What tools and strategies have helped you to manage your HIV/AIDS over the years?
Growing up, my grandma embedded in my brain to take my medicine every morning and right before bed. It felt weird whenever I missed a dose of my medicine.
What do you see as the most prominent challenge people with HIV/AIDS face?
Acceptance is a significant challenge for people with HIV because society has fallen short in educating the community.
How do you overcome the isolation and stigma of an HIV diagnosis?
My friends and family never treated me differently when I revealed my HIV status, which helped with isolation. I used that opportunity to educate on how to interact with someone that is HIV positive. Being HIV positive does not mean that you are sick.
Why is it essential for you to reach out to others diagnosed with HIV/AIDS?
After my mom passed away from AIDS, I learned more about her distress and anxiety. Creating a community with others facing this same battle will help us overcome our fear
How long have you been HIV positive?
I was born HIV positive, and I am 27 years years old.
When did you start treatment? What advice do you have for others recently diagnosed with HIV?
I would tell those who were recently diagnosed with HIV to be diligent in taking your meds and be completely honest with your doctors. If you think an ART is not working, speak out to your doctor. Also, reaching out to support groups or friends helps! Psychological problems are one of the fiercest battles people with HIV face. One of the biggest fights of HIV is the psychological battle.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about living with HIV?
One question that I’m always asked when people learn of my HIV status is if I can have babies being HIV positive. I feel that that is still a legitimate question, but I feel like this stigma has been around for far too long!
Has your status affected your romantic relationships?
My status affected my relationships before I met my wife. Although I was interested in women, the fear of rejection after disclosing my status haunted me.
What do you think needs to happen to reduce the stigma around HIV/AIDS?
I think people with HIV/AIDS need to band together and create something that can be seen outside the HIV/AIDS community to break stigmas.
How can others show their support of people with HIV/AIDS?
A great way to support people living with HIV/AIDS is to not treat them differently. Asking questions and educating yourself about HIV and AIDS is half the battle!
How is HIV/AIDS seen in your community?
In my comedy world, especially in black comedy, HIV/AIDS seems too taboo! It is on the same level as cancer as something you shouldn’t make fun of, or talk about. My goal is to get that community–the black , comedy, and the non-HIV/AIDS communities –to talk openly about these topics.
How does your condition impact your family and friends?
When I publically announced my status, I was shocked by the response I received. I expected my friends not to be able to handle it and desert me. However, the complete opposite happened. They have been standing by me, supporting me in different ways, and asked questions so they could have a better understanding.
How is your HIV being treated?
I am taking two pills a day, I’m undetectable and feeling healthy like any other person.
How do you feel about taking your meds?
Taking my meds come as second nature to me. I don’t even think about it because it’s become a routine to take them before bed. Taking my meds has become a part of my bedtime routine, and I don’t think about it.
How often do you see your treatment team?
I see my doctor every six months.
Have you ever been discriminated against at work for being HIV positive?
Fortunately, I have never been discriminated against at work. I consider myself fortunate because I have never experienced discrimination at work.
Has your status affected your view of your future at all?
No. I think I’ll always have a positive view of the future. Pun intended.
Do you have much hope that scientists are going to develop a full cure?
I believe we’re closing in on a cure, and I’m ready for it!
What do you wish other people knew about HIV/AIDS that they currently seem to be getting wrong?
I wish people could stop spreading stigmas about HIV and AIDS when we live in a world where all information is in our pocket!
Can you tell us about your Keeping Positive Movement and how we can get involved?
Keeping It Positive movement was created in 2018 after I publicly announced to the world via my social media that I was born HIV positive. I use my comedy platform and YouTube vlog, “Keeping It Positive with Andy Feds,” as a way to educate and entertain people about HIV. If anyone’s interested in helping with the Keeping It Positive movement, check out my website, Andyfedscomedy.com, where I share my story. You can buy a t-shirt all proceeds go to the Junior Council mentorship organization at Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. Book me to speak or perform at your next event. My goal is to connect with others to build HIV/AIDS awareness.
How long have you been performing standup?
I’ve been doing stand up comedy for nine years now. I started in college after my friend, Larry, and I were watching Kevin Hart’s “Laugh at My Pain,” and figured we could do comedy too! So we started a comedy club in college in 2011, and it was magic from there on out!
What’s involved in getting stage time at an open mic?
You literally just show up! If the list is already filled, go back again the next night. Keep showing your face. After you get on, go back again and keep getting better.
How much time do you usually get on stage?
It depends on the show. Generally, most open mics will give you 3-5 minutes. If you network well and get better at performing, open mic promoters may give you a featured guest or headliner spot, which can be from 10 to 30 minutes.
What process do you use to develop your material?
With my comedy, I start by listening to other performers, whether they’re celebrities or up-and-coming comics, just to get the brain juices going. Then, I’ll just jot down some words or phrases. I’ll write a story or an experience that I can relate to those words or phrases. Finally, I’ll punch up the story to make it funny.
How did you get into stand up comedy?
I was always interested in the art of comedy. As a little boy, I couldn’t wait to watch Nick at Nite with shows, like The Cosby Show, Roseanne, and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. I didn’t get into stand up comedy until my teenage years when I started watching Deon Cole, Jamie Foxx, Eddie Murphy, Sarah Silverman, and Kevin Hart on Comedy Central Presents. I was hooked for that 30 minutes or one hour that they’d be on the screen. I used to recite the funniest jokes to my cousin afterward.
Have you always wanted to become a comedian?
I have a stand up bit where I talk about how I used to grow up wanting to be a professional wrestler, which is the absolute truth. You couldn’t tell me that I couldn’t be one back then. Being a comedian was never a thing that I wanted to do until I went to college.
What’s the most memorable moment in your career thus far?
To see my mom’s picture linked to my Keeping It Positive movement on NBC News was absolutely special to me!
Who makes you laugh?
I don’t have one particular that makes me laugh. I can laugh at anything that is relatable or just flat out silly.
What’s the funniest joke you’ve ever heard?
See anything done by the late great Patrice O’Neal, my all-time favorite comedian.
Has anything embarrassing happened to you on stage? One time in college, they had an open mic. However, it was poorly advertised. I was the first person and only to show up. The emcee introduced me to a room full of empty chairs and students leaving to go home, wondering who this kid was speaking into a mic. The chairs thought I was hilarious. Go ahead and ask them!
What happens if your audience doesn’t laugh?
Hug them. Who comes to a comedy show and frowns?
How did you come up with the name Andy Feds?
In high school, I went through a major depression, ten years after the death of my mother. One person that showed me he was in my corner was my homeroom teacher, Andy Newman. He treated me like a father figure. So I thought that having his name to represent my comedy career would be a great tribute to him. The name Feds just come from the fact that I like fedoras. I collect them, currently at 36.
How can readers get in contact with you?
You can find me at any blood drive, arguing with the folks there about why I’m not allowed to donate blood. Kidding.
Find me on all social platforms at @Andyfedscomedy or head over to my website, Andyfedscomedy.com