Strawberry (Derrick Cox) shares his HIV journey through activism, allyship

From modeling to dancing and acting, Derrick Cox, who goes by Strawberry, lives a very full life. His energy and positive outlook are contagious, making him a powerful role model. Diagnosed with HIV in 2011, the Washington, D.C.-based activist has found strength in community. He shared, “No matter what you’re going through, you’re not going through it alone. Someone else is fighting the same battle as you.”

Strawberry sat down with Take Control HIV to discuss his activism, how to be an ally, and finding support with a positive status. 
“I strive to make sure everybody stays up on their appointments and their health, by just reminding them that they can live with HIV. I try to be a proven example of that.”
Activism in the nation’s capital
No stranger to nonprofits and advocacy organizations in Washington, D.C., Strawberry is involved with ProjectBriggs, Center for Black Equity, MakingUFierce, HIPS, Smyal, Us Helping Us, and the +1 peer-mentor program at Whitman Walker. He’s dedicated to helping the HIV, Black and LGBTQ+ community.
“I’ve been an advocate for the Black and gay LGBTQ+ community. Anything to do with the LGBTQ+ community, I am there. Anything from the trans community to the gay community, to the bisexual community, to the non-binary community, I’m there.”

A supportive mentor, peer, and friend, Strawberry knows getting tested for STIs can be intimidating. In 2011, he went with his best friend so she could get tested but to his surprise, the doctor told him he had tested positive for HIV. He says the doctor shared this news as if it were something Strawberry already knew: “It was more shocking the way she told me,” Strawberry said while reflecting on his experience with the doctor.

Being an activist for the HIV community for six years before his diagnosis, Strawberry knew about the virus but was still in shock over the unprofessional way the doctor delivered the news.
The doctor “just waved me off – she was like ‘oh you’re positive’ – like she assumed that I already knew I was positive I guess because I presented myself as gay … I definitely got her fired.”

Once diagnosed, Strawberry began his journey to find a medication that worked for him. He knew there were many options but after talking with his doctor, he landed on a once-per-day pill.

He’s been undetectable ever since.

It has been 13 years since his diagnosis and Strawberry remains extremely dedicated to staying on top of his own health, as well as supporting others on their health journey.  “I always want to make sure everyone has that open door and safe space wherever they reside.”

If you’re looking for educational resources, or your own safe space, Take Control HIV has your back and is here for you:

How to engage as an ally

In his experience, Strawberry says he is thankful for the community and resources he had access to after his HIV diagnosis. He saw his doctor, started taking medication, and became undetectable but he knows others may not have that support so how does Strawberry suggest supporting an HIV-positive friend or loved one?

“Just stay there. Just stay supportive. Be there if they need a listening ear and be there whenever they need comfort. Remind them it’s not a death sentence anymore, they can take one pill a day. Or if they don’t know their status, find out with them and join that journey.”
He added, “I always tell people, you can bring a friend, someone you feel comfortable with or that’s part of your support system when you get tested.”
Finding support

Outside of friends and family, Strawberry emphasized the importance of going to a doctor or provider you are comfortable with to determine your status and get treatment. “You never know how it’s going to be presented to you and you don’t want to be discouraged from taking care of yourself or getting the help that you need,” he says.

We want to thank Strawberry for sharing his experience with the Take Control HIV community. To continue reading about his experience, click here.

Take Control HIV social media:
If you are inspired and want to share your story, connect with us on social media. Take Control HIV is focused on building our community and is on a mission to ensure all people have access to HIV testing, care, and treatment.
LETS TALK Get Tested


Get Tested