Voice Star Speaks Up About Addiction and HIV
His time on NBC music competition show The Voice has come to an end, but 30-year-old singer/songwriter Jamar Rogers is still using his voice to raise awareness about addiction and HIV. Rogers became one of the show's most beloved contestants during the second season after revealing that he is HIV positive. The singer tells EBONY.com that he learned he was infected seven years ago, after contracting the virus during his five-year addiction to crystal meth. “I would snort it, smoke it, shoot it intravenously, I shared needles. I was hard core,” says Rogers. “I had sex for money and for drugs. I slept with men and women. I was just trying to get as high as possible as often as possible. That’s what happened.” Rogers admits he was a "late tester" and didn't get diagnosed until roughly three months after he had kicked his addiction, despite the fact that he had visited the emergency room "at least eight or nine months" in the previous two or three months before his diagnosis. By that point, he had developed AIDS and his viral load was in the millions, landing him in the ER; he just narrowly survived. “Not one doctor or nurse in the emergency room asked me if I had an HIV test,” the singer recalls.
Crystal meth has long been associated predominantly with white club-goers, but a 2008 study published in Addict Behavior shows an increase in meth use among gay and bisexual black men; 44% of all new infections occur among African-Americans and other Black communities, who represent only about 12% of the population. “As a community, we need to talk about this openly and honestly," says Rogers. "Speak up if you want your brothers and sisters to live.” As the singer tours the country promoting two upcoming EP's, he is also lending his voice to "Let's Stop HIV Together," a social awareness campaign launched by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Jamar Rogers is a role model—especially to younger Black men,” says Venton Jones, senior program associate for communications at the National Black Gay Men's Advocacy Coalition. “He has fame, success and is living his dream as an artist—and a positive diagnosis. HIV is not a death sentence. If people adhere to their medications and are on treatment, they can lead happy, healthy and successful lives.”