Monthly Archives: April 2014

Advocacy: Making A Difference

On July 22, 2012, “Keep the Promise” was a major event in Washington DC, which brought people from all over the world to focus attention on the HIV epidemic. Several Members of “Let’s Talk About It” attended. What follows is one member’s reflections about the event and about living with HIV.

Why did you attend the 2012 “Keep the Promise” event in Washington DC?
I wanted to participate in the walk and to meet people. I had never been to DC or to an event like this before. It was just fun being around so many people, even though everyone there had the same condition, everyone was positive and happy. I got to meet many people who talked about being HIV positive and taking their medications.

What was most inspiring about the event?
The speakers were very important to listen to and to talk with. It was just very nice. Everyone was so friendly. The speakers were inspiring. People like Tavis Smiley and Cornel West support everybody and care about everybody with our condition and how it affects people. They talked about how, at least now [different than in the past] we have medications to take. They talked about how we can protect ourselves so HIV won’t spread and how HIV is not a death sentence anymore. They talked about the stigma behind HIV and how it is so bad: people are afraid to tell their families. There is fear that their families would disown them. I was right up at the edge of the stage.

What advocacy work needs to happen in North Central Florida?
What we need is to speak at high schools, even seventh and eighth grade students need to be told. I wish I could talk to students and tell them to stop partying, stop smoking cigarettes and to get an education. Some think “Well I’ll just take medication if I get HIV.” They are not thinking about what this disease is like. The medications are tiring, there are a lot of side-effects and that affects me in a lot of ways. I’m thankful that I can take medication. There are some people that have the virus and can’t afford the meds. Again, I’m blessed and I’m alive. So, God is good. That’s how I feel about things.

Have you been part of any advocacy events related to HIV? Share with us about your experience in the comments below!

*This post was adapted from a message originally published in the “Let’s talk About It Magazine.”

STI Awareness Month

Take a look at this statistic!

STI awareness statistic pic

Got your attention, right? It certainly got ours! As you can see, rates of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) are especially high among young people. This month, during STI Awareness Month, you are encouraged to advocate for STI testing in your community. So, if you know anyone under the age of 25- a daughter, son, niece, nephew, grandchild, or just a friend- discuss this information with them and encourage them to be proactive about their sexual health.

What factors do you think influence high STI rates?
Who will you share this with today?
Is just talking about it enough? Is there anything else we can do?

Share your thoughts below with other blog readers.

And, don’t forget, STI’s don’t discriminate based on age-EVERYONE should know about STI’s. Encourage everyone you know to get tested!

To find testing sites in your area go to:

Under 30 & Positive

Today’s post is from an interview with a young member of LTAI. She talks about what it is like to be under 30 and positive.

As a young adult, what is it like living with HIV?
It hasn’t been easy. When I was 12, my parents told me I was HIV positive and I completely freaked out. I didn’t know why I was taking all the meds and why I was in the hospital so much. I didn’t tell my friends, I never told them in high school.

Why didn’t you tell your friends about your status?
I was afraid of their reactions. Back then, the school I went to was pretty elite, so I really didn’t want to get into it with them. My family didn’t make me feel any different that I had HIV. I grew up in a loving home with brothers and sisters. They didn’t have it, but nobody looked at me differently. I did all the things that kids do; I took horseback riding lessons, took swimming lessons. I just had more doctors’ appointments, was in the hospital more than they were and I had to take the medication every day.

Was it hard to hide your status from your friends?
Not really. Sometimes they asked me why I couldn’t give blood and I just said I was afraid of needles. But no, it wasn’t particularly hard. They probably would have been pretty accepting if I told them. I just didn’t want to because we had grown up together since kindergarten and I didn’t want to lose their friendship if they had known. For me, in recent years, it has gotten easier.

What would you like to share with young adults living with HIV?
That you can live a full life with HIV and can do anything that anyone else is doing. It’s not the end of the world; it’s not a death sentence… just stay strong, keep your spirits up and take your meds.

*This post was adapted from a message originally published in the “Let’s talk About It Magazine.”

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Taking a Stand!

Today is Thursday, and you know what that means!

It’s time to speak out and Take a Stand!

