Category Archives: Advocacy

Moving Ahead

Today is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, and as a community, I think it is very important that we understand the reason why we have to fight so hard to end the epidemic again HIV/AIDS.

As people of color, we are already fighting against the injustice of racial barriers, which increases the stigma of those living with HIV.

We wanted to share this straight-to-the-point blog by Venita Ray, a woman who has touched many lives. Click the image below to visit her blog. We hope that you will find the strength to speak out and advocate for yourself, your sisterhood and your community.  We want you to know that you are not alone and if you feel that you are in need of support, we are here for you. You can reach us at letstalk@rwhp.org.

Voice of the Youth

As the grandmother of the author below and a person living with HIV for 35 years, it is very important to recognize the voice of our youth on different issues that they are passionate about. They are our future leaders. Whether they are fighting for people living with HIV, stigma, discrimination, or better education, it is crucial that we hear what they have to say because it’s their future we are talking about. This is the way to get our youth involved: by letting them have their voices heard. So please continue to read what this brilliant young lady has to say about some of the issues she fights for.

 

Girls Stand Up

Young women everywhere are limited to certain things whether it be sports or something as simple as working. People may think, “So what? That’s how it’s always been.” My response to those people is that it doesn’t have to be like that anymore. We can stand up and make a change for what’s right.

For example, lets take a school sport: basketball. The boys’ team always has nicer uniforms and they always seem to be more praised. However, when you look at the girls’ team, hardly anyone attends the games and their uniforms are probably the same as the year before.

Well here’s what I think about the treatment we get compared to the boys. We can work and play as hard as they do, so what’s the big deal! Us women should be able to have the same opportunities as men—we are just as strong as they are, maybe even stronger. Just because we look weak and small doesn’t mean anything. Women everywhere should take a stand and show the men in this world what we are made of because we are more then just a pretty face. We should be the voice for other women, but most importantly be the voice for ourselves. Stand for what you believe in and do whatever it takes… just be you.

Now for us teenagers (young men and women), we all know what’s been happening in our schools. We’ve lost lives and now we are scared of what’s going to happen next. I know we all ask ourselves questions like, “Will I be next? And what are the adults doing about it?” Nothing is my answer. In my opinion, I think we need to get up on our feet, stand up, and speak up for what we believe in—don’t be scared.

I just read something that a girl posted. She’s trying to get into a better school, of course for better opportunities, but it’s hard because now the school is taking steps that are unnecessary and she said, “EVERYBODY should have the right to a good education and GOOD Resources!! But, right now the school system is only worried about MONEY, giving teachers guns, and the school population makeup. PRIORITIES HAVE GOT TO BE STRAIGHTEN OUT in the School system.”

Here’s what I think about that: she is right, but what about us? The school system is worried about giving the teachers more safety—what about OUR safety? What about OUR voices? I see teens fighting everywhere for a change and the administration is not budging. So what are we supposed to do? Well here’s something… don’t stop fighting for what you think is right. Be the change you want in the world, but don’t change because of the world. All it takes is a leap of faith and a little bit hope to keep fighting.

Hooray, it’s National HIV Testing Day! 

So why is it important to get tested? There can be so many different reasons NOT to go get tested and the reality is many people don’t believe that they are at risk for an HIV diagnosis. You may be thinking, “I don’t participate in that kind of lifestyle, I work on Wall Street, or I’m married, etc.”

But you see there’s this stigma surrounding HIV- that diagnosis is directly related to behavior and lifestyle choices -as if some people do not “qualify” for diagnosis and are immune to HIV. This is not the case. The ugly truth is almost everybody is at risk for an HIV diagnosis. If you’ve ever had a sexual relationship, are currently in a sexual relationship, are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, you might be are at risk. Understand that HIV is a health condition, not a punishment for behavior.

Now let me ask you a better question… Are you ready to go and get tested? If you’re answer is no, then I’d say that’s even more of a reason to get tested for HIV. The bottom line is it’s better to know than not to know, believe me.

There are lots of ways to prevent the transmission of HIV. You have PrEP*, condoms, abstinence, the list goes on, but the very first step is knowing your status. When you don’t know your status, you run the risk of transmitting HIV to others, or even worse, dying prematurely from lack of necessary treatment. But on the flip side, when you DO know your status you can begin treatment sooner and with consistency, live a long, healthier and productive life, and prevent transmitting the virus further.

So why not get tested or retested? When we examine the issue at its core, what’s really holding people back from knowing their status is fear. Please know that it’s absolutely normal and okay to be afraid, but you can’t let that stop you. It’s your health and potentially your life at stake—you have to take control!

