HIV Is My Journey

I never imagined I would be HIV Positive. I never planned on HIV being a part of my life. I remember being in my twenties and not really knowing what I was going “to do” with my life.

As of today I’ve been positive for 1 year, 8 months and 22 days. March 19th, 2013 marks the day that I knew exactly what I would be doing with and for the rest of my life. I knew as soon as I tested positive for HIV that I would devote the rest of my life to HIV activism, advocating and awareness. Thus far this has been an incredible journey. I have learned things about myself and people that I could never have possibly learned if I hadn’t been tested positive. I have seen the darkest of the darkest of days and I have seen the brightest of days. I have felt pain at insurmountable depths but I have also felt inspiration so deep it stung my soul. I have felt helplessness and shame at levels I never even knew possible. But I have also felt empowerment and what happiness truly feels like.

I have come to accept that this is my journey. This is the path I was meant to take. I used to think that one day I would become comfortable with my HIV status, that day has yet to come. Each and every day is a struggle. A struggle to love myself, accept myself and even just to see the good in life. Every day I have to remind myself that I am more than just my status. I often have to remind myself that I am worthy of love and friendship.

Every human being has a story, a story that either empowers them or rips their world apart. My story has done both. I have been ripped apart and put back together more times than I would like to count. As difficult as living with HIV can be, it can also be very enlightening and spiritually awakening.

As much as I wish I was not HIV Positive, I am thankful. I am thankful for every breath I take. I am thankful for my ability to share my journey with all of you. I am thankful for the strength I have found deep within myself to stand up and speak out. I only hope I can inspire you to do the same.

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Ten Sexiest Women Living With HIV In 2014

First of all I want to give a big thank you to everyone who supported me in writing this article. This has been an absolutely amazing experience! I appreciate every single one of you more than you could ever possibly imagine!

1. Angie Colon-Diodati, Angie is a best friend, a super-mom, one hell of a wife, a highly skilled professional, and so much more. This strong independent woman has always kept her head held high and overcome every obstacle life has thrown in her way. She is a beautiful person inside and out. Angie has been such an inspiration within the community and has touched many hearts. There are many more reasons why this woman is one of the sexiest WLWH. Perinatally infected, Angie has spent her entire life advocating for increased HIV awareness, decreased stigma, cultivating resilience and the chance eventually for an AIDS-free generation. She certainly deserves recognition.

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2. Evelyn Rodriguez, Evelyn is awesome because although she is HIV Positive she has not let that stop her from doing everything within her power to overcome obstacles that a lot of us are afraid to even think about. Evelyn genuinely cares for every human being on earth. Being Positive has made her love life harder and has not let it stop her from living. Evelyn contracted HIV through IV drug use. She was addicted to heroin for 13 years. A self-described cold stone hearted junkie. She robbed, sold herself, and lied to her family. Until she was offered an alternative and went into Drug Rehab. Since she has completed rehab Evelyn has managed to take a turn in the right direction and believes God gave her a second chance to live.

“At times, I wonder how am I still alive. When I ask myself that question, I come up with the fact that I am still alive because God has a plan for me. I have a purpose in life. The purpose to live healthy and drug free. This feeling I am wearing feels so good to me and this is why I am awesome.” – Evelyn Rodriguez

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3. Malina Fisher, Malina is a phenomenal woman in everything she does. I didn’t find out about her until I was fifteen and since then we became inseparable. We would talk all the time and when she became pregnant I was so happy. In 2010 we finally met and I was thrilled to see her and my nephew. Shortly after she found out about her status and things changed… She felt like as the big sister she wasn’t a good role model. Which was farthest from the case. I told her regardless of the situation I love her the same and she can get through it. As she continued to study and learn more about the virus she became equipped with information to help those coming in her path. She is an advocate, a mother, a sister ,and a friend . Her beauty shines through more and more each and every day. Even though she says it gets hard she is grateful to help others. I am lucky to be my sister’s keeper and fortunate to be in the fight to stop AIDS.

