Recent comments in the news regarding Magic Johnson’s HIV status prove that the stigma and lack of education surrounding this disease still exists.
Last Friday, I had the opportunity to participate in a conference call facilitated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to learn more about the disease, as well as ways to join them in their Let’ Stop HIV Together campaign.
During the call, I had the chance to hear two incredibly heartfelt stories from mothers living with HIV. Being a mom of two, coupled with the fact that the call took place only two days prior to Mother’s Day made their stories even more impactful.
Michelle, a Brooklyn resident shared her story first. Her accounts of surviving child sexual abuse and domestic abuse before being diagnosed with HIV back in 1991 were heartbreaking. But, hearing her divulge that her baby (at the time) daughter, Raven, was also infected was shattering.
Although she and her daughter, who is now 22, have suffered many trials and tribulations throughout the years, they currently stand together in the fight against this disease by educating society through raising awareness about getting testing and having access to the proper treatment.
Watch Michelle’s story:
While Michelle’s story was moving, for some reason Masonia’s really resonated with me. Her candidness and transparency was refreshing. She spoke openly about her vigilance in getting tested frequently after becoming sexually active. However, in 2010 due to a lapse in health insurance, she was unable to get her annual test. Unfortunately, after a routine gynecological visit, she received the devastating news that she was HIV positive despite being in a long-term “committed” relationship. Not only did she find out that she had contracted the disease, but that she was also pregnant.
Knowing first-hand the physical and mental struggles associated with pregnancy compounded with having HIV and the uncertainty of your unborn child’s health, almost seems too much for any woman to bear. Luckily, her baby tested negative for the disease. Despite her status, Masonia decided to also use her diagnosis to help educate people about the disease and encourage preventative measures.
Watch Masonia’s story:
Hearing these two brave women’s stories has definitely enlightened me. It’s also motivated me to help spread the facts about HIV. Since the disease is disproportionately affecting our communities, it’s our responsibility to erase the stigma, as well as educate in an effort to prevent and ultimately eradicate this disease.
Check out these stats from the CDC:
* At the end of 2010, one in four people living with HIV in the United States were Black/African American and Hispanic/Latino women
*One in four people living with HIV infection in the United States are women.
*Most new HIV infections in women are from heterosexual contact (84%).
*Only about half of women who are diagnosed with HIV are in care, and even fewer (4 in 10) have the virus under control.
*All pregnant women should be screened for HIV as early as possible during each pregnancy.
*Women with HIV who take antiretroviral medication during pregnancy as recommended can reduce the risk of transmitting HIV to their babies to less than 1%
Disclosure: This post is made possible by support from the Let’s Stop HIV Together campaign. All opinions are my own.
Do you get tested for HIV annually?