Mississippi Free Press publishes story of two Black gay men living with HIV in the Deep South
Corey Burnside was a shell of his former self when he met Cedric Sturdevent at a Greenville, Miss., support group for Black gay men in 2017. His previously contagious laughter was silenced; his weight was deteriorating.
Four years earlier, Burnside had gone a year without talking to anyone he knew—not even his mother. His sisters only made contact after arriving at his apartment for a wellness check six months into his self-imposed isolation in 2013.
By all accounts, Burnside, then 18, was supposed to be entering an exciting chapter of discovery and possibility. He had just signed a lease for an apartment that granted him the independence he craved and a reprieve from a strained relationship with his mother after he told her he was gay.
“I didn’t hear from her for the first four or five months,” Burnside said. “She wanted nothing to do with me. She said, ‘Well have you told your friends? Have you told anybody else? Have you told your family?’” he recalled his mother asking.
Burnside developed an intense fear of rejection that kept him from opening up to relatives and creating close friendships, resulting in him spending most of his high-school experience in isolation. With a newfound independence, Burnside had an opportunity to explore dating for the first time.
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