Empowerment is a Continual Process

The team at OAC knows we’ve done our job when a participant feels so empowered with the knowledge they’ve received at our programs that they share it with others. Empowerment drives us. Empowerment is a part of our vision and history. We strive to empower consumers through our programs, educational materials, and website. We hope to empower case managers and other HIV professionals with tools that enable them to better serve our community.

So what is this empowerment concept all about? Studies show that people living with HIV/AIDS who are engaged in social activism (advocating for the good of the community) are more likely to have better psychosocial outcomes. Consumers who are actively engaged in improving their communities are more likely to have better coping skills, are more knowledgeable about resources, and have wider social networks.

Even though this finding is significant, we recognize that not everyone is ready to advocate for their community. Some people find confidence and acceptance in self-advocacy (advocating for the good of the individual). One social psychologist believes that an individual must not only possess a feeling of empowerment or self-awareness, but they must also have a sense of social justice. This sense of social justice can prepare someone who excels at self-advocacy for social activism, but only if they’re ready for it.

Because it cannot be defined on its own, empowerment theory suggests that empowerment is a process of personal transformation. Experiential learning leads to feeling empowered, which leads to personal revelations and growth. Empowerment assists with finding self-determination and self-fulfillment.

Even though we have a greater understanding of empowerment, measuring the concept is still challenging. Clinical psychology argues that empowerment is based on attitudes and perceptions, not on behaviors. In a world of metrics and behavioral assessments, empowerment would be easy to measure if it was seen in individual behaviors. Yet, empowerment can only be measured by an individual’s personal acceptance, self-determination, and social engagement.

In summary, empowerment happens when you’ve accepted yourself (HIV status and all), when you know what you want out of life, and when you’re ready to learn and experience personal growth. Translating your personal empowerment into something bigger than yourself can be exciting. When you make the connection between empowering yourself and how your attitude affects those around you, you begin to empower others.

Empowerment is obtainable, but it takes work to reach that attitude. We’d love to hear your stories of what empowers you in your daily lives.

 Written by Sarah Sobel

Community Spotlight

My name is Johnny Glaze and after two years of college, no knowing what I wanted to study, but knew I wanted to be on stage, I moved to Manhattan. I had been working in restaurants since I was eleven years old, when it was still legal for children to be employed. My first interview in New York was as a busboy in a very popular gay restaurant that was a party every night. I learned to like working in the front of the house instead of the kitchen, for I made much more money that way.

While learning to ballroom dance, hence the desire to be on stage, I moonlighted in many restaurants in New York City, mostly white-gloved establishments, and one in particular gave me the itch for kitchen science and knowledge of all things culinary.

Because I looked to be too young to carry cocktails and open wine, they put me in the kitchen delivering food to the rich and famous.  Consequently, I had to know exactly what was in each dish for clients always asked the kitchen waiter about salt or nuts or allergy-inducing secret ingredients.  So the Chef taught me basically what was in each product and how it was cooked.

When the phone would ring for the Chef, ‘Barbara Walters is here’, he would give his task at hand to me to finish for the line cooks.  Charlie Palmer, my mentor made his own condiments, let alone bread and chocolate and chicken stock.  There were only raw ingredients in the stock room except olive oil, coffee beans, and slabs of belgian chocolate.  There was flour and sugar, salt and the like but he made everything from scratch.  I was smitten and fascinated.   I am a product of why things cook the way they do and the science behind it.  I came home to my roots and studied at the Culinary Institute of America branch in Dayton at Sinclair and never had to open the book.

I learned butchery and bread making, otherwise it was an easy coast of realizing how much knowledge I had accrued in my time with Charlie. I asked O.A.C. if I could help in any way with my culinary savvy to help others not only be stunning in the kitchen, but not be afraid to try something new.  I also am positive and know the benefits of the way I cook and how it makes for a healthy immune system.

I have studied vitamin content, and why colors are important in your diet, how to keep clean pipes-your colon silly-, and frugal shopping.  All foods have a season and I buy as fresh as I can by the season, creating meals that fit the time of year.

I also have to say that I am a savory Chef and not as much a pastry Chef.  I can make a great brownie, a stunning cookie, and a yulelog for mom at Christmas, and the like, but it is the sauteing, braising, blanching, stewing, and roasting that is my honed skill set.

