Through the NMAC Youth Initiative and Cruise, Carter connects with the LGBTQ+ community

July 6, 2023

By Livvie Avrick, Digital Communcations Specialist  


“When I was at the event, I was looking around at all the different members of my LGBTQ+ community, and I was grateful,” said Carter Oselett, Research and Evaluation Specialist at AFC and Youth Initiative Fellow with NMAC (National Minority AIDS Council). “This is what community is about.”  


As part of his fellowship, Carter hosted a community bike ride and HIV advocacy event in June. The bike ride was through a local social club called Cruise. Co-founder Alton Peterson describes Cruise as a Queer, Trans/Non-Binary, and BIPOC-led organization connecting Chicago’s queer community through sober weekly gatherings that range from visits to parks, trails, museums, music festivals, and other remarkable sites of Chicago that often go uninvested and unexplored. 


This sense of community is also what drew Carter to apply for NMAC’s Youth Initiative. Carter is part of a cohort of 25 youth from all over the country who are studying public health, working for city governments, nonprofits, or healthcare providers and are passionate about ending the HIV epidemic. “The lived experiences everyone brought to the cohort were so interesting and unique, and I thought it was a place where I could grow and learn from other young people doing similar work,” said Carter. 


Through the Youth Initiative, Carter has attended the United States Conference on HIV/AIDS (USCHA) in San Juan, PR in October 2022 and the Biomedical HIV Prevention Summit in Las Vegas, NV in April 2023. “We could all feel that NMAC was making an effort to grow the next generation of leaders and they prioritized us getting into these big conferences which are otherwise expensive to attend and not accessible to young people,” said Carter. “NMAC really wanted us in those rooms and meeting people that we’d probably never be able to meet without the Youth Initiative.” 


From the CDC Director of HIV Prevention to nurses, these conferences bring together so many different people within the field of HIV/AIDS prevention and advocacy. “I met a nurse who has been taking care of HIV/AIDS patients in rural Arkansas since the 80s,” said Carter. “I got to hear her stories about taking care of AIDS patients and talk with people who have been part of this movement for decades.”  


Including young people in these conferences is crucial as we are seeing youth make up a large number of new HIV diagnoses. In Illinois, 45% of newly diagnosed people living with HIV are young people ages 13-29, with more than 60% being Black youth (due to systemic racism causing a lack of access to comprehensive health care resources). Additionally, young people 13-19 have the lowest rate of viral suppression of all age groups followed by people 20-29 (GTZ Illinois). “Young people are the best messengers for ourselves and for our communities,” said Carter.  


Cruise brings together people from across the LGBTQ+ youth community, making it a great opportunity to have conversations around HIV prevention and advocacy.  Around 52 people biked together to the AIDS Memorial Garden along the Lakefront path. After taking some time to walk through the garden and learn about the history of the Belmont Rocks and the impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Chicago, they biked back to a bar where Carter had set up an HIV Advocacy and Harm Reduction resource fair.  


Thanks to the relationships Carter formed at these conferences, he was able to provide several resources: 40 At-Home HIV Testing Kits donated by Nathaniel Holley, Executive Director of the FreeLux Project and Narcan and Fentanyl Testing Strips provided by Carolyn Bloom, AFC’s Connection to Harm Reduction Program Manager. Michelle Minor from ViiV Healthcare also joined the event to talk to attendees about APRETUDE, the new injectable PrEP.  By the end of the event, all the supplies were given out and there was a lot of interest and conversations around different forms of HIV prevention and care.  


Reflecting on what Carter enjoys most about his work, it was the community. “I started this job when I was pretty new to the city, and I feel like my coworkers, my clients, the study participants, all have really enlightened me in a lot of ways,” said Carter.  “I love the people that I work with and that I serve.”  


Categorized under Advocacy, AFC news, Chicago and Inside Story.

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