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I Refuse To Lose Another Person To HIV: Join Me In My Crusade

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Fifteen years ago, I lost one of my dearest friends from complications resulting from HIV. I think about her every day, all of the time.

 

We met in college. She was one of the first faces I saw when I arrived to the campus. I remember her warm and friendly eyes, and the way she laughed at me when I said that I had absolutely no clue where my dormitory was, in in fact we were standing right in front of it. She and I became fast friends.

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Over the years our bond grew unshakable as our lives saw marriages, children, and even moves across the country. We were always there for each other and shared every secret, every fear, and every obstacle.

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We knew everything about each other……until she became very ill.

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It wasn’t until her final days that she disclosed to me that she had HIV. It was discovered when she became pregnant with she and her husband’s first child. Neither one got tested before they married, and since both had several previous partners, the original point and time of exposure was uncertain. She was too ashamed to let anyone know what was going on.

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In that moment, all I could think of were the many, many times before where she’d shared something with me and I knew exactly the words to say to comfort her. This time was different. I was completely shattered. My heart cried not only for her, but for her child and her husband, as they would have to continue life without a mother and wife.

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The day my friend died was the day that education and awareness of the disease became very important to me. And that passion is still with me right now. I never want anyone else to experience the overwhelming devastation that I felt—and still feel—due to losing a loved one to HIV/AIDS.

hiv-aids-we-are-empowered

 

I remember the time when HIV was a taboo subject. No one wanted to even think about it, let alone talk about it. And while great strides have been made in the awareness of this disease there is still a long way to go, which is why I am glad to see initiatives like the Greater Than AIDS Empowered campaign which works to promote more education and discussion about HIV through TV, radio, outdoor, print and digital public service ads (PSAs), special programming and editorial, social media promotions, informational resources, and community programs  to help put an end to rising affected rates and the stigma that comes with having the disease. The only way that lives can be saved is if people understand the importance of protecting their health by being proactive. That means asking questions to partners and health care professionals, knowing the facts, medical updates, and advancements about the disease, taking proper measures to stay safe, and getting tested regularly regardless of relationship status.

hiv-aids-we-are-empowered

 

There are far more resources and programs targeted towards HIV awareness, protection, testing, and treatment now than there were over a decade ago. Accessibility has also never been greater. Getting assistance is now as close as the nearest Walgreens, where the Greater Than AIDS campaign’s partnership with the nationwide pharmacy chain helps provide information, at-home testing kits that can be purchased discreetly on their website, and even free testing at select stores across the United States for National HIV Testing Day.

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The loss of my friend has made me realize that action against HIV is not just about one person. It is about uniting with friends, sisters, daughters, partners, Mothers—all women to support and encourage each other to speak openly and take control of their bodies and their health.

hiv-aids-we-are-empowered

 

Another program by the Greater Than AIDS initiative is We Are Empowered, a special 30 minute documentary featuring Grammy Award-winning artist and HIV advocate Alicia Keys in conversation with five inspiring women living with HIV in the United States. During the talk, Alicia and the women explore issues relatable to all women, including love and relationships, the importance of family and friends, the challenge of overcoming the past, and hopes and dreams for the future. By considering these issues through the lens of HIV, the program presents a more complete picture of HIV today and its impact on women.

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There will be a National Watch Party centered around the documentary and a Twitter chat about women and the effect of HIV/AIDS on Sunday, January 19 between 8-9pm ET. It would be a great time to view the film while exchanging in dialog with others online about the disease. Alicia Keys will be tweeting live with participants, as well as representatives from the Greater Than AIDS initiative.

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Walgreens is also hosting a separate Twitter discussion on Wednesday, January 15 at 8pm EST where resources will be shared to help spread the message about the Empowered campaign, as well as details about the National Watch Party. Both chats can be found at their respective dates and times by using the hashtag: #WeAreEmpowered.

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I’d like to personally encourage you to join in the discussions on Wednesday January 15 and Sunday January 19, and to please spread the word to all of your friends, family members, and colleagues to help begin changing the way people think about HIV. Better yet, host a gathering of women at your home, church, or other venue for a watch party of your own, and use the free printable to get the conversation going. The more women that can be reached, the more chances are improved of saving lives.

