Monthly Archives: February 2014

Can Love Conquer Stigma?


“Can Love Conquer Stigma?” is the theme for this year’s National Week of Prayer for the Healing of AIDSan awareness campaign that mobilizes faith communities. This year’s Week of Prayer is March 2nd-March 9th.

This is the time to encourage men and women of any faith to mobilize their faith communities to end the stigma against those living with HIV/AIDS.

This HIV awareness week is another great way to advocate for those living with HIV! You might try to encourage:

  • Dedicate your worship experience to for the healing of HIV/AIDS
  • Host a Prayer Vigil
  • Make HIV/AIDS education a topic during your weekly bible study, choir rehearsal, worship service, etc.

For more information, check out the official website:


Facing Stigma

I am an HIV positive woman.  In 2011 I was referred to a surgeon to have a hysterectomy. Upon meeting the surgeon, she just kept pushing me to have a different procedure than what had been recommended to me by my gynecologist. I told her I intended to adhere to my gynecologist’s recommendations.  Finally, the surgeon told me why she preferred the alternate procedure- it because she was worried she would get a needle stick and become infected with HIV!

The surgeon said that she was trying to get pregnant and did not want to contract HIV. She said she would have to find another doctor who would do the surgery with her, so she would not be at risk. Remember, this is just 2 years ago! I thought to myself, ‘doesn’t she know about universal precautions? How not to get infected?’ I could not believe that in this day and age a doctor would say something like that to a patient. It felt like a resurfacing of the stigma I experienced 30 years ago, when I was first diagnosed. Back then, I could understand that sort of stigma, but today, when we’ve come so far and so much is known about HIV. HELLO! There is no reason this should still be going on. It is unacceptable.

Stigma in the clinical setting is a big deal. A lot of us feel forced to sweep it under the rug, make excuses for it or ignore it; but this has to stop. We have to draw the line. We need to educate all health care providers about HIV/AIDS. If they are scared to do a procedure on us, what is that telling us? The education needs to begin now!

*This post was adapted from a message originally published in the “LTAI Calendar of Recommendations for Providers Serving the Positive Community.”

Overcoming Stigma

“How about a dose of dignity? All patients, especially those living with HIV, deserve to be treated with respect, dignity and kindness. Too often, women living with HIV are made to feel as though they deserve to be sick, that it is their fault for having this disease. No one should be made to feel this way, especially not by those in the medical community. Medical providers need to understand that their underlying assumptions about me- about how I got the disease, what sort of lifestyle I lead- I see those assumptions in the way they look at me, speak to me, and interact with me. From the minute I walk into the doctor’s office and speak to the receptionist, to the time I walk out that door, I deserve to be treated as a human being by each and every member of the staff, not as their assumptions dictate I am. And so do you!

We need the kindness and support from our entire medical team. Remind providers to put themselves in your shoes. How would they want to be treated if the roles were reversed? We are not our illness. They need to treat us with the same dignity and respect they would want to be treated with, HIV positive or not.
*This post was adapted from a message originally published in the “LTAI Calendar of Recommendations for Providers Serving the Positive Community.”

Being a Supportive Caregiver

As a caregiver to my mother, who is living with HIV, I have found that being an emotional support for her in times of need is a crucial aspect of helping maintain her health. Sometimes it may not seem like much to be that shoulder to lean on, but remember, stress can be a huge factor in the state of one’s health. Showing support to the person you are caring for can help relieve those feelings of being overwhelmed and stressed. In the long run, this can help improve their health.

For me, I have found two things to be very important when I think about the type of support I provide my mom. First, being non-judgmental is key. People living with HIV are living everyday with stigma and judgment from our society. Be a safe haven for the person you are caring for. Provide a judgment-free zone where they can freely open up to you .

Second, assist them in reducing stress through interaction with others, through their faith or exercise. Staying up-beat is important. Stress is a number one factor that causes health to go down because that’s when a person wants to give up.

You don’t have to be someone’s only source of support. Part of supporting your friend or family member is by providing them with resources they can use to seek support from others. This is important for the person you care for, as they can gain even more strength from others. This is also important for you as a caregiver. Helping the person you love build a network of support will help you not to get overwhelmed as well.

Check out this blog (Finding Support) where you can read about where one positive woman seeks her support.


