I AM A CHAMPION (Courtesy Photo)

National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is an observance that aims to call attention to the impact of HIV in the Black community and the importance of representation in mental health and HIV-specific care. Studies have shown that people in Black communities are more likely to experience mental health challenges with HIV, which is magnified by the stigma and discrimination associated with the diagnosis. Many Black people living with HIV don’t seek proper care, which puts their lives at risk.

The “I AM A CHAMPION” campaign by Theratechnologies Inc., is a unique initiative that celebrates long-term survival while challenging negativity by showcasing that acceptance paves the way for proper treatment and ownership. The campaign emphasizes that living a quality life with HIV is not only possible but empowering. Through the power of storytelling, the campaign shares the incredible stories of David Robertson, Masonia Traylor, Shadawn McCants, and Angela Hunt, as champions and leading voices in the fight. Notably, “I AM A CHAMPION” breaks new ground by being inclusive of black cis-gendered women, a group often left out of the conversation despite being significantly impacted by HIV/AIDS.

Theratechnologies is a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company focused on the development and commercialization of innovative therapies. They currently market prescription products for people with HIV in the United States. Their research pipeline focuses on specialized therapies addressing unmet medical needs in HIV, nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), and oncology. Mable Taplin, community liaison at Theratechnologies and HIV advocate, was a keynote speaker at Howard University’s International Conference on Stigma in November 2022.

David Robertson (Courtesy Photo)

With over 25 years of experience as a Registered Nurse, she has various clinical specialties including HIV, cardiology, oncology, and mental health. Taplin is the founder and Executive Director of Joanie Girl’s Heart, a non-profit, which mentors high school girls interested in pursuing healthcare careers. Through Joanie Girl’s Heart, she has mentored young girls around the world and completed several medical mission trips to Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, and South America.

Related Links:

HIV Champions Featured in the I AM A CHAMPION Campaign Speak Up for World AIDS Day — I Am A Champion | Hope For The Journey

Theratechnologies’ I Am a Champion campaign combats HIV stigma among African Americans (mmm-online.com)

Episodes — I Am A Champion | Hope For The Journey

“I AM A CHAMPION” spokesperson David Robertson, MA, LMSW, is a clinical therapist and Mental Health Practitioner with the University of Chicago Medicine. He is also the founder of Hope Is Foundation: a tech nonprofit organization that supports community and education organizations by investing in and creating technology-enabled mental health tools and training for youth and young adults. Robertson’s work addresses the Black representation gap in healthcare, specifically within the HIV care sector. He champions for Black men living with HIV and amplifies their voices to ensure they receive high-quality, equitable care.

“17 years ago, Mable was a part of the care team that assisted me when I was diagnosed. I joined this campaign because I want to show support for the patient practitioner relationship, the people we serve could possibly be our peers. It is an honor to support and service Black men and women.” Robertson discusses his journey with HIV in the first episode of the I AM A CHAMPION Hope For The Journey series.

“I AM A CHAMPION” spokesperson Shadawn McCants, Clinical Director at Know and Live Counseling and Consulting, is also providing support to Black families through her work by way of her own personal experience with the diagnosis. McCants considers herself and public health influencer addressing the gap in connection to and retention in care, as well as understanding the importance of managing comorbidities (meaning when someone has two or more diseases) related to treatment and HIV, advocating for the need for culturally sensitive healthcare and the challenges Black women face.

Shadawn McCants (Courtesy Photo)

“I joined this campaign because it is one, if not the first, to honor the lives of Black individuals living and thriving with an HIV diagnosis and highlights the stories of specifically Black women. Most of the time campaigns are not inclusive of the cis-head Black woman and how she survives with HIV.” McCants also shared her lived experience in episode two of the I AM A CHAMPION Hope For The Journey series so that every woman living with HIV remembers that their voice matters.

I AM A CHAMPION spokesperson Masonia Traylor, HIV/AIDS activist, helps provide services to Black women and youth highly impacted by HIV/AIDS to have equitable access to quality services through stronger social community connections through education, prevention, and advocacy. Living with HIV since 2010, Traylor emphasizes the need to reshape the HIV narrative to one of resiliency and hope. Through her advocacy and personal journey, Traylor seeks to inspire others to view HIV as a part of life that does not define one’s entirety. She advocates for a future where stigma is dismantled, and everyone is uplifted in their communities.

“I joined this campaign to explore the opportunity to understand what a champion is, it’s not a word I typically use, but I really saw it as a chance to show some representation around Black people when it comes to living beyond the HIV diagnosis. I advocate for Black women to be more prioritized in marketing regarding HIV prevention and how we are choosing to live and not be invisible in this space. Celebrating and acknowledging Black women living with HIV.”

Masonia Traylor (Courtesy Photo)

“I prioritize leadership, mentorship, and legacy in my work specifically for Black women living with HIV and creating sustainable programs for health equity in academic spaces to empower Black individuals building out their communities to have access to what is needed to life a great quality of life.”

Traylor seeks to inspire others to view HIV as a part of life that does not define one’s entirety, advocating for a future where stigma is dismantled, and everyone is uplifted within their communities. Traylor’s compelling narrative is spotlighted in episode three of the “I AM A CHAMPION Hope For The Journey” series where she shares her journey of living vibrantly with HIV, with the aspiration to empower others through her experiences.

Each of these champions are dedicated to serving Black people living with HIV. Their work has highlighted the stories of those cultivating community, living quality lives, and supporting each other not only during the observance, but throughout their lives.

Learn more about the I AM A CHAMPION campaign and how to get involved at I Am A Champion | Hope For The Journey.