I am at your service in making anything from bread to casseroles, soups to roasts, salads to rissotos. I have made homemade pasta, tortillas, and crackers.   I have had mentors in Mexican, Turkish, Italian, Greek, French, and American so my knowledge of why ethnic groups cook the way they do is vast.  Food is based on the distance from the equator of what grows in heat and what grows in cool environments.

O.A.C. has graciously asked me to start a blog and I could rant for days but would moreover like your questions and input to stimulate my teaching abilities.

Oh, and I became a professional Fred Astaire ballroom instructor after training class for all thirteen years of my Manhattan life, so teaching I realize is a gift I didn’t know that I had.

This giving back, as it were, is a double stimuli to me for I love the kitchen and I love to teach.


Your Johnny6laze




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Beginning Treatment: A Personal Choice & Perspective

As a follow-up to our blog last week, I wanted to provide a personal perspective on the process of deciding to or not to begin treatment. Throughout my journey with the virus, I have always known that I am fortunate to be living in a time and place that with proper access and management of HIV in my life it was going to be a long-term chronic illness, rather than the death sentence it once could have been.

After the initial shock, as I began to adjust to life as a young person living with HIV, I realized that with education came the comfort of what could be a long and healthy life, where HIV only existed as a small piece of the puzzle. I was living in a new era of the epidemic, never having known a world where HIV was not a burden upon the communities to which belong.

As a gay man, I knew about the disease, but what little knowledge I did have was filled with myth and misinformation. The more I became informed about the disease I was now living with, the more I was comforted by the fact of how far we have come over the last 30 years.

Despite this knowledge, while I did not fear HIV as death sentence within my life, I did fear the idea of treatment and the stories I had heard of the side effects that may impact my life upon beginning a regimen.

I monitored the ongoing debate around when to start treatment, wondering when the time would come that I would have to make yet another life changing decision. I had met hundreds of people living with this disease, most of who were already taking medications and many of who had experienced varying levels of side effects over the course of their disease management.

I was afraid of the medications making me more sick, or the vivid dreams, fat displacement, or wasting that I had heard so much about from my peers. Those that entered my life who were long-time survivors of this disease were living proof that medications would ultimately prolong my life, but also a constant reminder of the possible impact long-term exposure could bring to my overall health.

I waited 5 years from the day that I was diagnosed before starting my HIV regimen. I worked closely with my HIV Specialist to monitor my labs and to manage HIV in my life through living a healthy life of balanced diet, exercise, and learning to listen to my body.

Ultimately, my body telling me it was time to begin taking medication made the decision. In the spring of 2009, I was balancing my studies within my Masters Degree program, full-time work, training as a road cyclist, and just living life. I had heard over and over from my physician that I needed to be careful about managing the stress levels in my life, but my passion and dedication for life fueled my drive to keep going at such an intense rate, that one day it finally hit the guard rail and sent me spinning.

I was 26 years old and had shingles induced by stress. My labs of which I had worked so hard to keep stable and consistent had changed dramatically and I my overall stamina had begun to dwindle. I was forced to take a hard look at my life during that time of recovery and make some difficult decisions about how to prioritize my life to ensure my overall continuum of optimal self-care.

I took the time to recover and to get my head straight before returning to my next appointment with my physician. I am firm believer that starting medication has to be done when the individual is ready to make the commitment. The conversation should be one that is had between the physician and the client with a mutual understanding and agreement that the all aspects of their life are prepared for what starting medication means for the road ahead.

What I’ve learned over the eight years that I have been living with HIV is that the journey towards beginning your HIV regimen is going to take on a different timeline for every one. For some it will be an immediate choice made out of necessity or choice and for others it will take time to be mentally, physically, and spiritually ready for the commitment.

Looking back, I’m not sure I would alter my journey towards making the decision to wait to start my medication. I recognize that it took me time to be in a place where I could make a full commitment to beginning treatment and know that that is okay. I needed to overcome the fears that surrounded treatment in my own mind and once I was ready, I made the CHOICE to begin.

Post by: Tyler Andrew TerMeer, MS