By Bradley Donalson
With World AIDS Day approaching next month, it is good to know that people are still fighting to inform the public about HIV/AIDS prevention. It’s even better to know that some people are still taking the time to fight for relationships between people with different HIV statuses (also known as serodiscordant couples). And maybe the best thing to know is that there are people who treat everyone the same, regardless of their HIV status. One couple that does all of the above is David and Johnny.
David L. Massey Jr. was born in Chicago and now lives in Atlanta as a management and program analyst with the Centers for Disease Control’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention. When he’s not busy with the CDC, he serves as the director of music for a church in Atlanta and has traveled the world as part of his music ministry. This advocate for AIDS/HIV awareness and prevention recently spoke at the Voice Your Invisible Wounds Conference held in the Norris Conference Center at Houston City Centre on September 25. He urged conference-goers to talk to their children about being careful and informed about HIV and preventative drugs such as Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) and Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP).
Johnny T. Lester Jr. is originally from Nashville, but has made a name for himself in Atlanta as a brand manager for Dr. Sherry, the celebrity psychologist from WETV’s Braxton Family Values, Bravo TV’s Real Housewives of Atlanta, and Essence magazine. As a “marketing concierge,” he has been a fashion consultant for Ricky Smiley, Tyler Lepley, Kevin Hart, Rafael Amaya, Bria Murphy, Brooklyn Tankard, and Evette Holyfield. Lester also works with the Edge Empowerment Foundation as a mental-health advocate to help reduce the stigma of mental illness in underserved communities, and he has previously worked with the Black Women’s Health Imperative to raise awareness and education about HIV/AIDS. Lester tells OutSmart that he and Massey have been invited to be a part of the planning committee for an HIV conference in Atlanta next year.
These two men met in 2013 in Atlanta through a mutual connection when Lester was working on a potential reality TV project. After talking for hours on the phone each day for several days, they decided to meet for their first date—though to hear them relate the story, only one of them considered it a date. As the two were chatting after dinner, Massey disclosed that he was HIV positive. People who are positive need to provide information that inspires trust when beginning a relationship with someone, Massey tells OutSmart. But apparently he gave Lester more information than he knew what to do with, causing Lester to speak with his doctor about what it all meant. After educating himself with the facts, Lester made good on his offer to help Massey move to a different part of town. Lester helped Massey pack up his house and even ended up unpacking things at the other end. (Massey does admit to wondering, “Where has this man been all my life?”) Their relationship has been going strong ever since.
The couple has an online presence with their website davidandjohnny.org, as well as on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram under the handle @DavidandJohnny. The duo is also getting ready to celebrate the one-year anniversary of their YouTube channel called David Johnny. They started their channel as a way to give people insight into issues that come up in their relationship, dispense advice, and have conversations with their audience. Over the course of the year, they have begun focusing their advocacy on social issues such as HIV-positive youth. These men are both funny and informative while maintaining a relaxed attitude about what they are doing. They say that their message is universal and not limited by orientation, age, race, status, or gender. “Love is all-encompassing, all-inclusive,” Massey says. “And if you have things that have to be managed, that’s just part of the process.” They aim their message at parents, youth, women, men, people who are married, and people who are still single, and they cover topics such as dating, communication, family, personal grooming, finance, and more.
Mixing professionalism with personal warmth, the duo has created a completely real and accessible product that connects them to their audience. After visiting their website, watching their videos, and seeing them speak about their lives and relationship, you get the feeling that they are your close friends, inviting you into a place where you can learn about and discuss topics of daily living. And while they admit that they are far from perfect, they always seem to have good advice about relationships.
Bradley Donalson is a regular contributor to OutSmart magazine.