From ‘the Big Apple’ to Small Towns: Spreading HIV Advocacy Faster Than Gossip

Patrick Ingram Turned a Diagnosis into Power for Upcoming Generations

“Keep your head up, stay positive, and remember that you are resilient, and you are worth it.”

Patrick Ingram shared this mantra, his inspiration since he was diagnosed with HIV on World AIDS Day in 2011.
During a chat with the Take Control HIV community, Patrick—who has called New York City, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and now Wisconsin home—shared a frustrating experience at a health testing facility that fueled his determination to drive change and make a positive impact.
Public health and prevention
Unsupportive staff and a lack of guidance on accessing care. Patrick Ingram reflects on the moments after his HIV diagnosis often.
“Working as a public health professional for over ten years has been about making sure that I am working to change the system to address the disparities,” he explains.
Patrick’s story is one of resilience and advocacy, fighting against the virus and the misconceptions surrounding it. His mission is clear: to prevent others from enduring the same challenges he faced.

“I think my motivation to become an HIV activist was through my own diagnosis.”

Navigating HIV in a rural area

Patrick said in rural areas there are sometimes barriers to access and resources.

When he was diagnosed, Patrick resided in the suburbs outside of Washington, D.C. and used the local Metrorail train into the city for access to Whitman-Walker health center.

“Rural areas just don’t have those pieces, which create what we call social determinants of health – the barriers that are there that make it hard to have healthier outcomes, and that’s transportation, education. And so all of these pieces really tie into rural environment.”

A recent study from the University of Missouri found that getting to and from medical places is a big problem for people in rural areas. Communities are always looking for ways to solve this issue.

He learned that building connections and advocating for himself and others living with the virus in overcoming similar obstacles.
“I’m uniquely familiar with large, medium, and rural areas,” he told us.
“We know that rural communities don’t necessarily have the same access and resources available to folks who live in like New York City or D.C.”
When he was working on advocacy Fredericksburg, Virginia, and the rural Shenandoah Mountain region, relationship building was critical.
“It took a lot of relationship building … go into churches, go into gas stations, and just have conversations with people and post and leave resources,” even at pharmacies and libraries, he told us.
“How you communicate, how you fellowship, how you engage in services and resources really do vary based off of how large your community is,” Patrick added.
For anyone navigating testing or treatment, Patrick emphasized the importance of communication with healthcare providers: “You have to be vocal with your providers about what you want and what you’re looking for.”

He stressed that for those living with HIV, standing up for oneself is essential. For those who are HIV negative, it’s still important to get involved and proactively identify health resources near you.

Patrick believes that navigating the complexities of living with HIV in rural areas means advocating for yourself and tapping into local support networks for case managers and other service professionals.
In his YouTuber era
In our conversation, Patrick stressed the importance of relationships and various platforms like social media and blogging.

“When I started YouTubing, I was one of the only black gay men doing it.”

He highlighted the power of storytelling for representation and urged others to participate actively in shaping the narrative.
“If you don’t see yourself out there, bring a folding chair,” he said, emphasizing the need for diverse voices in advocacy efforts.
Through YouTube and his partnerships with Northern Virginia Gay Men’s Health Collaborative and Fredericksburg Area HIV AIDS Support Services, Patrick works to educate others about the virus, aims to reduce stigma, and empower youth and people of color living with HIV.
Flying over misconceptions
Patrick wants everyone to know that HIV does not define a person’s capabilities or limitations.
“I was a flight attendant for five years, traveling the world, not having any kind of issues for the most part. And I think the bigger piece of it is I’ve still been able to thrive.”
People living with HIV face many misconceptions and Patrick wants to remind everyone HIV does not discriminate. “People think that HIV is a gay men’s disease,” said Patrick. “It can affect anyone regardless of race, age or gender.”

Another misconception he’s been trying to debunk is the thought there is a cure for HIV.

Since there is not currently a cure, Patrick stressed the key to managing HIV is medication adherence. “I would be flying as a flight attendant over to the Middle East or to Asia and have an alarm on my phone that literally every time it would buzz, I’d be like, oh, time to take my meds.”
From schoolhouses to the White House
Patrick finds deep satisfaction in his accomplishments as an advocate for HIV resources, ranging from his role as an educator in his community to his opportunity to represent the cause at a White House event for World AIDS Day where he attended speeches and remarks.

Patrick emphasized the importance of both education and understanding how it plays out. His earlier advocacy efforts included face-to-face interactions with communities and hands-on work for HIV and related causes. He was “speaking in high schools, speaking to teachers, speaking to community members, even building condom kits, safer sex kits.”

As time went on, Patrick continued making connections, particularly in the government sector where he began networking and advocating for HIV-related causes among elected officials.
“Understanding how HIV impacts lives and how your government addresses it is crucial. Education alone isn’t enough; you must apply your knowledge to build skills,” he added.
Treasuring the relationships he’s built over the years, Patrick emphasizes the importance of positivity and resilience.
He’s been conducting a vast amount of community building for more than a decade and cherishes how he can “pick up the phone and talk to a colleague and just touch base about what’s going on in their lives.”
For Patrick, part of his mission is to achieve “more racial and health equity,” to assist younger generations who are going through similar HIV-related situations, and help ensure they don’t “have to navigate the same experiences that I had to navigate.”
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