Linton Walker, Jr. is taking a stance against the negative stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS. Upon being diagnosed with HIV in 2011, Walker said he began experiencing a great deal of judgment and discrimination stemming from his status.

Individuals would often say rude and disparaging comments after Walker revealed his status. Following an upsetting encounter that Walker recalls as “a pivotal moment in his life,” he procured a sense of empowerment which gave him the courage to no longer allow individuals to be dismissive and disrespectful about his HIV status.

In an effort to change the face of HIV/AIDS, Walker launched an awareness-apparel line he calls Unapologetically Positive in May 2015. His apparel displays different slogans such as, “HIV lives matter (HML), “undetectable,” and his line’s logo.

qnotes had the opportunity to interview Walker and learn more about the inspiration behind his awareness-apparel line as well as a few other things about him.

What are some ways your diagnosis has changed your life for the better?

I found out a lot of things that I didn’t realize about myself, like figuring out who I was as a person. I struggled with my identity and my placement in this world ever since I was a child. Soon after being diagnosed, I found myself confronting things that I would normally run from which has caused a lot of personal growth.

What motivates your optimism related to your status?

I refused to allow HIV to stop the flow of my life, I have a lot to live for. Losing friends to the complications of AIDS opened my eyes to make better decisions.

How did you cope with your diagnosis early on?

In the beginning, not well, it triggered the anxiety that I’ve dealt with for years. Struggling with depression, and let’s not talk about being rejected because of status many times on the dating scene.

What inspires your transparency and openness about your status?

I was told by someone that I shouldn’t tell guys about my status unless I was about to sleep with them. I followed that advice and it didn’t pan out well. I was turned down back-to-back in the most hurtful ways by guys that said that they weren’t interested in dating or having sex with someone HIV positive and that I should have told them sooner. Despite the fact that my status was displayed on my dating profile. From then on I made the conscious decision to be upfront and honest about my status and not allow anyone to shame me ever again. I knew then I was much more than a positive result on a test.

What is your biggest piece of advice to the newly diagnosed?

Know that everything that you desire, you deserve and HIV is not the end-all-be-all. It’s just a new journey, a new path and a new experience.

What is your message to individuals who look down on or discriminate against individuals who are positive?

A person with HIV is still a person. To treat an individual poorly based on assumption is simply misguided fear, but I dare you to educate yourself. I challenge you to converse with someone who’s positive. I promise you would have a change of heart because we are some beautiful, strong and enduring individuals.

What prompted you to start your awareness apparel line, Unapologetically Positive?

Being so open about my status, I noticed I began to build somewhat of a following. People would share their experiences with being newly diagnosed or struggling with dealing or accepting their new normal. I wanted to create something that would be thought-provoking and challenged the minds of others while empowering those who shared my struggle.

What are some of the creative influences behind your designs? Styles, colors, graphics, fonts, etc.?

The objective and idea for the line is to be big, bold and on purpose.

What apparel items does your line include?

T-shirts, hoodies, backpacks and cups.

Where are your items sold?

Individuals can purchase items from my line on social media, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, as well as the White Rabbit store in Charlotte.

In addition to your awareness apparel line, what are some other ways that you advocate for those affected in our community?

To send encouraging energy out into the world by using my platform. To give someone with HIV/AIDS who may be frustrated or struggling mentally hope and possibly a different option to choose from.

What are some things you and your husband, Archie Davis, enjoy doing?

Bowling, movies, date nights to our favorite restaurants and relaxing doing nothing together, if that makes any sense.

Aside from your clothing business, what else do you do professionally?

I am a customer accounts associate at a rental company in Charlotte.

What are some of your favorite pastimes or hobbies?

In steady motion with building my brand, hanging out with friends, shopping and traveling.