Someone once told me, “If I had known my status earlier, I would not have been diagnosed with AIDS. That’s what made me get tested.”

The bottom line is, it’s not all about you. Think about your friends, family, and partners; they are affected when you don’t know your status and we’re trying to get to zero! Now that I know my status, I would love for you to know yours as well because Silence=Death. So, don’t be afraid and don’t be ashamed. Get tested, everybody’s doing it! 🙂

*PRep is a medication for those who are not living with HIV, but are at risk. It is said to be estimated at 99% effective when taken as prescribed, in preventing the transmission of HIV

Local Testing Sites-Alachua County:

Not in the Gainesville/ Alachua County area? Check out the website to find a testing site near you: https://locator.hiv.gov/

Some of the events will feature counseling and testing, education, free condoms, and referrals to other resources in the community that deal with HIV/AIDS issues.

Wednesday (6/27/2018)

GRACE Marketplace
3055 NE 39th Ave

Time: 8 a.m.-12 p.m.

The Heart of Gainesville Thrift Store
125 NW 23rd Ave.

Time: 3-6 p.m.

HealthStreet
(Please call and schedule an appointment and be sure to arrive 30 minutes earlier if you are not already a HealthStreet member (You must become a HealthStreet member (FREE) for the free testing)

2401 SW Archer Road
Time: 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
Phone: (352) 294-4880

Friday (6/29/2018)

University of Florida Health Family Medicine
1707 N. Main St.

Time: 5:30-8:30 p.m.

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Citrus County:

Wednesday (6/27/2018)

Florida Department of Health
3700 W. Sovereign Path, Lecanto, FL 34461
Time: 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
Phone: (352) 527-0068

“As an advocate for Women living with HIV, this is very close to my heart. In this day and age, this test can change your life! You can live a long and great life as with many diagnoses. We must end the stigma attached to so many medical conditions.”

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It’s Me Again

I was diagnosed in October 2009. I was given my test results in Jan. 2010, my CD4 was 12 and my viral load was over 157,000. I was started on Isentress twice a day plus Truvada once a day. Three months later my viral load was undetectable (under 75) and my CD4 was 57. I have posted my continuing growing results on LTAI’s Blog before. Now on Jan. 9, 2017 my CD4 is 445, my CD8 is 473, and my helper cells are at 28% (CD4-CD8 Ratio). My health continues at a pretty good condition for an old gal of 65 years young. My health issues, which I had before HIV, have not
worsened, such as my IBS, acid reflux, etc. I have some heart issues (at 11-12 years old and had rheumatic fever) and suffered a mild silent heart attack 18 months to 2 years ago. I suffer some mild-hard chest pain and have been on continued long- acting nitro med (Isosorbide). I take blood pressure medicine and anxiety meds and both are said to be related to my HIV and other meds. However at 65, in today’s world, I think I would be on both even without HIV. It’s always important to see our doctor, take our meds and try to stay positive and active when we can.              

I attend my “Let’s Talk About It” support group monthly and attend other advocacy meetings whenever I can. I talk with my support and advocate friends often, and I send Pen Pal letters to 5 other women living with HIV who I help to advocate for. I
also have a special email pen pal in Croatia, who is also living with HIV, that I email and have for almost 7 years. I feel this support and advocacy helps not only me but the other women as well. I am a member of a newly formed Leadership group for women of our communities. We have to remember that if we don’t advocate and fight for ourselves, we may get lost in the shuffle. Today’s political world is crazy and we must not be forgotten or pushed aside. We can’t allow someone else to make choices for us, without us!

Remember the words of Elizabeth Taylor:
“I Will Not Be Silenced. I Will Not Give Up. I Will Not Be Ignored!”

 

Supportive When You’re Not Feeling It!

How can we be supportive/inspirational to other family and friends when we feel so…. lost ourselves?

Image from inextremiss

I have never been a what I call the “in your face type” with “things are wonderful and just smile”.  I am a realist and like to face obstacles head on with truth.  I can be supportive when someone is down and needs immediate support but I wonder later was that the right approach.

I am not a “Debbie Downer” but I believe in telling the truth when someone needs it. Some of the fake support others dish out doesn’t faze me nor does it help in the long run.

Facts, not fairy tales, I guess is what I believe is best. I know, I know “some” can’t handle the facts but I feel they need truth and facts head on to ditch the fairy tales.

How does everyone feel about that or how do you give support for the doom presently approaching us?

 

 

 

Conquering Your Inner Enemy

We all feel at timpics-for-natalie-blog-2es that we are defeated by our past mistakes or past experiences, but we have to believe that we are overcomers! And, no matter what happens and comes our way we will defeat it.

