by Leslee White
photo by Lauren Means
On October 13, 1997, Thunder Kellie Hampton got the news that he had tested positive for HIV.
Twenty years later, T.K. Hampton is living, singing and inspiring others to fight the epidemic.
“If you’re going to die, you have to find a way to really LIVE life to its fullest,” he said with such conviction that you can feel it in your soul.
Hampton, who has been a school teacher in Nashville for 17 years, wrote the song “You Shall LHiV” as a response to his diagnosis. Living with HIV, he had something to fight and found strength to renew his life and to inspire others. He became a speaker on HIV/AIDS, and hosts group discussions as an advocate for HIV infected persons in the community.
As a person living with HIV, he is able to mentor and help combat HIV/AIDS transmission in America’s more economically disadvantaged communities, where the epidemic most disproportionately affects American society.
Hampton works with Street Works, a local 501(3) non-profit organization and mobile outreach agency. They target youth, drug users, incarcerated persons, sex workers and others that engage in high-risk activities with the purpose of educating on biomedical advancements in treatment options.
In an age where a positive diagnosis is no longer a death sentence, it is not hard for those like Hampton to imagine a world where ZERO transmissions is a reality.
Medication helps combat current patients’ HIV by keeping their viral load suppressed to reduce the chance of transmission. Antiretroviral therapy treatment is prescribed in a “cocktail” comprised of three or more medications that can now be combined into a single pill known as Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART).
Another important aspect is focusing on treatment as prevention. By using pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) men and women who engage in high-risk activity behaviors who are not HIV-positive can take a daily pill to reduce the risk of contracting HIV while also employing behavioral intervention that targets the high-risk behaviors. Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is a treatment in which a person begins to take antiretroviral medication after exposure to HIV to minimize the risk of infection. PEP must begin within 72 hours of exposure and continue for 28 days. While both PEP and PrEP are proven effective treatments, neither should be considered substitutes for other proven prevention methods such as correct use of condoms or use of sterile needles.
The mission to educate the community about biomedical advancements in HIV through personal testimony in dance, music and song led to Hampton’s song, “You Shall LHiV,” being adapted for a theatrical production. Hampton teamed up with Nate Bean, and “You Shall LHiV 2: ZERO” was born.
On Feb. 7, 2017, the production opened for a free showing at Tennessee State University. In the show, Hampton leads a team of advocates in the task of getting to ZERO HIV transmissions while Nate Bean and 4Given provide a musical backdrop.
Soon after that performance, they took the show to the Tennessee state meeting for HIV/AIDS advocates in Nashville, where it was a success. They then took the show to the United States AIDS conference in Washington, D.C. They plan to perform at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) next year.
Hampton has no plans to stop fighting until ZERO is a reality. His song has become an anthem for the community.
“We are going to get to ZERO and end this epidemic”, Hampton said, “and this song is our battle cry.”
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