Drag tour to help end HIV and AIDS stigma stops in Charlottetown
Former Ru Paul's Drag Race contestant on drag show tour talking diagnosis
A former contestant of Ru Paul's Drag Race performed in Charlottetown Monday night to help bring an end to discrimination and fear around HIV and AIDS.
Joshua Jones is Trinity K. Bonet, and was a contestant in Ru Paul's sixth season. Jones and some local drag queens held a show at the Guild Monday night called Slay Stigma for a campaign funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada called "POZitivity."
Jones, who is himself HIV-positive, is on a cross-country tour encouraging people to get information about HIV and AIDS, get tested, get treated, and get talking.
Jones said he has had a positive experience living with HIV, but knows not everyone shares that experience.
"The few that have said something to me about it definitely lived in secrecy," he said.
Some have not confided in their families about being HIV or AIDS positive.
"You would much rather not worry them with something that's so taboo, but I try to tell people that I feel like it is always best to confide in somebody. If you can't do it in family, do it in a friend," he said.
Jones said slaying stigma to him means living an authentic life and not worrying about what others think of you. He wants to encourage others to do the same.
Jones gets a lot of messages of people telling him stories of their struggle with HIV or AIDS.
"I always find the time to say something back, because you never know if this is their first time being able to release that, and because you told your story they feel comfortable enough to tell theirs," Jones said.
A new era
A diagnosis of HIV or AIDS is much different today than it would have been 20 to 30 years ago, said Garry Dart, one of the campaign organizers.
"There wasn't medication. It was a completely different time. We didn't even know what it was until the mid 80s," Dart said.
Dart said there were no service organizations to help.
"When a lot of people get a diagnoses, or are newly diagnosed, they say my mind automatically goes back to 1985," Dart said.
Dart said people feel like they are going to die, but that isn't the case anymore.
"You can become undetectable and become untransmittable, where you cannot sexually transmit the virus to anyone else," they said.
Dart encourages everyone to get tested, seek information and talk to people.
The show goes on
Jones thinks a drag show is a good way to get people to open up.
"Everybody loves a good drag show. Everybody loves a good comedic queen, entertainment," he said.
Jones said he likes the formula of the show because HIV and AIDS can be a touchy subject.
"You throw so much information at a person at one time then it's like, OK, let's ease it over with a drag show," he said.
Monday night's show was the 22nd event Jones has performed in Canadian cities this month, and there are still two more shows to go.
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With files from Island Morning