Since 2004, Royale Theus has been making a name for himself in the HIV/AIDS community through his work with the Midwest AIDS Prevention Project. The 28-year-old director of programs spearheads several initiatives to help prevent and treat HIV in the black, gay community.
1 You wear many hats at Midwest AIDS Prevention Project. What is your favorite job?
My favorite job would be HIV counseling to young men who have sex with men. I enjoy one-on-one conversation with the youth. This allows for open and honest conversation and helps to foster safer and healthier sex practices.
2 What was your thinking behind the Many Men, Many Voices initiative?
To help young black MSM who identify as gay understand the dual identity issues and factors that influence them which can lead to negative feelings and STI/HIV risk-taking behaviors. A goal of Many Men, Many Voices is to facilitate the knowledge, attitudes, beliefs and skills to utilize options in an atmosphere of safety, acceptance and social support.
3 What is your greatest accomplishment so far?
I haven't reached a "greatest accomplishment" to date, yet being in a leadership position accompanied by a great team that is very diverse and passionate as myself gives me great pleasure. For the past two-and-a-half years, MAPP has collaborated with other CBOs that provides education and prevention. When I don't have to rally in the fight to eradicate HIV transmission I will feel a greater sense of accomplishment.
4 Last summer, you won the Rising Star award at the Pride Banquet. How are you living up to your title?
I continue to listen to my community's needs and I tirelessly give 150 percent of myself, providing health education and prevention tools and methods. Being visual and accessible at all times. I also continue to help youth understand that the "healing on the go" process hasn't worked and make it a point to offer a buffet of options to attain goals they set for themselves.
5 What do you want to see happen with HIV/AIDS in 2009?
I would like to see the number of new HIV infections decrease. Realistically thinking, I strive for everyone that is sexually active to be and/or become more responsible, meaning using condoms for higher risk sexual activities and knowing their HIV status. I would like to hear that the number of conversations are increasing amongst those individuals who are known HIV-positive. Getting more of the African-American churches involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS, which will deal with homophobia and transmission. Lastly, I would like to see more HIV/AIDS organizations working closer together to provide education and support to those at risk. MAPP and the Michigan AIDS Fund has set the bar for this as the merger of the two organizations will be final this spring. When you look at the missions of CBOs in metro-Detroit, there's no reason this shouldn't increase in the months or years to come.