By Sarah Annecone
Nama Illo has been volunteering with the Boulder County AIDS Project (BCAP) since January 2007. He has been active in various roles, including as a pro bono graphic design artist, helping with special events, as a performer in many Atlas program shows and as a participant in Atlas’ educational workshops and Core Group meetings. In 2012, Nama was awarded the Don Holloway Award for Distinguished Volunteer Service (Volunteer of the Year).
Over the past 11 years, Nama has given 1,060 hours of service to BCAP. We salute you Nama, for your dedication to BCAP, your generosity to the community and for your advocacy to reduce HIV-stigma. Thank you for sharing your creativity in service to BCAP’s mission.
How did you get involved with BCAP?
“I started visiting BCAP after viewing my first Absolute! Fabulous! Gorgeous! performance. I was dating one of the volunteers and he asked me to come and watch him perform. I have been hooked ever since.”
In what capacity are you currently involved with BCAP?
“I volunteer when I can, usually for performances and I do some design work.”
What other things do you enjoy doing?
“I love to draw.” Nama’s artwork can be viewed on his website: www.namaillo.com
What do you enjoy most about your volunteer role with BCAP?
“The flexibility BCAP gives me. They appreciate what time I can give, even if it is not very much.”
Do you have any advice for a new volunteer?
“Never worry about being honest about what you have available to give. You may find you have other ways to contribute to the mission.”
In 2012, the Daily Camera published an article about Nama, following his performance, titled “Disclosure,” at an Atlas Program event. (Click HERE to read the Daily Camera’s article: “Why one man disclosed he has HIV”)
What are things like for you since disclosing so publicly six years ago?
“Everything about having HIV today is easy for me now: I take one pill a day, I go to doctors who know what I’m talking about and are well informed about treating HIV. I really only have to deal with the stigma that comes from the ignorance some people still have about HIV. This is the hardest thing people still have to deal with.
In 6 years, I’ve gotten really used to being upfront with people right away when I meet them. I get the fact that I’m living with HIV out there right away and if it goes well, great! I’m on effective HIV medications, I can’t give you HIV. PrEP (Pre-exposure prophylaxisis) is better understood now. “Treatment as Prevention” is a more familiar concept to people in the community. Even on the apps people use, there are references to it. There’s a real shift in that direction. I tell people my status right away because the quicker I can navigate away from people who don’t get it, the better.
I’m the guy who everyone is coming to now; the beacon for folks in my community with the answers they don’t hear anywhere else. Their family and friends might freak out at the news when they disclose they are living with HIV. I say to people who are newly diagnosed: Take away the guilt, the questions of why and how it happened and just hurry up and get your meds started.”