At a prayer breakfast last year, something shifted in Roscoe Boyd II.
As he listened to a speaker detail her personal health crisis, Mr. Boyd connected with her vulnerability and found solace for his private shame: He had been keeping his H.I.V. diagnosis a secret since his diagnosis in 2001.
The event was hosted by Harlem Congregations for Community Improvement, a member agency of FPWA. Mr. Boyd was rapt by the words of the speaker, Jennifer Jones Austin, FPWA’s chief executive.
Ms. Jones Austin nearly died in 2009 of acute myeloid leukemia because of a shortage of African-American bone marrow donors. Her life was saved after she received stem cells from umbilical cord blood. Since the procedure, Ms. Jones Austin has turned that experience into a launchpad to educate the public, particularly minorities, about access to health care, urging people to serve as their own advocates.
Mr. Boyd said recently that her speech had been revelatory for him; he gleaned insight on how he could become empowered by a frightening and traumatic experience. Within a few months of that breakfast, Mr. Boyd ended up taking similar steps toward advocacy to combat the stigma of H.I.V., which he says he has felt repeatedly.
“There are still individuals who won’t engage with you in certain ways or who have a judgment that you must have done something dirty, you must have had a million sex partners in order to get your condition,” he said. “And that is not the reality. It just takes once, and it can be a relatively special and intimate moment.”
Mr. Boyd, an independent sales professional in his 30s, began his new chapter by going public with his diagnosis, sharing it on social media in late 2016.
His volunteer work focuses on health and wellness for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, with a particular interest in gay black men and those who are H.I.V. positive.
“There is a stigma with being gay,” he said. “There are additional stigmas when you’re black and gay. There’s an additional stigma when you’re black and gay and H.I.V. positive.”
Mr. Boyd wants it known that finding love after a diagnosis is possible, citing his relationship with his partner, Isaac Thweatt. The couple, who have been together for a year, live in Harlem.
A singer and performer, Mr. Boyd is also a member of the founding steering committee of U=U, which stands for Undetectable Equals Untransmittable. It means that an H.I.V.-infected person who is on a proper antiretroviral treatment that yields an undetectable viral load has effectively no risk of transmitting the virus to an uninfected partner. That was backed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in September.
Among Mr. Boyd’s other volunteer interests is working with FPWA for Miracle on Broad Street, an event to package and distribute over 25,000 toys and gifts to member agencies during the holidays. Last year, he persuaded a midsize insurance firm to organize a corporate volunteer team to participate. This year, Mr. Boyd secured a monetary donation from the firm.
This effort made Mr. Boyd nostalgic for one of his family’s Christmas traditions: giving presents to his cousins. He said his parents had taught their children to be thankful for their privileges and blessings and to share them with others.
“I know the difference that made for my cousins,” Mr. Boyd said, overcome with emotion. “In feeling loved, in feeling special, in knowing that we cared.”
He hopes to extend those messages of love and inclusion to everyone with H.I.V. who may be waging private battles.
Mr. Boyd said fears about his illness and the shame associated with it once brought him to a very dark place of drugs and homelessness. He now seeks to free others from such despair, or, at best, inspire them as profoundly as he was at that prayer breakfast.
“It’s the reality that one person can make a difference,” Mr. Boyd said. “That one person can make a choice that changes the lives of so many other people. And it can come out of their hardship.”