‘(Pos)+itively Beautiful’ Book Launch Reflects Personal Narratives On Living With HIV

More than fifty people gathered at The Evolution Project Atlanta for the release of Guy Anthony’s debut project, “(Pos)+itively Beautiful,” a book of affirmation, advice and advocacy about HIV/AIDS. Ravishing smiles in addition to much laughter and anticipation filled the room, as time would pass for the opening moment of the event on Tuesday, December 11.

Upon the click of play, a voice calmly uttered,  “I was 19 and he was 34. We met online and we instantly vibed. He invited me over to chill. He said I was sexy, but I didn’t think so.  I didn’t consent to sex, so he took it from me and gave me something I’d never be able to live without. Will you still love me, now that you know my truth?”

This is the personal account and testimony of the author Guy Anthony.  He along with his two co-authors, Brandon Kennedy and Christopher Morris powerfully expressed their personal narratives with a sincere message about living with HIV, their struggles and growth as black gay men. The work of these young men foreshadows the legacy of greats as Isaac Julien, Essex Hemphill,  Assotto Saint, Marlon Troy Riggs and Joseph Bean, black gay men whose work creatively chronicled the existence and day-to-day experiences of black gay men living with HIV/AIDS back in the ‘80s and ‘90s.

“(Pos)+itively Beautiful,” which launched officially in digital form Wednesday, December 12, profiles the lives of all three gentlemen, Guy Anthony, Kennedy, and Morris living with HIV. The book explicitly speaks power to truth and serves the purpose of debunking the silence, neutralizing stigmas and raising awareness about HIV/AIDS.

According to the Sidney Borum Jr. Health Center, young people ages 13-24 represent 40 percent of all new HIV infections each year and 60 percent of that number are African Americans. In addition, sexual violence and non-consensual sex, though vastly underrepresented, is directly linked to the transmission of HIV as well. Most shockingly is the daunting fact that many young black gay men are ignorant as it concerns statistics and do not know that they are at risk. Consequently, burdens of shame and guilt cloud their lives, their self worth, and their confidence diminishes forcing them to live in silence.

In the foreward of “(Pos)+itively Beautiful,” Craig Washington, an activist, community organizer, and Prevention Programs Manager at AID Atlanta eloquently pens:

“If we do not tell our own stories then either our stories die alone with us or others determine the story about us.  In being silent about our realities, our lives are rendered smaller, muted, and isolated, leaving the space and time we occupy unmarked, left without our true imprint. By choosing not to speak we choose to give in to fear and give up authority over our own lives. This shadowed life is like a virtual death that precedes the physical one. And when we die, our legacies are stillborn. We thus condemn our progeny, “the children” who come after us, to the same suffocating stigma that we allowed to go unchallenged. This constitutes a third death having left no true account of who we were leaving others to rewrite us […]

I have been HIV+ for 27 years and I recognize the significance of this effort. To have several narrators share their stories and show their faces changes the way we see black gay men respond to the epidemic. Black gay men need to witness each other in visible active roles throughout our response to AIDS and the injustices it illuminates. With (Pos)+itively Beautiful, Guy Anthony has made an unprecedented mark for his generation and all people living with HIV/AIDS.”

Washington was lauded by thunderous handclaps and many powerful remarks after reciting this. His fearlessness and courageous spirits filled the room and touched the hearts of many. This is often the result of testimony—its truth, honesty, and integrity is our hope for the future and it dispels the stereotype of HIV-positive identifying people being sick and diseased.

“These stories of black, queer-identifying persons have come together to create a myriad of authentic personal expression, affirmation, and love,” said Kenneth Pass, an Undergraduate Research Fellow at the National Institute of Mental Health. “I’m truly inspired by this!”

Guy Anthony believes that his visibility will help other HIV-positive young men recognize their own beauty and self-worth. This is his ultimate goal!

“Last night was surreal. I’m still in awe that so many even showed up and I’m honored they care enough about what I stand for to show me support,” Guy Anthony said as he thanked those who attended.

“It was an informative, honest and ass-splittingly real event and I couldn’t be more proud of my community for showing up and showing out. This book is a labor of love for me as it has forced me to live in my truth.  I hope I’ve created something that’ll be remembered as this generation’s “In The Life” by Joseph Beam.”

To learn more about the project and Guy Anthony, please checkout and purchase (Pos)+itively Beautiful, go here.

Jamal is a senior at Morehouse College, a southern queer activist, media advocate, and lover of life. He is fat. He is femme. He is fierce. He is the second lead vocalist.