Bonjourrrr! My name is Nicholas Dantuno and I am the Assistant YMSM Services Coordinator at Pride For Youth and an HIV advocate. Pride For Youth is a nonprofit organization that offers programs and services to LGBTQ+ youth through age 30, as well as HIV testing services through age 45. PFY was founded through the Long Island Crisis Center, a 24/7 suicide prevention hotline, with a mission to enhance the mental and physical health, wellness and cultural competency of LGBTQ+ young people through education, supportive services and youth development. As the coordinator of the evidence-based intervention, Mpowerment Long Island, a program designed to address the needs of high-risk GBTQ men and trans-individuals, I have had the pleasure of forming a relationship with hundreds of LGBTQ+ members throughout Long Island and Queens.
I remember coming out right before my 18th birthday nearly 6 years ago and having little to no sense of a community. I had no understanding of HIV, besides the terribly short and erroneous lessons in high school health class, and the only platform I had to meet other gay and bisexual men was through that one gay dating app, that most of us find ourselves a little too familiar with. At the time, with no basic understanding, I became part of the stigma. Reflecting back, I know that at the time I was a part of the toxic stigma surrounding HIV as a direct result of my seemingly harmless actions. I would block other men who disclosed that they were living with HIV either through their profile, or via message, in fear that I would transmit the virus if I were to sleep with them. Through education and through listening to the disclosures of our member’s challenging experiences endured as a result of either their sexual orientation, gender identity and/or HIV status, I have seen a significant growth in my own self-development - not only a facilitator, a human being, but just as importantly, as an HIV advocate. One’s HIV status will no longer serve as a barrier between sex or any form of a healthy relationship. I will continue to use my platforms to better serve the LGBTQ+ community and will always strive to be the greatest version of myself as an HIV advocate.
PSA: The MpowermentLI model seeks to reduce the risk of HIV transmission and to curb HIV stigma through providing sexual health messaging, medical services and a supportive space for all GBTQ men and trans-individuals between the ages of 17 and 30.
For More information, call Pride For Youth at 516 679 9000