  • These are some things that help me to overcome my inner enemy.
    Changing my mind to what can go right instead of wrong

    1. If I am thinking that am going to fail at something, I tell myself I will pass.
    2. Expecting the best will happen when my family and I get together.
    3. He or she will accept me, as I am, when I tell them my diagnosis, and if not, it is not the end of the world, there is more life to live. They’re missing out, not me, I understand that rejection is God’s protection.
  • Using affirmation:
    1. My self-esteem is high because I honor who I am.
    2. I am grateful for my healthy body. I love life.
    3. As I forgive myself, it becomes easier to forgive others.
                                      – Louise Hay  
  • Affirmation:
    1. I am beautiful.
    2. I will succeed
  • Using humor and fun around someone that makes me happy.
    1. Laughing
    2. Skating
    3. Shopping
    4. Going out to eat.
    5. Fishing

Remind myself that the negative thought that I’m thinking is only negative; it has no power other than what I give it. When I give it power, it controls my destiny.

Watch your thoughts, they become words.
Watch your words, they become actions.
Watch your actions, they become habits.
Watch your habits, they become your character.
Watch your character, it becomes your destiny.
                                                              -Lao Tzu

I surround myself with positive people, who are headed in the same direction as me, or who are already there. Don’t be afraid to jump into something new, live outside your comfort zone. Enjoy life!

Strengthen Your Future, Give Your Past Away

There are many things that we can do to make our future better and one of them is giving our past away.  Our past has so many bad things that weigh our lives down and it could make us sick.  So, we begin little by little, on trying to make our future stronger by giving away the past and all of the things that come with it. The things that are in our past may consist of many things, such as, work, school, sports that we may play, children, and relationships.  I know what you are saying, “Why give away all the things that make us happy?”

We don’t give away the memories, we give away the bad habits, and the bad thoughts that may have come to our mind throughout the day, not to mention that we woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Maybe, the toast is a little over cooked. These are just a few things that come to mind. This stuff needs to be let go or given away through your Power Greater than Ourselves, our journal, parents or maybe friends.

As we talk about the little things, some which are listed, these things start to leave our minds, body and our souls and makes us smile, and enjoy our days. This is a necessity because it is essential that we lighten our load by letting go of the past.

To have a strong future, I have given you a few things that will help to strengthen yourself, your future and the thoughts that may come to your mind. If we give away the dirt, we can’t help but feel cleaner.

What is keeping life so bogged down for you?

Once letting go, you must leave it there.

What is your reason?

 

 

 

 

 

What Does Beauty Mean

Beauty- The quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit.(loveliness)  2. the BEAUTIFUL person or thing such as a beautiful woman. 3. a particularly graceful, ornamental, of excellent quality. 4. a brilliant, extreme, or egregious example or <that mistake was a beauty>                           — Merriam Webster Dictionary

As you can see there many dstriped-core-354528_960_720efinitions of the word “Beauty” just as our own definitions are different.

This is the time to share the beauty of things in life.  A good example of beauty is to always try to find the positive out of the negative. True beauty is not always about the outside and the way we look, that is always a plus, but it doesn’t define us.

There are many ideas of beauty in us spiritually, emotionally, physically, we just have to search within ourselves what indeed we think is beauty. We have to also be as consistent as we can be when showing our beauty. Believe and be honest to yourself.  Even when we are going through things and we think that we are all alone, but we aren’t. There is a beautiful person or a group of beautiful people that don’t mind showing you how to reconnect with your beauty.

Remember that we are all beautiful. True beauty is having a good attitude and that is more beautiful than anything.

 

So, what does beauty mean to you?

The Fear of Attending a Support Group

Doorways Through IPemmy ElderSupport groups are everywhere. There are support groups for drinking, sex, gambling, health issues, etc. Having a problem that requires a support group is hard enough but then you add the fear of attending that first meeting. You don’t really know anybody, but you do know that they all have the same problem going on that you do and that’s a comfort. A million thoughts are running through your head when attending the first meeting. Will I have to speak? Am I being judged? How will this help me?

Most support groups are non­judgemental and a safe zone where you can share your thoughts and feelings with people who understand what you’re going through. Being the newest member of anything is always hard, but being part of something that is helping you better, or get through your life is the best.

I was a new member of a support group about three or four years ago and I was terrified. I didn’t know anybody and was hesitant about people finding out about my status. The ladies of that first group were wonderful, though, and made me feel very welcome. Now it’s years later and this group has become such an integral and important part of my life. I love every single person so much and I can’t imagine how I would get through life without their support.

Support groups are there to help us and most of the time they end up being our biggest supporter. I encourage everybody to try one.