Sojourner's Place

the voices of the chosen ladies of distinction  

Posted by SjP in ,

Of the 992,865 AIDS cases reported to the Center for Disease Control through 2006, Blacks women accounted for 40% of the total. These are the voices of Ladies of Distinction, a group of 12

African American women, living life to the fullest and living life with HIV.

Contracting the virus:

"The health department came in and escorted me to JPS, and they confined me in a room," she says, the tears now streaming. "I will never forget the day they told me." Sharon, 27 contracted HIV via a blood transfusion when she was17.

"If you have $20 in your pocket, are you going to spend it on entertainment or a box of condoms? For a lot of people, condoms are at the bottom of their list." Daphne Myles, executive director of the Tarrant County AIDS Interfaith Network in Fort Worth.

Before this support group, I was really depressed. felt ugly because of this disease." Karen struggles to protect her family from the stigma of her diagnosis.

"We have got to learn to love ourselves." Veronica, 36.

Prison’s revolving door:

"It’s not that all African-American men are messing around in prison, but a great majority are. I’ve seen it happen with all races." Jerry Wyatt who had HIV when he began serving a five-year sentence on drug charges in 1995.

"You have men coming out of prison who had sex with men and they’re not really gay, they’re just taking care of their sexual needs. He’s not going to practice homosexuality when he gets out of prison; he’s coming home to his wife." Vera Owens, a minister with the Minority AIDS Project in Los Angeles.

Living with HIV:

"People don’t want their employer to know they have HIV." Shannon Hilgart, associate executive director of the AIDS Outreach Center.

"The stigma of AIDS has left the nation with a generation that would rather die from the disease than admit they have it." Jasmine Burnett, development associate for the Black AIDS Institute in Los Angeles.

"I want a relationship, but I am afraid to tell him I have HIV." Karen

The preceding excerpts were taken from the article, Hit by HIV, black women reach in to cope, out to empower, by Jan Jarvis. I encourage all Sojourners to read it in its entirety. The statistics are certainly devastating...each statistic has a face...and as the numbers continue to rise the faces of this deadly virus are those of women and children of a "darker hue".
Photo Credit: The Chosen Ladies of Distinction, a group of about 12 HIV-positive women, meet weekly at the AIDS Outreach Center in Fort Worth to support one another. STAR-TELEGRAM/AMY PETERSON

Speak the Truth!

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This entry was posted at Tuesday, August 05, 2008 and is filed under , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the .

3 sojourners hollin' back

Each one of these sisters should be allowed to teach sex-ed classes in inner city schools. Their words, and experiences, and shift the tides in our favor!

August 5, 2008 at 3:49 AM

Thanks for writing such a great commentary on such an alarming trend. I read recently that over one million people in the US are living with AIDS. More needs to be done to educate about this terrible disease. What is even more alarming is the rate at which black heterosexual women are contracting the disease from partners who are either on the down-low or who contracted it in prison or the like. Great article.

August 5, 2008 at 10:34 AM

@ Shadow & Janet, much obliged for stopping by. I knew that HIV and AIDS were impacting the Black community in a devastating way because of the "down-low" and prison sexuality, but I had no idea until the CNN Black in America series.

I know that many found the series mediocre at best (I'm not included in the many), but if the series contributed in any way to bolster the cause - well this is a good thing.

I heard yesterday that 1 in 4 people have HIV and most don't even know they have it. I work with a staff of about 20 and if this statistic is even half way correct, that would leave me to believe that there is a great possibility that at least one of us - if not up to 5 - has the virus and doesn't even know it.

As they say, statistics don't lie - they simply tell what is and what is the probability. Much like the statistic of women contracting breast cancer is about 1 in 8. In my work circle alone there have bee 5 women diagnosed with breast cancer and in my social/familial circle there is another 5. That's a total of 10 with 6 of them being African-American.

We have to take on the responsibility of taking care of ourselves and being educated to do just that.

August 5, 2008 at 10:53 AM
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