Ambassador of the Heart
Blossom Brown Educates About HIV & Creating Your Best Life
by Dann Dulin
Blossom, according to Webster’s, is “to thrive and to flourish”—which precisely describes Blossom Brown.
Thirty-three year old Blossom was raised in Jackson, Mississippi, in the Deep South, heart of the Bible belt. At seventeen, as a result of her high school blood drive event, Blossom learned that she had acquired HIV. Shocked and disappointed, but more than anything, she was angry at herself. Months before the test, Blossom intuitively knew something was wrong.
Blossom recalls first hearing about the virus on a Magic Johnson television special that featured Hydeia Broadbent, who was born with HIV and has dedicated her life to ending the epidemic. Like Hydeia, Blossom hopes that by sharing her story it will help others.
As a youngster, AIDS seared an indelible impression on Blossom, which motivated her to learn more about the epidemic. This was the early nineties, when the virus was slaughtering many of our entertainment talents.
Blossom sought out quality help and today, sixteen years later, she lives in Hollywood and could easily be in an ad for Gold’s Gym. She’s glows, maintaining her health with exercise, medication, psychotherapy, and nutritionally sound foods.
Several weeks after receiving her diagnosis, Blossom discovered that her uncle (her father’s brother) also received news of his HIV diagnosis. They grew to have a close bond and became each other’s support system.
At age twenty, Blossom began to transition. At first the reaction from her family and friends was not encouraging, but through a series of events and with appropriate education, they became her grandest supporters. Blossom defines herself as a pansexual transwoman. (She chose the name because it’s the meaning of her journey, and also Blossom was Mayim Bialik’s eponymous nineties TV show.)
The epidemic became Blossom’s passion! She’s an Ambassador for Greater Than AIDS, which featured her in a campaign called Trans Empowered, about transwomen who were either living with HIV or who work in the HIV community. Blossom is employed by the Los Angeles LGBT Center as a PrEP Navigator, making PrEP accessible to those who opt for it. Her HIV/AIDS activism also extends to collaborating with the Human Rights Campaign, Black AIDS Institute and several other HIV organizations.
Blossom describes herself as, “Loud!”—thank heavens. The trendsetting woman has a valuable voice and provides a platform for others to be heard. She’s currently in production making a documentary and a short film. Stay tuned.
Recently, Blossom binged on the first season of FX’S Pose, created by Ryan Murphy. It’s a series about the LGBTQ African-American and Latinx ballroom scene in the eighties, against the backdrop of the rapid-firing terror of AIDS.
Dann Dulin: Do you like Pose?
Blossom Brown: I love it! I know a couple of folks on that show and it’s really amazing to see them represent our community.
The epidemic has affected you in a major way. Have you lost friends to the disease?
I have seen friends who happen to be trans, as well, pass away from the epidemic. I’ve witnessed the ignorance that still exists about HIV and AIDS. Even in 2019, people still think that you can “catch AIDS” from eating near someone or touching something that they may have previously touched. The ignorance makes me cringe.
Tell me about the stigma.
There is a lot of stigma attached with being trans and living with HIV. Everyone assumes that you must have gotten it from engaging in sex work. That’s not always the case. The ignorance is real—even in 2019—because of the lack of education. They don’t understand things such as PrEP, and how antiviral medication has advanced. It’s a new day.
What can cisgender advocates do to reach out more to the trans population?
Honestly, it’s about educating yourself about the trans community in general. Finding out about the issues, the needs, and to start developing solutions. Also, listening to trans individuals as they are willing to discuss how to be not just better allies but accomplices!
You are a PrEP Navigator….
[She anticipates my question.] Basically, what I do is navigation for PrEP. I guide each client through their insurance if they have it or enroll them in programs if they are uninsured. I also focus on retaining them on PrEP as well, by education, by following up with them if they missed their doctor’s appointment, and by just answering any questions that they may have concerning the medication.
Sounds like a constructive position. What does an Ambassador for Greater Than AIDS do?
As a Greater than AIDS Ambassador, it’s about spreading HIV education whether through advocacy or through the use of media in some form. It’s about combating the disease through different methods.
Who do you consider a hero in the AIDS epidemic?
I have always considered Magic Johnson a hero. Yes, part of this is because he had the money and access to good quality medical care, but having to deal with it in the nineties and actually surviving a time when the death rate was so high…is impressive. Now there are many champions in the fight, which includes transwomen.
Any tips about living with HIV?
Take care of yourself and develop a good healthy relationship with your healthcare provider.
Any fade-out comments, before this article is over?
I just want to remind folks that no matter what, you can live a long healthy life with the virus. There’s no shame in living with the virus and the world is your oyster. Live your best life! [She pauses. Takes an inhale.] You…deserve…it.
Dann Dulin interviewed Max Greenfield for the December 2019 cover story.