HIV Criminalization Workshop in Tallahassee

Another LTAI member and I were fortunate enough to attend a workshop on HIV Criminalization in Tallahassee this week. I learned so much and again I was energized by the ambition and strength of these people. Many of them we had met at the Conference in Fort Walton Beach in September. These people work tirelessly toward all our goals against stigma and criminalization. We had some great speakers and I think we may have gained some more much needed support in Tallahassee. And I can not forget to mention our wonderful friends from Iowa. From SERO Sean Strub, Tami Haught, and Jordan Selha. This group of people have accomplished so much in Iowa toward de-criminalization of HIV. We’re very fortunate to have them all showing us the steps we need to take toward our own state laws in Florida.

Bringing more people together with different views and ideas including their accomplishments is extremely helpful.

Thank you Sean, Tami, and Jordan. We love you guys.  😉
I can’t wait to meet you all again.


I was sitting and thinking, what’s wrong with me? My answer, nothing that I see.

I asked myself that question because I noticed that the older I get, the less people I need in my life. I think that is because I have realized that I just can’t have people in my life that aren’t positive minded. I find that it is harmful for my health.

I have 2 girlfriends and they are as differently made as pencil a marker. You see, one is young, just learning how to become a woman, mother, worker, and friend, all the while not knowing the order that it goes in. News flash…you must be a friend to yourself firstt. This friend, I love her, but she is a self-centered, non-listening, know -it -all, whom I have not disclosed to. If I were to do so I already know the things that would come out her mouth, but I still love her because I am her friend The second friend is older, and we have more in common than the firstt woman. This friend knows all about me and still loves me.

No matter what kind of friends you have, maybe you should sit down and do an inventory of your relationship so that not one person is to blame. Friendships are relationships too.  So, we must do a pros and cons and inventory to see what can be done to make it better and more sincere. The ones who know all about you and still love you. The ones who call and ask you, “how was your day” and allows you to just talk and all they do is just listen. The ones who write you back when you write, just because they care.

What kind of things would you say to your friend while doing an inventory?

Inspiration at the Positive Living Conference

I recently got the chance to attend the 18th annual Positive Living Conference in Fort Walton Beach,  sponsored by OASIS (Okaloosa AIDS Support & Informational Services, Inc.).

I was fortunate enough to be able to go with a group of women that embody the spirit of empowerment and sisterhood, and all of us being able to attend together was an experience that I’ll never forget.

The conference was held in a hotel that was located right on the beach, and it was gorgeous! The main focus of the Positive Living Conference was to help, guide, teach, empower and support those that are HIV positive and their caregivers. There were many workshops offered that had to do with finding the positive side of living and being positive: motivational speaking, growing older with HIV, learning about laughter, a visual history of HIV/AIDS, etc.

The workshops that particularly interested me the most though were those that focused on the criminalization of HIV and the laws that can help perpetuate this criminalization. Florida alone has 4 different HIV statutes, and most of these seem to be aimed at targeting and punishing those who are positive. The Deep South has some of the most archaic and misinformed laws in the country regarding the transmission of HIV/AIDS.

I attended all but one of the criminalization workshops, and these workshops were put on by the Sero Project, which fights for people living with HIV and against the criminal prosecutions that people can often face for a perceived lack of HIV disclosure before a sexual encounter occurs. Hearing about these laws, and meeting and hearing the stories of people who were prosecuted under these laws, really opened my eyes and gave me a sense of what I would like to do in my life. Seeing how much these laws need to be changed really gives me the motivation to help make it happen.

The terrible stigma that surrounds HIV is not going to magically disappear one day. Laws that help encourage the stigma hurt the cause by keeping people in the dark and afraid to come out, and by furthering the spread of the disease because people are too afraid to get tested.

In conclusion, I’m really glad that I had the opportunity to attend the conference. I learned a lot, met some of the most interesting people and had a great time with the women. I look forward to attending again next year.

Comments, thoughts…? Let us know if you would like information about any of the mentioned organizations.

This Journey Called Life

We all have a story to tell. Our lives are our story.  We can either use our life experiences to help others on this journey called life, or we can stay victims and be bitter and hate the world for all that we have endured.

