by Tara Cavanaugh
Angel Carrion won this year’s Rising Star Award at the annual Pride Banquet in June. Carrion, 22, recently started a new job at AIDS Partnership Michigan. He has also worked with youth at Affirmations Community Center in Ferndale.
1. What did Affirmations do for you, before you worked there?
I had a place where I could just be myself. I had a place where I could just be free; I didn’t have to worry about who was behind me or who was going to find out, if my parents were going to see me for being who I am. It was a good place to go to because it built up my personality. Because when I did come out, I came out to my family, but not all the way – I didn’t come out with my personality. So when I was at Affirmations, it gave me the opportunity to come out with my full personality too.
2. What did you like about working with youth?
When you first come out, it’s awkward for most people. And then you start building yourself more. There’s a couple of youth I’ve seen there that were in the awkward stage, they didn’t know where they fit and they were defining themselves. Now when I see them, it’s a whole big personality. They’re happier with their personality. I don’t know if they’re happier with their lives, but as time progresses, they’ll start finding themselves more. That’s what I liked about it: watching people find themselves.
3. How’s your new job going at AIDS Partnership Michigan?
I’m an early intervention specialist, which is basically a step before case working. What we do is work with people who are newly diagnosed or who have fallen out of care. We see if they need insurance, make sure they’re signed up for a doctor, and take them to doctor’s visits. We help them because they need that support and we help them get everything that they need. It’s for a good cause, and being able to help somebody and support them to get what they need makes me happy.
4. So do you like your new job so far?
I’m excited about it because I’ve been in HIV prevention for a long time. The person who inspired me to get in it is named Alfredo Smith, who works at the REC Boyz. I looked up to him, and in 2009 I got my certification to be an HIV specialist. Ever since then I’ve been doing volunteer work and outreach, and now that I have a job in it, it makes me feel like I’m doing what I’m meant to do.
5. The AIDS walks fundraisers are happening this month. Why is it so important for people to show their support?
Because it’s something that has hit the LGBTQ community for a long time. I think everything we did in the past and that we’re still doing now is bettering HIV education and treatment. This is something that impacts everybody. HIV doesn’t discriminate on race, gender, religion, anything. This is something that hits every person.