Photo credit: Steed Media Service

Zina Age is CEO of Aniz Inc., an organization that promotes
emotional and physical wellness, as well as provides mental
health, substance abuse, and support services to individuals
and families affected by  HIV/AIDS.

During a recent chat with rolling out, the Louisiana
native who holds a graduate degree in social work from Clark
Atlanta University and a master’s in addiction counseling from
the National Association of Forensic Counselors, says, “We
need to use universal words to teach universal people, how to
protect the universal body.”

Age urges replacing words such as “bisexuality or gay, that’s
it. Lesbian, bisexual, gay or transgender — all the other LGBT,
XYZ — that is identity.

“The way you have sex is your mucus membrane: oral, anal,
vaginal. Whatever you want to identify, that is gender
identity. That [how one identifies] has nothing to do with the
transmission of getting this HIV virus,” she says.

Having done research specifically around the bisexual and
transgender communities, analyzing data from medical providers,
Age, who began working in the social services field in 1987,
admitted that “these days, in 2017, they forgot all about the
‘B’ and went to the ‘G’ and the ‘T,’ ” she says, referring to
the term
LGBT
, which stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual and
transgender. “The ‘B’ are the blood. We are the ones that can
go out into the straight and gay population and be water and
flowing. So how are you all going to forget about the ‘B’?”

Sharing a bit about her own relationship with gender, Age, who
identifies as bisexual, revealed that it wasn’t until she sat
down with her ex-husband for traditional Catholic pre-marriage
counseling, that she voiced having “fantasies about the
opposite sex” though she “had never acted on it.”

“That’s why I can identity with girls right now, that are going
through that transition because I was isolated being an athlete
running track for LSU. So, I was kind of in a shield — I was
always protected,” she explained. “I didn’t know what the real
world was until I came to Atlanta. When I came to Atlanta … I
started dressing like a dude. My whole style changed externally
because I wasn’t comfortable internally.”

For the young girl who may be struggling in a similar space —
wanting to come out of her shell, Age offered the following
advice: “One of the things I would say is that you do not need
to dress how you are sexually acting out in bed.”

Priding herself on “being a walking product of everything I
am,” Age got involved in the HIV world” following a
relationship with a young woman named Tony, a single mom with
an 11-year-old son, (though she was not the biological mother)
who was HIV positive — which Age and her partner at the time
did not know. “The next day I go to the house and everyone has
plastic plates, plastic forks, plastic spoons. I was like d—,
they didn’t even educate us. They didn’t even tell us what we
need. We didn’t know what to do. So, I went to look for an
agency to work with the ‘A’ affected population and there
wasn’t any so Aniz was created.”

Today, Aniz Inc. offers counseling services such as “I Want to
Know,” a 17-week program that “teaches parents how to disclose
to their children, so we break the stigma surrounding HIV,”
says Age.

For more information on Aniz Inc, visit www.aniz.org.

LEAVE A REPLY