If I had to describe Jamar Rogers in just one word it would be life. More than anyone else I have ever met or spoken with, Jamar Rogers is full of life. It was evident from the first time I saw him on the second season of NBC’s The Voice and it was reconfirmed last week when I spoke with him on the phone, that this is a guy who is truly living his best life.
Jamar’s spirit and energy and courage shines through everything he does, on stage and off. One of the things that have allowed him to become the person he is today is the fact that he has learned to share his personal story of living with HIV. Recently Jamar teamed up with Ortho Clinical Diagnostics (OCD; Raritan, New Jersey), a Johnson & Johnson (New Brunswick, New Jersey) company, to support National Minority Health Month and highlight the important role diagnostic tests have played in his life.
But there was a time when Jamar was not so open about his HIV status. “I had been living with HIV for six years before I started to talk about it, because I had my own stigma and my own prejudices about it,” Jamar told me. “Then one day I caught wind that a friend of a friend had jumped off the George Washington Bridge after finding out he was HIV-positive. I just wish we could have talked about this and I could have let him know that there is life beyond that and that he didn’t have to die.”
It was then that Jamar Rogers, who at the time was just beginning his journey on The Voice, decided to tell America he was HIV-positive. But his is not a story of tragedy; it is a story of triumph. “And I have gotten the most out of the experience,” Jamar told me. “Because it has freed me to live my life.”
“Diagnostic testing obviously saved my life. When I went into the emergency room almost eight years ago now, I was deathly ill and it was in the emergency room that they not only tested my blood but were able to read my blood and because of those results I was able to make informed decisions,” he said. “You really can’t accomplish the things you want in your life until you know what’s going on in your body.”
And Jamar emphasizes the importance of all diagnostic testing, not just HIV testing. He wonders, for example, if his grandmother had been tested sooner for heart disease if she would have had more time.
Jamar recently visited Ortho Clinical Diagnostics and performed a song called “Where Would I Be Without You” from his upcoming album to show his gratitude to the people who develop diagnostic testing, like the people at OCD. “I feel like the people that work for Ortho Clinical, they’re kind of the unsung heroes. Nobody ever sees their faces,” he said. “And I just wanted to thank them and say ‘you know what guys? I see you’.”
To watch Jarmar’s performance at Ortho Clinical Diagnostics, click here. He also encourages everybody to take an active role in their healthcare by getting regular blood tests and discussing the results with their doctor. “I find that when I tell people to get their blood tested and they get their results back they’re like ‘what’s next?’ If you download the Know Your Numbers guide from Ortho Clinical’s website it explains everything,” Jamar says.
I admire Jamar Rogers for choosing to live his best life. But doing so comes with a price. “The cost is living and enjoying life, even when there are others who would like to take that right away from you,” he writes on his blog. “The cost is being a teacher, a healer … educating ignorance even when it hurts. The cost is taking a leap of faith and trusting that the net will appear. The cost is deciding, once and for all, that every life deserves dignity and sometimes you have to be the one to fight for that dignity. Living with HIV hasn’t been easy but it has been a blessing because I finally recognize my strength. I’m a fighter and I choose to leave a legacy.”