Favorite Quote: “Freedom is being yourself without permission.”
My name is Akil Jones and I am a 31-year-old African-American gay male living in Houston.
I’m also a registered nurse working in an intensive care unit providing care to patients and families as they deal with various medical emergencies. I work in a hospital where my patients have very little, if any resources, so we spend a large part of our time with them coordinating care and finding resources. I love my job and really enjoy helping my patients. It’s very rewarding to help those that truly appreciate your time, energy and knowledge. Away from my job, I’m a board member and event chair for Bunnies on the Bayou. In Austin, I was a volunteer with ARCH (Austin Resource Center for the Homeless).
I have a B.A. degree in government from the University of Texas at Austin and a bachelor’s science degree in nursing from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. Going to a liberal university allowed me to explore all the facets of myself without any fear of consequences. I was able to meet people that broadened my horizons. I learned that I didn’t have to conform to be successful.
I’ve lived all over the United States and a few years in Germany. I was primarily raised in North Carolina, but also lived in Illinois and ultimately, Texas. I spent much of my life being what everyone expected me to be. Being the child of immigrants and having a father in the military meant that I was expected to always be the best. I was expected to look a certain way and join organizations that looked good on paper, whether it made me happy or not. A little bit of that drive for perfection is still in me, but I realized as I got older that “perfect” is boring and restrictive. I can’t live my life waiting for validation from others. It wasn’t a healthy way for me to live. I just want to live a life where I can do what makes me happy.
I’m married and my husband and I have been together for 12 years. He works in IT and has been supportive of any and every decision I’ve chosen in my life. He’s one of the smartest people I know! We’re a good balance to each other. He is a little more reserved and I’m way more outgoing. It’s worked well, so far!
There are a lot of misconceptions about PrEP, even amongst my colleagues in the medical field. People are thrown off by the idea of the cost, or the idea of having to share their sexual experiences with a doctor. Most people, especially the target group for PrEP, are scared of being judged. No one wants to be seen as promiscuous or loose.
I want to be a voice for those people. Growing up, I was constantly stressed about how I was perceived. When I let go of the need to please others, my life became so much more whole. I want to show that there is no shame in self-care and the benefits of PrEP far outweigh the consequences.
Our demographic is one of the few where new HIV infections are either rising or remaining stagnant. Information is power and to provide a platform for people to seek out knowledge and better care for themselves will help everyone. PrEP is an extra layer of protection because most people don’t get tested as much as they should and everyone can’t be trusted.
It’s crucial to get tested for HIV, if you’re sexually active. There is far less stigma with the illness and it’s easier to control. A diagnosis won’t end your life and being proactive can ensure that you can do everything that you’ve set your mind on. The earlier you find out and deal with it head on, the better your life will be.
I’m HIV negative, but I’ve experienced enough close calls to know that ANYONE can get the virus, so we all have to work together and be open. The most pressing issues for me, from the perspective of a gay male, are civil rights. I don’t want to worry about my sexuality being a determinant in where I’m allowed to live or where I’m able to work.
In the near future, I’m going to start the process of going to law school. I’d like to specialize in health care law and use my background as a registered nurse to help better the lives of patients and employees. I want to be happy and feel like I’m contributing something to society.
I come from a conservative Caribbean family. Growing up, they used to crack gay jokes or talk about “faggots” in a really derogatory way. That was a major part of why I didn’t come out until I graduated from college. Aside from the fear of being cut off financially, there was no doubt in my mind that I was going to disappoint my parents.
After I came out, my sister and mom were both really supportive (my sister is the one that suggested this campaign to me, lol). It definitely took time, but we’re in a great place. We do birthday parties and hang out whenever all our schedules line up. I haven’t spoken to my father since the day I came out, which is okay with me. Honestly, we never had the best relationship and when I came out, I chose to focus on things that made me happy and lifted my spirits.
When I hear the phrase, “Live Healthy, Live Longer,” to me, it means taking control of your health. You only get one body so dealing with issues before they become major is the only way to ensure a good quality of life. That means getting tested, strong medication, adherence, consistent doctor visits and taking a stronger role in your health.
“I am here. I exist. I matter,” means no one can diminish your energy. People may try to overlook you or deny your value, so you have to always be aware of your worth.
Growing up gay, most of us just wanted to fit in and not be noticed. So, it’s hard as we grow up, to establish our place. But once you realize how valuable you are, no one can dim your light.