Check out today’s post from one of the LTAI Peer Advocates:

Snapshot 2014-04-16 14-22-29

                      Taking A Stand:  

1) To increase HIV awareness in schools

2) To encourage and support people in need as a friend.

3) To be a role model in the community and continue the HIV/AIDS advocacy started by my father in the 1980s.

So now, we invite you to speak up, speak out, and be heard!  Send us your message with a picture of your feet as seen above!  We’d love to post it!

What will you Take a Stand for?

Send all photos to:

Look out for a new Taking a Stand post next Thursday!

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Advice From a Peer For a Newly Diagnosed Woman: Part 2

Society makes people living with HIV feel dirty. We’re not dirty people. We’re beautiful people in all different colors, shades and shapes. Living with the virus, we need to understand that love comes from first loving yourself. Never let anybody bring you down. Look in the mirror. Start practicing telling yourself, “I love you,” “Hi, you are a beautiful woman.” You have to practice loving yourself, because living with this virus; people see it in an ugly way.

God put us all on this earth for a reason and whatever we are dealing with, whether it be HIV, diabetes or any other type of illness, we’re here. So learn how to be strong. It takes time to get there, but I’ll tell you that “You can.”

*This post was adapted from a message originally published in the “Let’s talk About It Magazine.”

National Youth HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

Recently, I was volunteering at an after school program at a local middle school. The students were watching a movie and one of the characters made a comment about HIV. I overheard one of the student’s say, “What is HIV?” I was surprised. I thought to myself, “In this day and age, when so many individuals are affected by HIV, how could this student not know about it?” I decided to pause the movie and have a discussion with the class about HIV.

 According to the organization “Amplify Your Voice,” today’s young people are the first generation who have never known a world without HIV and AIDS, which is why I was so surprised when the student expressed that he didn’t know about HIV. In the United States, one in four new HIV infections are among youth ages 13 to 24. And, take a look at this statistic….

National youth HIV aids pic

Educating our youth is important. What can we do to educate youth about HIV in our own communities?

Thoughts from a Long-Term Survivor

May, 1999

I’m still frightened that people may find out that I have HIV, or as I call it, “The Big V.” I used to make up stories about why I had to go to the doctor and why I had to take pills all the time. It’s frustrating to feel like I have to lie. What crime did I commit? I have nothing to feel ashamed of. If I say that I have cancer, people are sympathetic and understanding. If I say that I have HIV, will they reject me or look down on me? I just want to be honest without being afraid.

I wrote the above statement 15 years ago for an article in AIDS Clinical Care. I thought then that it was a miracle I was writing up my life story at that point! Back then the virus consumed my whole life. Now, 31 years after being diagnosed, I don’t live like that anymore.

HIV is a chronic illness; not a death sentence. I never thought I would enjoy my son growing up and now I have five grandchildren! They are so precious to me and I am able to enjoy them. Now, I am not worrying about not surviving, but about the normal, everyday stuff. My mantra is “Everyday is a blessing.” That is how I look at life. You don’t dare to take anything for granted anymore.

There is life after HIV/AIDS, but who would have thought this almost thirty years ago? Now I’m just another regular person with a chronic illness, living my life with my day-to-day struggles. Education and awareness are needed to change the discriminating attitudes. I will close by saying that HIV is all of our problem. We must be the voice for the voiceless.

*This post was adapted from a message originally published in the “Let’s talk About It Magazine.”

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Taking A Stand!

Today we launch a new series on the Let’s Talk About It Blog called Taking A Stand.

The LTAI Peer Advocates are committed to Taking A Stand this year, each in their own unique way—and we want to invite you to take part!

What does Taking A Stand mean?

For LTAI Peer Advocates it means speaking out, advocating for something you feel strongly about such as ending stigma against people living with HIV, receiving better medical coverage, increasing awareness—whatever issue moves you to action.

As advocates, it is on our feet that we Take a Stand and speak out!  So, we want to know what will you Take a Stand for?

Every other Thursday we will feature a new photo, with a woman who is Taking A Stand.  Check out today’s post from one of the LTAI Peer Advocates:

TAS 1 Final

Taking A Stand: Fight for the rights of women living with HIV!

So now, we invite you to speak up, speak out, and be heard!  Send us your message with a picture of your feet as seen above!  We’d love to post it!

Send all photos to:

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