ivan daniel

This interview is conducted by award-winning journalist, Love TaShia Asanti, on behalf of the In the Meantime Men’s Group organization.

There are so many beautiful, intelligent, dynamic, powerful, creative, and inventive people who we’ve lost to the virus, and that needs to be highlighted. Individuals who have passed away should be acknowledged. I think it’s necessary to keep that history of HIV/AIDS for future generations so that they understand the devastating effects it had on the Black community in the beginning. We want future generations to be better than previous generations.
My generation was hit hard, not only with the AIDS epidemic, but also simultaneously with the crack epidemic. Early on, AIDS was considered to be only a white, gay male disease. The Black community widely thought that Black people wouldn’t be affected by the AIDS virus at all. In 1986 was when it became real to me; a college friend of mine returned from New York and revealed that he had contracted the AIDS virus.
At that time, there was no such thing as HIV-positive; there was an AIDS diagnosis, and the prognosis was several concurring illnesses and an early death. I remember my friend encouraging me to get tested, and I did get tested. He declined rapidly, and eventually passed away. Death from AIDS became the norm for us at that time. Most of my early childhood and young adult friends—my “Day Ones”—have passed away. It was devastating, heartbreaking, and traumatizing.
I remember the fear I experienced when seeing someone’s physical appearance change and the sickness become apparent. We did not know if it was due to drug addictions or the AIDS virus. Profoundly, I now knew how serious the AIDS epidemic was. I began testing consistently after the personal revelation. I remember a doctor saying to me at the time that the reports and studies showed that half of Latino and African American men already had AIDS, and in the next 20 years, the other half of Black and Latino men were going to contract the deadly virus. The doctor’s candor sent chills through my mind and my body.
In 1996, I wanted to do more, so I obtained a job as an outreach specialist with the AIDS prevention team, setting the template for street-based, nightclub, and bath house outreach and interventions. At that time, I created groundbreaking prevention/intervention strategies; the position was very rewarding for me and the community, because safer sex education was not readily available in the Black and Brown LGBTQ+ communities. Eventually, I left the organization when massive deaths from AIDS started taking a toll on me. I was traumatized, and the work became very daunting because we were watching a lot of our Brothers and Sisters die.
So many friends, including my dear friend Duane Bremond who worked at APLA at a time it was helping people to navigate services and create pathways and policies for people living with HIV/AIDS, and needed support to qualify for SSI and HOPWA, etc. The reality is there was a lack of resources and service providers in our Black and Brown communities. Watching Duane Bremond navigate people through direct services encouraged me to learn to be more of service to community. Although I’m not HIV positive, I was greatly impacted by the HIV/AIDS virus. I wanted to be supportive and to get the harm-reduction information to our people.
I had been a volunteer with Black Pride in Los Angeles since its inception. We saw the disparities within the overall gay community, and the reality had set in that HIV/AIDS disproportionately impacted the Black LGBTQ+ community. Our goal was to celebrate all that was Black and Gay; we just wanted to celebrate and take a break from what was really happening within the Black community because of the AIDS epidemic.
I am fortunate to have had the chance to assist many organizations with being more impactful in the Black community. I co-authored an innovative intervention program for LA Black Pride focused on the Los Angeles Black community. We called it the ‘Clip-Clip’ program and the ‘DJ Saved My Life’ program, which turned into a $250,000 grant from the Office of AIDS programs and policy.
Our program was in conjunction with the national BET AIDS awareness initiative. We activated safer sex education, harm-reduction trainings for barbers in barber shops, and provided condoms, testing information, and resources. We also created safer sex, harm-reduction educational trainings for DJs to disseminate safer sex messages while DJ’ing in nightclubs. We also created a ‘DJ Saved My Life’ CD for Black Pride 2001 and passed out over 2,000 copies. We engaged several local and national DJs to participate on the CD, and in between songs we put safer sex messages.
A profound inner knowing of the importance of the movement motivated me to utilize the platform and the brand that I had created for myself. I wanted to create opportunities for other organizations to advance outreach activities in local venues to educate community.
In 2000 I created Ivan Daniel Productions, producing boutique private events, co-sponsoring nationwide pride events, and providing weekly nightlife entertainment for Los Angeles, which provided a gateway for CBO and public health organizations to elevate and to target their outreach efforts. We continued the DJ Saved My Life program, organizations continued to come set up outreach tables, and activate mobile testing in conjunction with my events.
When thinking of where we are now as a community as it pertains to this AIDS epidemic, I am happy with the progress. People no longer have to take 26 pills a day; they can now take one pill a day to adhere to their treatment regimens for HIV. A person that is HIV positive can become undetectable, and it is less likely that they can infect someone else with the virus.
The availability of PrEP/PEP, and the culturally sensitive messaging has enhanced over the years. It’s not as taboo as it was in the beginning to talk about HIV/AIDS, because so many have been affected, or affected by it. There’s starting to be more funding for creative programming, so that we can support our people. I do feel that although we are seeing more hope, there is not a cure, and there’s still so much more to do to eradicate the HIV/AIDS virus.
We don’t necessarily need some corporate executive who may lack experience with Black and Brown communities to tell us how to help our people. We need to have more resources for grassroots organizations to reinforce the communities of color with financial support. We need gatekeepers that are willing to stand on the frontline to provide perspective and leadership, because we have young people coming up that could follow in their footsteps and carry the torch. We also need these gatekeepers to be trustworthy. We have to get people with health challenges in the doors of these public health service providers. There needs to be more emphasis on creative ways of helping our new generation of young people to understand that this is real and that our health and lifestyle is an individual choice and of great importance.
With all that I’ve seen and learned, I am now empowering Black community through IDPSUCCESS empowerment programs and resources to shift community towards a healthier lifestyle. Treatment adherence is paramount, and for people who are HIV positive or HIV negative, it’s vitally important to prioritize diet, exercise, mental health, harm reduction, stable and affordable housing, and education. I really feel like these are still the missing public health and health and wellness components in our community. We have to look at our lives holistically and address more than just one issue at a time, and get to the root of all issues. I have been blessed to talk and to listen to young people while supporting them to navigate and to create a path for their health and well-being. I want younger people to find their purpose and to love themselves.
If I were to give advice to the younger generation, I would say first find a good spiritual base; then choose your sexual partners wisely by having conversations before you have sex. That’s what I really want younger people to do. If they don’t know how to do so, I feel it is a part of my responsibility to help with navigational tools for a healthy lifestyle. We must show younger community members how to truly respect oneself.
Initiating and giving respect to each other builds compassion before having intimate moments. If I care about myself and I care about you, then I’m going to be a little bit more particular about behavior in the bedroom. This concept, along with education and information, can truly save lives. We must save ourselves and each other. Most risky behavior comes with lower self-esteem, lack of self-value, lack of education, trauma, and fear.

IDPSUCCESS is built on helping individuals no matter what religion, race, sexual orientation, or gender they are in finding purpose; once you find a purpose in your life, a lot of life’s mysteries and goals fall into place. It’s not about just getting up and going to a job; you must find your purpose, and you must live in it. We’re here because God put us here for a reason. In order for us to know where we are going, we must first know where we’ve been.
This monument will be historical for bringing context and sharing the stories of so many people that our younger generation may not have known. More importantly our history—good and not so good—should be highlighted and acknowledged. Part of my purpose is to share, to educate, and to celebrate using my experience and my education to make sure that empowerment for the Black community happens.

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