ONE® partnered with Bre Azanedo, a sexual health advocate and CDC Ambassador for the Let's Stop HIV Together campaign campaign. She’s passionate about helping people take charge of their sexual health and empowering them to self advocate about their sexual health and wellness!
ONE® supplied Bre with condoms and condom tins to provide as giveaways for her upcoming sexual health outreach events as a CDC Ambassador and advocate.
We interviewed Bre to learn more about her, her role as a CDC Ambassador, and sexual health advocate.
Tell us a bit about yourself!
I’m Bre, a 32 year old Afro Latina from Paterson, NJ. I actually began my studies in forensic psychology and criminal justice because my dad wanted me to become an attorney – so I kind of ended up in this field because the universe pushed me here, there's no other way. Growing up, I didn't really know much about sex, our sex ed was pretty much "don't do it or you'll end up pregnant, get AIDS and die" which is absolutely NOT how it works. While many of my friends were participating I wasn't because I have this thing where I don't like to do things wrong & who was I going to ask? I didn't know there is no such thing as the right or wrong way to have sex. While I was in school I worked as a paralegal to pay myself through school; but I was really unhappy and after talking to my dad, I never forget, he said he would be proud of me even if I was selling flowers at a cemetery, I just quit.
What inspired you to become a sexual health advocate?
Shortly after that I applied to Integrity House for a Prevention Specialist position and honestly I had no idea what prevention was. On my first day on the job I was asked to cheek in front of a group & I had no idea what that even was. I was running various support groups for those living with HIV as well as people who are not. I saw one thing we all had in common: the ignorance around sex and sexual health. I know people hate that word, but it's the only way to describe it. I was very ignorant and naive, and I was embarrassed to ask questions because I thought everyone just knew but I didn't know. So my groups began to all have that underlying theme, I was able to create a safe space & we all kind of learned together. We shared experiences, shared our questions. I would go home and just immerse myself in all things sex related. I took a course to become a sex counselor.
What does it mean to be the CDC Ambassador for the Let’s Stop HIV Together campaign?
So I was recently selected to be one of the CDC's ambassadors for the Let's Stop HIV Together campaign which is really an honor for me. I get to partner up with them and share the resources through my platform. I've hosted lives with my fellow ambassadors. Basically sharing the message that of really taking charge of our own sexual health.
I'll be honest, I was 26 the first time I ever got tested for anything. The CDC is now making it easier than ever to get tested, they even provide free at home testing kits. All someone would have to do is go on the website and find a testing center close to them or order a self test kit. Here's the HIV Testing website.
If someone is already HIV positive, getting into treatment is so important for their own health – to become undetectable so that you don't transmit the virus to anyone. That's what the U=U campaign is, (Undetectable= Untransmitable) but it all starts with YOU taking charge.
There is so much stigma still around HIV and it's because we're not having these conversations that it's still being transmitted. Just like AIDS is not transmittable; it's only a syndrome developed from not managing your HIV and one can come back from an AIDS diagnosis to an untransmittable status.
That's one of the reasons I personally love ONE® Condoms, you all have the absolute cutest designs and that has proven, in my experience, to be so effective for my youth especially. I'm so grateful for the condoms you have sent me in the past. I'm available to talk to anyone's group or child, just let me know!
What are some of the challenges you see people face with sexual health?
The stigma! The embarrassment, sex is so taboo. I'm Pentecostal, could you imagine me at a youth group asking my pastor about a possible odor/bump/lesion I may have developed from having hooked up with someone? There's not a class in high school or grammar school that explains to you how to take care of yourself sexually. That explains to you how to make condom placement fun! How to have non-penetrative sex – --maybe how to make a dental damn out of a condom or saran wrap. The importance of getting tested – --with your partner, and considering PrEP.
Coming from Paterson, NJ we're already underserved as a community so I make it my business to share all I know with my community, with my youth. As an organizer with BLM Paterson, we do so much to directly uplift our people and one of the things I am so proud of our team for the willingness to hand out the safer sex kits as part of our harm reduction efforts. My DM is filled with so many people asking about how food affects their sex drives, how to speak to their partners about getting tested & so forth. Even survivors of sexual assault, who now need to nagivate their sexual health life in a different way.
What’s some of your best sexual health / sex advice?
ASK ALL THE QUESTIONS. I know it's difficult but honey, closed mouths don't get fed. Sex is meant to be enjoyed, so you want to make sure all the pipes are working properly. Get tested every 3 months because remember there's things that a condom doesn't protect you against. Still, USE CONDOMS!! They will save you so much. Find what you like and don't be ashamed. Get all the orgasms you can and remember, not everyone enjoys sex with people or penetrative sex. There are so many different forms of sex, so explore what is it that makes you come alive. I just want people to make educated decisions that best work for them and their lifestyle.
What hobbies do you enjoy?
SEX! I'm kidding but I'm not kidding. I like to build things, I think in another life I must have been a carpenter or something because I love to build things and I mean like go get wood and build it from scratch. Like Bob the Builder except I'm Bre the Builder.
During quarantine I was forced to learn how to do my own nails & it's now become my thing – especially because I've worn the same color Red for at least 9 years, OPI Big Apple Red ( so if anyone from OPI is reading this, send me a contract *wink wink* ) so I have these really long red nails.
I wouldn't call it a hobby, it's my passion; helping people take charge of their sexual health, & empowering them to advocate for themselves. If I died today, I'd be proud of the work I do. Yes, my work bag consists of dildos, pocket pussys and cockrings & I am damn proud because at least I have super cute condoms & condom cases. I’m super humbled by everyone who allows me to be part of their journey, their story. I thank everyone who gives me the time of day and allows me to come into their space because this is all super personal. So yea, if anyone needs me, I'm @HereisBre on Instagram & I'm more than happy to help in any way I can.