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HIV 360° Fellow Spotlight: Mardrequs Harris

Earlier this year, HRC Foundation announced the inaugural class of the 2016 HIV 360° Fellowship Program. Made possible with generous support from the Elton John AIDS Foundation, HIV 360° is a capacity-building fellowship program for young, non-profit leaders ready to take HIV-inclusive organizations and initiatives to the next level.

The HRC blog recently sat down with each of the fellows to discuss the program, their work, and their vision of an AIDS-free generation.

Mardrequs Harris, 33, graduated from Tennessee State University with a Bachelor of Science degree. Mardrequs is a leader within the Ryan White Planning Group, a Tennessee Planning Group Representative, and a member of the Leaders Emerging and Developing Cohort. He has worked for Emory University’s Hope Clinic and Friends for Life Corp. In April of this year, Mardrequs was named a Program Director within the Tennessee Department of Health, where he now coordinates statewide Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) implementation efforts.

How did you first get involved with the movement to end the HIV and AIDS epidemic? How, if at all, did that inspire you to become an HIV 360° Fellow?

I first got involved while living in Atlanta and working for Emory University’s Hope Clinic on the HVTN 505 study as a Clinical Research Interviewer and Retention Specialist. From there, I moved from research to community mobilization and outreach. Now I work for government on prevention issues as the PrEP Director for the Tennessee Department of Health.

I wanted to be a fellow so I could meet other young people doing the work, gain insight from folks with different perspectives, learn new skills and strengthen the ones I already have and become a more effective advocate for the people in my community.

Each fellow has been asked to design, implement, and evaluate a community service project to combat HIV transmission rates in their respective communities. Tell us about yours and what you hope to accomplish with it.

My project focuses on men who have sex with men and transgender women living in the Memphis Metropolitan area, where rates of HIV transmission are high. I plan to use two novel approaches to HIV testing — incentivized testing and social networking strategy — to increase the number of people in my community who know their HIV status. This is important because knowing whether you’re HIV-positive or HIV-negative will allow you to take full ownership of your sexual health and increase your chances of living a long, healthy life.

What is one key learning you’ve gained from the fellowship program? What have you enjoyed the most about it?

One lesson that has stuck with me is how to delegate effectively. Learning this skill has made it easier for me trust the people on my team with various functions and duties, which enables everyone to cover more ground. Learning how to delegate effectively has also given me the opportunity to help others perfect their areas of strength and grow in their areas of weakness. Finally, delegating relieves the stress of feeling like I have to carry the weight of the world all by myself, and that is definitely an important part of self-care.

How can people learn more about your organization and support the work you are doing?

You can visit the TN Department of Health website and/or follow us on Facebook and Twitter to stay informed.

To learn more about the HIV 360° fellowship program itself, click here. Also, check out: