When Jaymes talks, nothing is off limits. Dating. Gaming. Living in Milwaukee. His enthusiasm pulls people in to unexpected conversations all the time—a skill he learned as a sex educator in college. “If everybody just talked, the world would be a better place,” says Jaymes. And for him, that can mean sharing things that some people are afraid to talk about. Like getting tested for HIV.
The first time he got tested, Jaymes was just 19. “I had just come out and I dated the first person online who would talk to me,” Jaymes remembers. “It obviously didn’t work out.” For the first time in his life, he didn’t really know his status—and he knew that meant he really needed to find out. So he gathered up his courage and headed to a nearby clinic.
I feel like I'm helping build the world that I want to live in.
After that, whenever Jaymes got tested for HIV, he’d write a quick Facebook post about it. Nothing big, nothing preachy. He just wanted his family and friends to know getting tested was easy and normal. It always felt great when his posts got 'likes'. But it felt even better when friends would ask questions or get inspired to get tested themselves.
“That’s really empowering,” says Jaymes. “I feel like I’m helping build the world that I want to live in.”
And that’s a world where someone’s status isn’t everything. He takes PrEP every day. He gets tested regularly. And when his old roommate—the first friend living with HIV Jaymes made—visits Milwaukee, they go out and laugh and talk all night. And never mention HIV.
“It’s a part of my life,” says Jaymes. “But just one part.”