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HIV 360° Fellow Spotlight: Steven Romeo

Earlier this year, the 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, nonprofit 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.

Steven Romeo, 26, is the founder and executive director of and primary artist for The Change Project, a LGBTQ arts and advocacy organization based in Birmingham, Alabama. The Change Project elevates the voices of LGBTQ people and advocates for an improved quality of life through the arts, strategic partnership, and community programs in the Deep South and Midwest United States. Romeo is an accomplished artist in their own right named a White House “Champion of Change” in November 2015.

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 got involved with the movement to end the HIV and AIDS epidemic when I first stepped into the movement for LGBTQ equality. These two movements are intertwined by their very nature. Roughly two years ago, a good friend of mine approached me about doing a photo series focusing on people living with HIV. In a matter of weeks, the IAMHIV campaign was born as part of The Change Project. The campaign also happens to be the reason I applied to become an HIV 360° fellow. I wanted to learn more about the HIV epidemic and how to tell the stories of people living with HIV in an authentic way.

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.

The goal of the IAMHIV campaign is to eliminate HIV-related stigma by engaging people living with and affected by HIV in a viral, photo campaign. The campaign intends to give a face to the virus – the familiar face of everyday people just like you. As HIV doesn’t discriminate, we intend to capture individuals from all walks of life: LGBTQ people, veterans, previously incarcerated individuals, youth and young people, business professionals, persons with disabilities, healthcare providers, seniors and people of all genders and ethnicities. This project is important to me because HIV-related stigma haunts the lives of people living with and affected by HIV in various, overlapping ways.

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

This program has really emphasized to me that we are all in this together. Collaboration is key to ending the HIV epidemic. Working with people across the country has been something I have most enjoyed about this fellowship.

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

You can learn more about The Change Project at www.embodyprogress.org. To learn more about the IAMHIV campaign, to become a partner agency, or to book us for your next event, be sure to check out www.whoishiv.org. Finally, we’d love everyone to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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