NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The LGBT Life Center in Norfolk is getting HIV prevention funding from the Centers for Disease Control to help those at-risk safe, with the overall goal of ending HIV.

The CDC says HIV disproportionately impacts young men of color, specifically Black and Latinx gay and bisexual men.

The main point: times have changed since the AIDS epidemic first started.

CEO Stacie Walls says those who test positive can live a full life with HIV, thanks to modern treatments, but prevention is always the primary step to keep the community healthy.

“Nobody should feel alone,” she said. “You think about the 18 to 24 younger men or even 18 to 40. A lot of these individuals were not living through the HIV epidemic that we had in the past.” 

O’mar White first got started at the Center when a friend of his tested positive.

He’s worked to educate himself about HIV, at first for his friend, and now for his community as a project coordinator overseeing the program funded by the money from the CDC.

“When you take your medicine as prescribed and you get your viral loads to a percentage, you will not transmit HIV to someone else,” said White. “People don’t know these things and if we are able to expound on these things and get it to the community, I feel like people who are positive will want to take their medicine.”

The funding will provide those in the community with HIV services, but also connect them to other services the center provides.

“Here, you don’t have to have insurance to get treated. You don’t have to have insurance to get PrEP. You don’t have to have insurance to get tested,” said Walls. “So we will help you, but we’re also going to try and help you get insurance.”

O’mar says he hopes he works himself out of a job because of low HIV infection rates and better public education.

“In the next 2 to 3 years, 5 years, upward, you know, I just want more people to be adherent. More people to be educated. More people to have access to health insurance. More people have access to better jobs,” said White.

This funding was extremely competitive. The LGBT Life Center was one of 36 organizations nationwide to be awarded the funding.

Use this link to get connected with services or find out more about the LGBT Life Center.