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To learn more about the #WeAreEmpowered initiative, visit greaterthan.org. Visit the Walgreens website to find out more about the Greater Than AIDS partnership for HIV awareness. There’s also materials you can to use for your National Watch Party that are available for download Here.  

 HIV

Makeba Giles is a Digital Content Producer and Founder of Faith Health and Home, a digital space with information and resources for physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being to help families live an inspired lifestyle.

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Lawna

I agree, it’s very important to help spread awareness and educate people about the virus. I am so sorry for the loss of your friend but I bet she would be so happy you are helping spread awareness.

Michele

I have seen many people I knew over the years lost to HIV-I am glad that it is now coming out into the open and being talked about. It is a devestating disease to watch while you see your friends literally disappear before your eyes.

Isabella Grey

I’m sorry to hear about your friend. Losing someone can be so hard, especially when they’re been keeping something so important from you.

Robin (Masshole Mommy)

I’m so sorry to hear about your friend. I Have never lost anyone to HIV, but I know it’s a terrible disease and I think spreading awareness will hopefully help prevent people from getting it.

Amber Edwards

So sorry to hear about your friend. It is good to know more information is coming out to the public and helping us better understand HIV. Without understanding it you can’t protect yourself from it, and you can’t understand what someone with it is going through. You are ruled more by fear and no one needs that. We need more understanding and helping.

Pam
Pam

I am sorry about your friend but glad you are spreading the word about this important cause.

becca

what an awesome cause to support

Cynthia L

I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your friend. I am glad that you shared the story. I am sure that many think HIV is almost gone, but that is far from true. Thanks for sharing.

Kristen from The Road to Domestication

I’m so very sorry for the loss of your friend 🙁 But I think this cause is amazing, and I applaud you bringing attention to it!

Tough Cookie Mommy

It is so important to raise awareness about this cause. Many people are not aware of how they can protect themselves and how important it is to get tested regularly.

Sarah Bailey

Thank you so much for sharing I think often with issues such as HIV we keep to quiet about it – pretend it doesn’t exist.

Marielle Altenor

So very sorry that you had to say goodbye to such dear friend. My heart goes out to you and her family. HIV-AIDS should be something we are all aware of so that we don’t become victim to it. Thank you for sharing!

Joanna Sormunen

Thank you! This is a great post and so important for us all. I am sharing this!

Kelly @ Texas Type A Mom

I am so sorry for your loss but appreciate your sharing such a personal story. This horrible disease affects everyone and you’re doing an admirable job ofeducating others. #client

Liz @ A Nut in a Nutshell

I remember when Magic Johnson announced his HIV and in that time period, people not only didn’t talk about it but were afraid to be near people with it. We’ve come such a long way with education and having an open dialogue about it is a huge help in that.

Veronica

Sorry to hear about your best friend. Tragedies like that always light a fire in us. I pray that her daughter is ok

Chubskulit Rose

I think that is a great cause you are taking and I admire you for that. You are right, we should all take part on this to help people battling with HIV.

Amanda
Amanda

What a touching post. Even though strides have been made with HIV/AIDS, there is still taboo around the subject and it is scary that so many are affected and do not know.

Pam
Pam

Thank you for all of this information. We have come a long way in the treatment of Aids and talking about the disease but there is more work to be done. I will try and get in on the Twitter party.

Teresa McCluskey
Teresa McCluskey

I lost my uncle to HIV and it is so hard! 🙁 I stand with you on this one!

amanda

What a powerful post. I can’t imagine what you faced, much less what she faced and her family is facing.

Melanie

Thank you for all the information, I hope in a few years there will finally be a treatment to aid in this battle

Ashley Gill

I am so sorry this is so close to you. It makes me sick to think about the disease taking good people from us.

Annie

I looooove this post! Empowerment is so important with issues like this 🙂

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[…] The informative video shares the statistics of HIV and PrEP in the New York area, as well as the importance of reducing the disproportionate burden of HIV among Black and Latina women. […]

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