I chose to pay it forward, to use my life’s experiences to help others- not to stay a victim, because we are all victims of our circumstances. The key is what we do with our stories. I find such a incredible sense of healing and freedom to not stay a victim to the cards I have been dealt; to pay it forward to help others not to stay stuck feels so liberating.

We do not need to share every detail of our lives, only what is truly needed to disclose, to let others see we understand, we’ve been there. This is how I choose to deal with the circumstances, whatever it may be. To turn a negative into a positive, remember even the butterfly starts in its cocoon.

When we keep ourselves healthy- mind, body and spirit, we can help others more effectively. If we are balanced in these areas we can be more productive. So ladies, let’s break out of negative patterns. I tell you once I finally started realizing that I was creating my own hell, I had a choice, I started to look at things differently.

I then realized if we change the way we look at things, the things we were looking at can change for us –that was my light bulb moment. It was not easy by a long shot, anything good takes practice and patience.


Today, I was sitting and thinking about one of my favorite things; Food! I love to eat it, cook it, bake it; did I mention, Eat It! I came from a family where cooking was a big deal. I started to learn to cook when I was 8 years old. I don’t know if it was because I am from the South or it is just in my blood.
As I grew up, I noticed that food became a friend that I, at times, wished was not so. I became overweight and didn’t know what to do. I tried everything!  Now that I am at this stage in my life, with being Positive, I find myself reading all the websites and articles about what to eat, what not to eat and why I should do so. I decided to ask my doctor about what I should do and he told  me that as long my numbers are good and I am getting proper nutrients, my weight is not his main concern. I already do the things that am suppose to do, such as, eating proper portions, drinking plenty of water, and even exercising regularly and I only get the pleasure of losing 5 pound and then I gain it back. Not as significant as I would like. This stresses me out.
As I know all to well,  stress is  killer and it truly affects those of us that are Positive. Stress makes me sick. I get depressed, and I eat too much and that makes me sick. I get tired of that, so I don’t eat enough and that makes me sick.  I quit!  Worrying about food that it is. The only thing I worry about now, is what I will be cooking for dinner.
I have decided to fill that time that I worry about food and weight and put it to good use, and do something that I love to do and it makes me happy. I take good old-fashioned recipes, recipes that I get from t.v and others and making it my own by adding and taking away ingredients. That is what makes it fun. I do this until I like the way it tastes. The goal here is to please yourself and that in turn will make others happy by your creation!
Cooking and baking is not a punishment and that is the thing that we have to realize.  It is a beautiful way to express yourself. Eating the finished product doesn’t have  to be a burden and we can enjoy it in a healthy way. We all have a creative side and we all have to eat. Why not use that creativity you have inside to cook or bake something. This is how I started healing and using it to my advantage and have fun. It doesn’t have to be complicated. You don’t have to make it that way.
I would like to share a recipe that I use, and it is simple, fun and yummy…oh and healthy…here we go:
                  Lemon Flavored Asparagus
                  1 bundle of asparagus
                  2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
                  sea salt
                  black pepper
                  lemon juice
Wash the asparagus and dry thoroughly. Cut the bottoms off (the hard square parts). Place asparagus in a foil-lined baking pan.  Evenly pour olive oil over the asparagus and place in the oven. Set the oven to 350 degrees and bake for 15 minutes or until almost soft, but still firm. Once the asparagus has been taken out of the oven, sprinkle sea salt and black pepper over it. After plating, pour one capful of lemon juice over the hot asparagus and serve. 
I hope that you enjoy the recipe and remember make it your own. Have fun with it.
What are some of the recipes that you may use to express your creativity?

Only So Much

Sometimes as human beings, we tend to take on too much and deny that we have even done such a thing. We fail to really look at what we need as an individual and put our main focus on our family, our friends and our jobs. We tend not to step back and take that long look, until we get sick due to stress.
The care and love that we have for others is often the care and love that we neglect to give ourself. We often seem to think that if we put “me” off, then we feel sure that we  will get it from those whom we have given it to, but that does not always ring true, though.
We need to stop and realize that if we don’t start caring, loving, and putting ourselves first, then there will not be a “me” to put out there for others. In retrospect, take care of yourself and monitor how you let others make use of you and remember that “you” can only take so much.
What are some of the ways that you use to recharge yourself that make you feel better?

