By Mirasha Brown
Khafre Abif has a lot to be grateful for. Not only is his company Cycle For Freedom celebrating its fourth anniversary this year, he has recently become a published author and is also celebrating 22 years of life after being diagnosed as HIV-positive.
Abif tested positive for HIV in March of 1991, one year after leaving FAMU to be home with his mother following the death of his father. “I contracted syphilis in the fall of 1989, but was not tested for HIV.” said Abif. “What we now know is that syphilis and HIV travel together and I am certain that is when I became infected with HIV.”
Although it seemed like Abif’s world would soon be turned upside down once he found out the news, he had a great support system behind him. “We loved each other then and they continue to love me and support the work I do as an activist,” said Abif about his friends.
In an effort to educate people about the HIV/AIDS epidemic, Abif started Cycle for Freedom, a campaign to reduce the spread of HIV among African-American and Latino men, in 2010.
“I lost two very dear friends to AIDS-related complications and in my time with my God I asked, ‘Why am I still here?’ My God began to whisper a number of reasons to me and Cycle for Freedom was the first,” Abif said.
Cycle for Freedom seeks to confront issues related to the HIV stigma, homophobia and a lack of education surrounding the disease by targeting 14 cities along the Unground Railroad Bicycle Route to increase education and awareness on HIV and to reduce the number of new infections each year. The 75-day campaign includes a 14 city bicycle tour across America that focuses on HIV prevention and includes HIV testing and counseling.
Abif hopes that the campaign will increase HIV testing among African-American and Latino populations in the host cities along the bicycle route by 20 percent.
“The goal is to make a personal sojourn to affirmation that I live because it is in God’s purpose,” he said.
Abif also recently compiled a book, Cornbread, Fish and Collard Greens: Prayers, Poems & Affirmations for People Living with HIV/AIDS, which is a collaborative effort among poets, essayists and storytellers who have also been affected by HIV. The book seeks to provide encouragement and hope to those living with HIV and AIDS.
“It is amazing to have someone come back to me who has purchased the book and say to me ‘Thank you so much. I have been living with HIV for years and this book is a blessing to me,’” Abif said.
You can follow Abif on Twitter at @CycleForFreedom to keep up with the movement.