Kevin Fletcher

Kevin Fletcher

 Gaithersburg, Maryland, USA
BandSpoken Word

The DOES HIV LOOK LIKE ME? speakers are young people living with HIV or AIDS. The DOES HIV LOOK LIKE ME? lecture is encouraging young people to know their status, end discrimination against those living with the disease and share what they learn with someone they know--all without using fear.

Biography

Kevin grew up in an all-American family with his younger brother and two loving parents. Throughout grade school, Kevin received excellent grades, was involved in several extracurricular activities and he was always willing to jump head first into something new. What people didn’t see on the inside was that Kevin was dealing with his own demons. “I felt completely hollow and empty inside like I had no purpose or reason to exist,” says Kevin. He filled his days with as many activities as possible to distract from the internal emptiness. Several nights alone, Kevin fought the urge to end his life. “I started to cut myself as an outlet to dealing with my depression when there was no other distraction available,” recites Kevin. After graduating high school, he sought professional help for his depression. “Therapy helped for awhile, but I wasn’t ready to deal with the root of the problem,” states Kevin.

After receiving his associates degree, he decided to move to Washington, DC and attend Gallaudet University. With his new-found independence and freedom, Kevin found ways to deal with his feelings. He drowned his depression in alcohol, often drinking to a point of losing consciousness and making poor decisions. “Alcohol was my new anti-depressant. It numbed all my feelings and served as an escape from reality,” he recalls. While in a drunken state, he was able to feel free to act on his sexual feelings that he fought against for years. One schoolmate became a frequent sexual partner and looked after Kevin during his drunken nights.

On November 30, 2005 he was planning to head out with his friend to a night club. “I took one look at him and knew something was wrong,” says Kevin. Earlier in the day, Kevin’s friend tested positive for HIV. Unable to fully comprehend his friend’s disclosure, Kevin made it an early night. The next day, Kevin went to take an HIV test and his results were negative, to his surprise. “I was so paranoid that I took an HIV test three times that first day and weekly for three weeks after that,” recalls Kevin. During the winter break, Kevin decided to take an STD test and one more HIV test at his local public health clinic. On December 26, 2005, Kevin found a letter left on his pillow from his father explaining what Kevin had tried to fight against his whole life, that he was gay. “After reading that letter there was no turning back. I either had to fully come out about who I was, or end my life altogether. Both of these options terrified me.”

The next day on his way to work, he called the clinic for his results. He was informed that he had tested positive for gonorrhea, chlamydia and HIV. “I felt nothing. It was as if my mind completely detached itself from my emotions.” After briefly heading into work, Kevin decided to go the health clinic to figure out what to do. “The first question I asked was, ‘When will I die?’ because that is all I knew about HIV – that is kills people,” tells Kevin. After a lengthy discussion with the doctor he headed home to tell his mother. “It was a teary, but healing relief to finally tell my mother and admit to myself that I was gay and unfortunately there was other news that tainted the moment.”

With the support of his mother, Kevin returned to school with a determination to beat the virus. “At first I searched for ‘cures,’ but nothing panned out. Then I focused on learning everything I could about HIV.” Kevin’s new-found knowledge led him to become outspoken about the disease. “I realized throughout my life, no one ever talked about HIV. It was the shameful topic, never to be brought up. If someone had discussed HIV with me, I probably wouldn’t be positive today.”

Currently, Kevin works for the National Institutes of Health, is working on his Master’s degree and is assisting with advocacy efforts on the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal. He lives with his active-duty military partner and their dog in Maryland.

“My goal with my story is to be the voice that was never granted to me, to speak up where others won’t and to never stop talking about this devastating virus. Hope’s Voice has provided me with this platform.

2011/12

Discography

The DOES HIV LOOK LIKE ME? lecture includes:
- an informative HIV and AIDS 101.
- the speaker sharing their story of being diagnosed and living with the disease.
- time for questions and answers creating a dialogue with the students.

Hope's Voice provides each school with:
- DOES HIV LOOK LIKE ME? handouts.
- the GET FEEDBACK report collected from surveys distributed at the event.
- a glossy and eye-catching electronic DOES HIV LOOK LIKE ME? promotional kit.
- the opportunity to order DOES HIV LOOK LIKE ME? t-shirts (at discounted rate) for the programming board.

2011-12