analyzed the group on psychosocial factors. For example, according to Patrick A. Wilson, an assistant professor of Socioeconomic Sciences who led the study, among the young men with detectable viral loads, those with substance abuse problems were more likely to report condomless anal sex. Wilson said that there was a co-occurance with substance abuse problems and motivation to use condoms.

Economics also played a role, as those who fell into a low income category had lower rates of viral suppression.

“While many of these young men are engaged in care, and success stories are many, we still have work to do to reduce the rate of new infections,” said Wilson. “We must remain engaged in finding new behavioral approaches for those young men who have yet to seek HIV testing, antiretroviral treatment, and adhere to viral suppression activities.”

About half of the study participants were prescribed antiretroviral medications and linked to care, but the study showed that this strategy was not enough.

“To truly curb HIV among this group, we cannot solely rely on one strategy,” said Wilson. “These findings speak to the need for targeting substance use and mental health concerns — factors related to viral suppression and sexual risk taking.”

Read more at: http://www.hivplusmag.com/sex-dating/2016/1/04/young-men-detectable-viral-loads-more-likely-engage-risky-behavior

PrEP Blog and Insight

PrEP and Trust among Black MSM PrEP

By: Rob Newells

What do you do when the people responsible for implementing PrEP education programs don’t trust the science? What if the outreach workers and HIV test counselors believe they’re required to “push” PrEP at the expense of behavioral interventions that have been the focus of prevention programs for years? These are people in prime positions to provide PrEP education to key populations, but suggesting that otherwise healthy clients start a daily medication for prevention is a tough pill for some front-line staff to swallow.

I am a black MSM. I serve at a community-based organization where a large percentage of both the clients and employees are black MSM. One of the known barriers to PrEP implementation among black MSM is medical mistrust. Those barriers don’t just exist among clients; they also exist among members of the HIV workforce tasked with increasing PrEP awareness in their communities. If members of the HIV workforce don’t trust the medical establishment or clinical research or pharmaceutical companies or government agencies, how do we expect them to provide unbiased information about PrEP to the people who need it most?

With all of the good work HIV prevention research advocates have done educating the public about PrEP, there has been more than enough misinformation disseminated about PrEP to create and encourage lingering doubt in the minds of those who are already mistrustful of the medicalization of HIV and the perceived influence of pharmaceutical companies on the HIV prevention agenda. After the 2015 National HIV Prevention Conference in Atlanta, I listened to staff members who had attended as they reported back to staff that stayed behind:

  • “There are lots of things we still don’t know.” (Never mind that we know HIV incidence in our Black MSM community is an overall 32%, surpassing rates in many populations in sub-Saharan Africa.)
  • “We need more information.” (Never mind clinical trials and real-world evidence showing that PrEP is safe and effective and therefore FDA-approved and WHO-recommended.)
  • “There are still questions about the long-term effects of the drug.” (Never mind that we have more than a decade of experience of Truvada in people who are HIV positive.)
  • “People who take PrEP stop using condoms, and STI rates are increasing.” (Never mind the fact that STI rates started increasing before most people had even heard of PrEP. Furthermore, CDC PrEP protocol recommends STI screening, and treatment if necessary, every three months.)

So what do we do when the people responsible for implementing PrEP education programs don’t trust the science?

If I could talk to all of the PrEP-hater educators, I’d tell them that I wish Truvada had been available for HIV prevention when I was treated for syphilis in 2003. It took several months to get to a syphilis diagnosis because I was treated for a skin rash and gout and had a sigmoidoscopy (an invasive large-intestine probe) before the doctor even ordered an HIV test. (This was before rapid testing was widely available, so I had to think about all of my risky behaviors for a couple of weeks before I got the call that the test was negative.) It was the only time I had ever been worried about HIV infection. It took a while longer before the doctor ordered an STI screening, discovered the syphilis, and ordered the appropriate treatment.

After dodging that bullet, I would have jumped at the chance to protect myself from HIV infection by taking a pill every day. I was in my early thirties; I was a personal fitness trainer in Washington, DC with a good day job; and I had a fairly active sex life. Sometimes I used condoms. Sometimes I didn’t. I had never had any concerns before, but that syphilis scared the hell out of me. It didn’t scare me after I found out what it was because syphilis is totally treatable. It scared me when I thought that I might have been infected with HIV. (It didn’t, however, scare me enough to make me increase my condom use to 100% consistently and correctly.) If a pill a day could take the worry of HIV infection from me, I would have been all for it. I wouldn’t have been concerned about long-term side effects or toxicities. I was concerned about living.

If Truvada had been available as PrEP when I tested positive for syphilis in 2003, I probably wouldn’t have tested positive for HIV in 2005. The silver lining is that PrEP is available now. There are black MSM now – who like me then – would jump at the chance to protect themselves from HIV infection by taking one pill every day during their season of risk if they could have accurate, unbiased information about PrEP.

So, to all of the people responsible for implementing and educating communities about PrEP who don’t like PrEP, I say, “It’s not about you.” Your questions have been asked and answered. PrEP works (and is safe and effective) when it is taken according to the prescribing guidelines. Don’t let your personal or professional biases and misinformation become a barrier to key populations like black MSM accessing an HIV prevention option that might be right for them. PrEP is not appropriate for everybody, but everybody needs to know about PrEP. Get out of the way.

Rob Newells is the newly appointed Executive Director of AIDS Project of the East Bay; he is minister and founder of the the HIV program at Imani Community Church in Oakland and is a PxROAR member since 2012.