Advocating to Our Providers


Some days I feel that the medical community is failing us. I might have known about my HIV status sooner, if only a doctor had advised me about getting tested. Before I was diagnosed with HIV I suffered for over 18 months with thrush, not knowing what was wrong with me, my symptoms getting worse by the day. I eventually lost all of my ability to taste and went to a clinic for help with this issue. The Physician Assistant examined my mouth and suggested several blood tests, including an HIV test, to which I agreed. A few days later I went back to the clinic and was informed that I was HIV positive. I was in shock! After the additional blood tests, I was told I could have had undiagnosed HIV for 6-10 years. My CD4 count was at 12 and my viral load was over 157,000. I had AIDS!

I saw many doctors over the 6-10 years prior to my diagnosis. I believe my previous doctors looked at the number of years I was married and disregarded the thought of offering me the HIV test, even during my annual check-ups. This is a big problem and it may be why older women are diagnosed so late with HIV. A long-term marriage or relationship does not protect us from contracting HIV.

I know, first hand, just how much harm physicians can cause their patients when they don’t offer HIV tests! As positive women, we already know our status-but so many others do not, and many women are too embarrassed to ask for the test.

Are your healthcare providers talking to their patients about HIV testing? Next time you go in for your annual exams, talk with your provider about their HIV testing protocols. Advocate for providers to offer HIV testing to ALL of their patients. It is part of their responsibility; it’s part of their oath, ‘Do No Harm’.

*This post was adapted from a message originally published in the “LTAI Calendar of Recommendations for Providers Serving the Positive Community.”

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Happy Valentine’s Day from the Let’s Talk About It blog!

Today is all about sharing and receiving love. But we don’t want you to forget about the most important person in your life who you should be loving: yourself!

We want to know, how do you love yourself and make yourself feel special? Do you treat yourself to your favorite dessert? Put on your favorite outfit? Or maybe contact an old friend who makes you laugh? Whatever it is, share with us in the comment section below!

Lab Result Victory!

I have always had a low CD4 count. My whole life my CD4 has never gotten above 20. But now, at the age of 26 I can finally say with happiness that my CD4 count is above 200, right where it is supposed to be!

I have always had trouble taking my pills. I would miss whole days and doses. It is only until recently, within the past two years, that I have started taking them consistently and on a tight schedule – that has been the main reason for my CD4 count rising.

I only got really serious about taking my meds when I was diagnosed with cancer in 2010. It was non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma stage 2- which was HIV related. I had a big tumor on the back of my left leg that had to be removed and it left a hole that you could sink your fist down into. I had to go through 6 months of chemo, which was horrible. I had to change the dressings on my leg twice a day and it was extremely painful, the only time I didn’t feel pain was when I was asleep. They finally put a skin graft over the hole in 2011 and then I had to do a month of rehab on my leg, so I could walk again. I decided I never wanted to go through anything like that again and taking my pills was worth it if I could prevent that. Ever since then I have been very consistent in taking my meds and I really hate missing any doses.

Do you have any victories you want to share? Comment below to share!

Finding Support

Finding support has helped me in living with HIV. Having people I can go to and rely on in times of need helps me manage my stress, and ultimately plays a big role in my emotional health. Living with HIV, I know that my emotional health is as important as my physical, so I make it a priority to seek out support when I need it.

Here are some people I look to for support, and how they help me.

1) Family: For me, my family makes me feel loved, stronger and comforted.

2) Friends: My friends make me feel loved and accepted. The most important thing is that they don’t look down on me based on my HIV status.

3) Support Groups: Attending a support group where I am around other HIV positive women makes me feel empowered and like I can beat this!

4) Medical Professionals: I feel like I can trust the medical professionals in my life, that I can tell them anything when it comes to my healthcare. This kind of support encourages me to take care of myself.

These are just a few places I seek support in my life. Support is important to me because I feel that there is strength in numbers. When we unite, we can help each other get through anything.

ACTION TIP: What areas of support are lacking in your life? Make a commitment or a New Year’s Resolution to try expanding your support circles.  It is important to have people you can depend on in times of need.

National Black HIV/AIDS Day is TODAY!


Throughout the year, there are several days that are dedicated to creating awareness about HIV/AIDS and the importance of getting tested. Today is one of those days– National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day!

This day is dedicated to mobilizing the Black community to get educated, get tested, get involved and get treated! For more information on National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day click here!

Presently among Blacks, women account for 30% of new HIV infections while men account for 70% of new HIV infections. That being said, recent studies show that infection rates in Black heterosexual women have gone down, which is a great victory! However, there is more work to be done as black women are still more affected by HIV more than any other race or ethnicity group.

It is important to raise awareness in your community about HIV no matter what race/ethnicity you identify with. Take advantage of this campaign as an opportunity to encourage your friends and family to get tested for HIV. It could save their life. 

Click here to find HIV testing locations near you!