Our Exclusive Q&A with Josh Robbins, star of ‘Life with Josh’
Did E1 of ‘Life with Josh’ leave you wanting to know more?
Check out our exclusive Q&A with Josh Robbins, sexual health advocate and star of ‘Life with Josh’! Stay Positive!
DP: Where did you grow up?
Josh: I grew in West Tennessee in a small town between Nashville and Memphis called Jackson.
DP: How long have you been living in Nashville?
Josh: I’ve been living in Nashville since I was in college. I went to TSU, Tennessee State University for one year, which is in downtown Nashville. And then I transferred to MTSU, so Middle Tennessee State University. And completed my program there. And have I have a degree in Journalism focusing in advertising.
DP: How did you find out you were positive? What was your initial reaction?
Josh: I found out that I was positive because I got really, really sick. I had every symptom in the book, which is a good thing and a bad thing. I mean all the way from night sweats, to the chills, to feeling like I had the flu. And even mouth ulcers, they were all a part of it.
So, I had went one of those minute clinic type things in Nashville because I didn’t have a primary care doctor. And I went in and the first day that I went in, they gave me just medicine. They didn’t know really what was wrong but they gave me some cough syrup or whatever.
And I came home and I woke up the next day and that’s when I had all the mouth ulcers. And so I went back to them. And I was kind of pissed actually because I thought they had given me something that I was allergic to or whatever. It was at that point that the doctor came in and said that they wanted to talk to me about my ‘risky behavior’ and wanted to test me for HIV. I set up an appointment for a vaccine clinic to test me for HIV infection.
I called them on a Friday and I wasn’t able to see them until Tuesday. That was the longest weekend in the history of the world.
My initial reaction I mean it’s really a compound reaction. I felt like I had the weight of the world on me — particularly in Nashville, because in Nashville literally the day that I received my diagnosis there were posters all over the bathrooms throughout the city that were promoting meeting HIV negative men for a vaccine study and I was the poster boy at that time for the study.
So there I was, disappointed in the fact that I was now positive. And then I had a lot of other emotions. You know, I was tired. I physically didn’t feel well. I was disappointed in myself. I wondered what other people would think. I was scared. I was lonely. And I felt alone. And I think that those are all standard things to feel for people.
DP: What was your goal with [imstilljosh]? How long has the site been up and running? Do you see yourself as a mentor to others who are going through the same thing?
Josh: So the impetus and the goal for launching [imstilljosh] was pretty simple. I wanted to tell my story, on my terms accurately and honestly.
I wanted to do it in a way that I felt could be potentially the most helpful for other people later on that may be going through the same things that I was going through, because at the time when I received my diagnosis, I was 29 years old. And at that moment, not one person had ever told me in my life that they were living with HIV.
I wanted to provide a resource and a place for my journey to be documented so that I could tell that story in a way that was honest and transparent. And in a way that that I owned.
To be honest, I wouldn’t have named it ‘I’m Still Josh’ if I knew then what I know now. I’m Still Josh seems so focused on me. And that’s not really what my advocacy is about. It’s about reaching people in the moment of diagnosis who are struggling while making a decision on what to do next.
Do I see myself as a mentor? I don’t necessarily see myself as a mentor because you know, every journey is somebody’s individual journey. And it’s important for them to understand that it is their journey.
I see myself as somebody that can try to speak life into people by sharing the things that interest me within the context of HIV advocacy and awareness.
DP: What are any cool projects or cool awards that you’ve had? Well, I have a video series online called, The #HIVSCOOP. It’s a buzz-worthy sexual health news and opinion series. And what’s really cool about it is that I also have HIV Scoop live, which is the live version of it.
The project has recently become a part of Poz I Am Radio. And now, you can also listen to the HIV Scoop on Amazon Echo.
Probably the coolest thing was being invited to the White House a couple years ago in order to help them strategize the digital release of the update to the president’s national HIV strategy. (I missed my flight).
In terms of awards, I just won the National Lesbian and Gay Journalist Association excellence in blogging award.
DP: Why is positive visibility important?
Josh: I think it’s important for people living with chronic health conditions whether sexual or otherwise to not only live well for themselves, but to live out loud if they can in a way that is meaningful to be able to help other people. And so for me it’s always been maybe less about the stigma reduction, and more about the empowerment aspect for other people that are living with the condition.
DP: What’s the most ignorant response anyone has given to you in regards to being positive?
Josh: I think people have a natural intuition and desire to have empathy for anyone that is struggling. So when they hear HIV, there’s been a lot of fear that is put into people. And so then the only thing they know to do is say ‘I’m sorry’.
That’s probably the one that I hear the most. I don’t know that it’s the most ignorant. But it is showing people’s lack of education about what it means to live with HIV in 2018. I take a pill or a couple pills a day, and then I just go about my life like anyone else.
DP: According to Episode 1 of ‘Life with Josh,’ you’re single. Would you please elaborate?
Josh: What sucks is that, the break up wasn’t terrible. It wasn’t anything that was like, Jerry Springer-ish. It just didn’t work out. The relationship had ran its course for the moment.
My ex is an amazing guy. And it sucks that it didn’t work out. It didn’t though. And that’s just that. And it’s life.
DP: How do you feel being newly single? What are you looking for?
Josh: I’m looking for somebody that is unpredictably simple. I’m looking for somebody that believes as much as me that integrity matters. And I’m looking for somebody that’s not perfect. But more than anything, I’m looking for somebody that can laugh as much as they can do anything else in life.