Just a Note

Some days ago, I was thinking about a way to help me learn about the women in my network without getting too personal.  I know that some people are particular about sharing, so in my private time as I talk to them, I ask them one simple question; “what is your favorite song?” This question does a few things: 1) it is an open-ended question, so it allows the other person to have to stop and think about themselves even if they already know, 2) it allows for a longer conversation because it brings up the story of how the song became so special, and 3) by placing this as a ringtone for each of my network friends, it allows me to think of the story and how other women’s experiences and stories, even if it is a ringtone, strengthens and empowers me. Lastly, the ringtone makes that person even more special by hearing a piece of them when they call. It is a simple way not to forget, and to remember to smile.

Let us know in what way do you find it easy to share without exposing yourself to deep?

Finishing School With HIV

Living with HIV presents its own sets of challenges, but when you add school and homework to the mix it can make life even more difficult. I had to take 2 years off of school when I developed HIV-related cancer, non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, and for the moment HIV had won out against my determination to finish school. Beating the cancer was challenging in itself, and I was really too sick and tired to even think school-related thoughts. After I went through chemo, surgery, and had been in remission for some time, I started to think about school and how to pick up where I left off. I was a year in remission when I re-enrolled to finish my A.A. degree and get my life moving forward again.

My point is that everybody, especially those living with HIV and other chronic illnesses, can face their greatest challenges and still come out fighting on the other side. You might leave some pieces of yourself behind in that dark time, but everybody has something to live for. For me, that was my family and finishing my schooling. No matter what it is you are fighting for, just remember that there are others fighting alongside of you. Everybody might be fighting for different things, but at least you are fighting!

How Ironic-Part 2

When I was leaving New York Back in 1991 I was also planning my funeral. I wanted to spend the time I had left enjoying my son. I had been diagnosed with HIV in 1983. Now that was one of the hardest things for me to face- knowing I had to leave him orphaned. No amount of therapy could take that deep hurt from my heart.

So, I learned to cherish every moment I had.  Because back then, no one knew what the lifespan was for someone with HIV.  I would hear from doctors different things like “you could live another three to five years.” Then another doctor – I remember her telling me the magic number is now “seven years.”

It’s been thirty-two years since my diagnosis and I am still going strong. I am healthy emotionally, physically and spiritually, And, I must say I have become more sassy in my older years. Ironic to say, but I give all the credit to having the big V. Not the best way to change your life, but for me it was, that was my blessing in disguise. I am still learning of life’s endless possibilities. I no longer need to just survive – I can actually have a life.

I had the privilege to help raise my three granddaughters, which for me, there is no greater pleasure in life. I thought being a mother was, but when you are blessed with grandchildren it takes you to a whole other level.

Who knew I would be still here today so eager to make a difference in this life, this is some of what paying it forward means to me.

What are your thoughts? Let us hear from you…

How Ironic

Paying it forward has become a way of life for me. It is ironic that being living with HIV has opened so many doors for me, meaning I do not think I would have had the opportunity to meet all the awesome people in my life that I have.

It started with my psychologist. When I first found out I was infected with the big V, as I call it, boy, did I give her a run for the money, to say the least! So my point is I received years of psychotherapy just to deal with the fact that I was living with HIV. Being in therapy though, opened up a whole new world for me. I learned so much- from coping with the hand I was dealt to learning who I was as a person. Not by any means was all this an easy task. Therapy is hard work -I kid you not. You have to be able to look at difficult issues in your life. Had I not been infected with the big V, I probably would never have had the chance to be in counseling.

So that opened the door for me to be more open-to meet other great people in my life. I decided I wanted to leave New York. I wanted a slower pace of life, so I moved to Florida. My ID Doc at the time helped me so much. She made the phone calls for me where I was going to get my health care. That led me to a nurse who was at the health department in Gainesville. She helped me so much. Before I knew it doors were opening up everywhere for me. It was then that I started to want to pay it forward, for others who were where I started.

Since then it was like a domino effect- I felt so blessed, it made me want to continue to do more and more for other women living with HIV, because I knew first hand what they were going through. I must say the big V was my learning tool. And, it has made me the woman I am today. Ironic but true, living with the big V made me not dare to take anything for granted again in my life. It was like a whole new world was out there waiting for me. Who knew I would be still here today, so eager to make a difference in this life. This is some of what paying it forward means to me.

How have you paid it forward? Have any good suggestions? Share them with us!!