Globally, over 38.9 million people are living with HIV/AIDS, according to UNAIDS and the World Health Organization. Additionally, an estimated 2.3 million people become infected annually and approximately one million die of AIDS-related illnesses each year. And while millions now access lifesaving antiretroviral drug therapy, millions more do not have access or may not even know help is available.
Jose Ramos’ HIV awareness was more personal. “The reason I started doing this work,” Ramos told the Los Angeles Blade in September 2017, “is that my best friend got diagnosed with AIDS. The doctor told us we had a week left.”
Ramos’ friend survived with treatment but Ramos was deeply shaken. “I had never seen AIDS.” But a lot of his friends “were becoming HIV-positive,” Ramos said, which he attributed to “how the information [to remain negative] was presented.”
Ramos took action and in 2009, he founded Impulse Group, a nonprofit with the intention of helping gay men make healthier lifestyle choices. The message is simple: “Don’t stigmatize HIV. Know your status. Look into getting on PrEP. Incorporate condom usage.”
Even the name sends a message. “When you’re being intimate there’s an urge, an impulse, to either be protected, or not,” Ramos told the Los Angeles Blade. “We wanted to ensure…when we have that urge, people in the community have information they need to make the best choice for them.”
Recently the group has also sought to “bringing awareness to drug use, especially meth” since right now “in a lot of our cities, meth is killing a lot more people than HIV.”
This Dec. 1, Impulse Group, which is now under the umbrella of AIDS Healthcare Foundation where Ramos works, celebrated their 10th anniversary at the historic Wilshire Ebell Theatre with a concert hosted by Emmy winner Billy Porter and performances by Faith Evans, Daya, and Miss Shalae.
“Achieving 10 years of Impulse Group was never a thought in my head,” Ramos told the Los Angeles Blade after the event. “To create a volunteer-based social group whose main focus is to engage, support and connect gay men globally has been extremely gratifying. Throughout the years, I’ve learned that gay men care about their community much more than I originally thought. They want to help but, until Impulse came along, many of them did not know how. Impulse Group has offered thousands of gay men a platform to connect with, care for and support each other. It has strengthened our sense of community and given us a sense of brotherhood. By evoking that genuine passion for our community and the need of unity, Impulse Group has thrived all around the world. “