Tommy Young-Dennis joined Nebraska AIDS Project’s Omaha office as a Prevention & Outreach Specialist about a year ago and works with the BMSM community. “Historically, African Americans are disproportionately affected and support has been long-needed in this community,” he said. “They need someone who can relate to what they are experiencing every day. I’m able to do so and share my lived experiences and knowledge.”
Young-Dennis was first connected with NAP after he was diagnosed with HIV in April 2010. A friend at UNO knew of NAP from a health fair and recommended he get confirmation of the testing result to know if it was true.
Young-Dennis originally received his diagnosis from a physician and sought out testing services from NAP as a second opinion. After NAP administered a rapid HIV test, the result was confirmed, but he was able to immediately sit down and talk to a counselor and case manager to map out his next steps forward. NAP was also able to help him pay for medications and provided some rental assistance. “These were services that impacted me and went a long way in ensuring my stability and getting me to a place where I could live independently,” he said. “This baseline allowed me to push forward and live a strong and healthy life after my diagnosis.”
In working with the community, Young-Dennis and NAP work to drive conversations and remind people that HIV is a thing to be concerned about. “I feel as treatment and research have come a long way since the 1980s, there has been less and less of a conversation on the importance of prevention,” he said. “Testing shouldn’t be treated in a lackadaisical way. It’s important to take control, keep it highly important in everyday life and make it a priority.”