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4. Heather Arculeo, Heather is a prior United States Marine Corps Firefighter that was diagnosed as HIV + in 2007. Since then she has started her career as a full-time Retention in Care Peer Navigator at Christie’s Place in San Diego, CA. She currently serves as co-chair of the HIV CARE Partnership, co-chair of PWN-USA-SD, a member of the Dancing with Hope Women’s Annual Retreat Committee, and a committee member of the Annual Women’s Conference on Aids. Heather vows to continue in the fight against stigma for individuals living with HIV/AIDS.

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5. Marissa Smith- “I was born with HIV or got it through breast-feeding basically. My mom was very heavy into meth and heroin,” Marissa Smith said. Marissa was just seven years old when her mother died from AIDS. Marissa quickly learned about the stigma that comes with the diagnosis. Some kids at school called her “the HIV girl” and the parents weren’t any better. The situation turned into chaos the first time Marissa cut herself on the playground.

“That was one experience where I was treated like a complete disease, not a human being.”

Marissa’s principal eventually brought doctors in who started educating parents, students and teachers about the facts of AIDS and HIV. Now Marissa is doing the same thing, using her experience to help young women understand the consequences of risky behaviors.

“People regardless of age, still think that they are not at risk, which I think is simply amazing. I mean my own best friends, they know me. I have HIV. They’ve met my friends that have HIV. They still think they can’t get it. It can happen to you, get tested and do your part to stay safe.”

“What I have to say to women, young women who end up getting HIV is don’t ever, ever think you’re not that beautiful woman, because I’ve met so many women that once they find out they have HIV, they don’t look at themselves as that same strong, beautiful woman anymore.”

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6. Dona Lackey is HIV Positive and open about her status. She is 41 years old and a single mother of a lovely teenager! Dona is a Medical Massage Therapist, a Pharmacy Tech and a Massage Instructor.

“I am happy and possibly the most positive, POSITIVE woman I know!” -Dona Lackey from Lee’s Summit, MO

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7. Jay Reed, Jay was diagnosed with AIDS in 1996. Since that day she has felt the need to inform people, especially women, of the risk of contracting HIV, and the importance of testing. Jay is currently employed at Christie’s Place as an HIV Peer Navigator.

Jay became involved with PWN-USA in 2007, participating in the LOTUS Advocacy Training.

In 2013, Jay took on a more active role in PWN-USA, in the San Diego region. It is her goal to bring awareness to women-specific issues, and mobilize HIV+ women in an effort to create change.

 

 

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8. Rae Lewis-Thornton, Rae is a huge advocate in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Rae is an Emmy Award winning AIDS Activist. She rose to national acclaim when she told her story of living with HIV/AIDS in a cover story to Essence Magazine. In the past 22 years, she has traveled worldwide in an unending crusade in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

“I am more passionate than ever about my work to combat HIV/AIDS, 20 years after the Essence cover. Today African-Americans make up nearly 52 percent of HIV cases in the United States, yet AIDS is no longer a sexy topic. I’ve chosen to continue this battle using social media daily to educate and challenge others to learn more about HIV.”

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9. Jessica Whitbread- So here is Ms. Jessica. She is awesome, she is a mentor and she can put HIV in your face and make you think about it in a different way. She is bold and beautiful! Pure Magic!! She is ICW’s Community Relations and Mobilization Manager and has received the Government of Canada’s Premiere Award for her outstanding Community Work!! She also hosts ‘”No Pants No problem” Parties to help fundraise money for local ASO’s. She is full of life and all about making change in Positive women’s lives!

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10. Wanda Brendle-Moss, Wanda is a Retired RN, living with Aids. She is an Activist / Educator in the prevention and spread of HIV/AIDS/STDs.

“Why do I speak so openly? Because I do not fit the picture of what people think AIDS looks like. I am a heterosexual, white female. Where I live, white women are more or less led to believe that they are not at risk, which is absolutely incorrect. The reality of HIV/AIDS is any person who is having sex, whether LGBTQ, heterosexual, married, single, regardless of race, finances, etc., is at risk. So I fight every day in hopes that no one else will ever have to say, “I am HIV positive”

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