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Contributors (Bios)

Click here or email us at update@thewellproject.org to find out how you can be a contributor to A Girl Like Me!

Sonya Mallard (Voices from our Allies)

Mrs. Sonya Mallard better known as “Ms Sonya Live” possess a desire to push one into their Destiny, and has an unabashed preference for the controversial. Ms. Sonya skillfully combines talk, news worthy events, interviews and motivation for people without missing a beat. The weekly show, Ms. Sonya Live is on 94.7 FM every Friday @5pm for two hours filled with Real Talk, Real Issues, with a Dose of Reality from the heart.  It features audience interaction and interviews with experts in the HIV field.

She is on a mission as a HIV Activist for the past 20 years and presently an HIV Educator/Tester with Project Response in Melbourne, Florida.  She has been Affected and not Infected with HIV, losing her best friend, Lynette Hart, to the disease.  Her greatest fulfillment comes when her students, clients, and audience members take action and make meaningful changes that transform their health, relationships, work, and spiritual lives. She is known for giving out condoms FREE and stationing condom bowls throughout drug infested neighborhoods, beauty stores, and night clubs to help decrease the disease.

Why Sonya wants to be a part of A Girl Like Me: Because so many people who are affected by HIV/AIDS simply believe that there is nothing they can do to help put a stop to the stigma and disease.  By speaking out, advocating, and getting involved usually will bring people out of their shell and their glass houses, and realize it only takes one to make a difference.  I learned that people really want to help make a change, and I believe I will be contributing to that change as I inform people that we are all affected by HIV/AIDS by keeping it real and touching the subjects most people don’t want to touch.

da sassi diva (Cape Town, South Africa)

My preferred name da sassi diva. I was born in Swaziland, raised in the Free-state and bred in Johannesburg. I’m 21 years old and currently residing in Cape Town as I’m pursuing higher education in Cape Peninsula University of Technology, doing my 2nd year in the applied sciences faculty. I was diagnosed with HIV in June 2011 during a routine check up. I was infected by my very first boyfriend who cheated on me while I was here in Cape Town. He stays in Johannesburg and unfortunately we broke up as a result of his infidelity. I don’t hold any grudges against him. My family fully supports me, especially my mother whom I am eternally grateful for having. She is the reason why I push myself beyond my set limits. I know I have a long way to go but for some odd reason the future looks very bright thanks to the advanced treatments, understanding and healthy diet in conjunction with exercise.

Why da sassi diva wants to be a part of A Girl Like Me: My main reason is that I want to eradicate the mentality that university students do not get infected and also show South Africa that they are still people living with this illness…despite them making notions that once infected the result is death even though there’s medicine and change of lifestyle.

Angela Krebs (Indiana, USA)

My name is Angela Krebs and I have been HIV+ for almost 21 years. I am 37, married and have 2 children that were planned and are negative. I am from Indianapolis, Indiana.

I was searching for information on muscle pain and HIV, as I have HIV arthritis and constant body pain, and for some reason God took me to “A Girl Like Me”.  I have no friends that are HIV+ and as my struggle with my health begins to effect my everyday functioning, I feel alone.  I watched Maria Mejia’s video blog and began to cry as I too was just a teenager when I was infected.  I was 16 and the guy I was involved with was 24 and lied to me and said he had cancer.  I later found out he had been diagnosed with AIDS 2 years prior to meeting me.  I stayed and watched him take his last breath at the age of 17.  I would never wish my experience on anyone.

Why Angela want to be a part of A Girl Like Me: I hope I can be an encouragement to my fellow positive girls and I too be uplifted and not feel alone in my struggle through my “Life Sentence”. (Read all of Angela’s blogs.)

Mumbaiyya Gal (Jo) (India)

My name is Jyoti Dhawale, which in Hindi, the national language of India, “Jyoti” means “Light”. As in “The Ray of Light”. 1976 born, am diagnosed with HIV on 2006 due to medical negligence. I love travelling, music and dance is my passion, reading my time-pass hobby and watching movies a great stress-buster. I love life and even if the toughest of situation break me down, it wont DEFEAT me and my will to live. Am born a rebellious fighter and love being in company of people, be it online or in person.

I was married in 2004, got pregnant in 2006 where I learnt I had contracted the virus, carried baby to full terms and gave birth to hale, hearty healthy son (negative) thru C-Section. In 2007, my marriage started crumbling and divorced happened in 2008. I dont know if the failure of my marriage is due to my being HIV-positive or due to fear (my ex-husband is negative), or maybe because I was not fit enough in either of my responsibilities as a mother and a wife. But that was my Past. Now my present lies in helping eradicating the ignorance, educating the masses, showing myself as an example which is the biggest challenge I face, especially in a country which is conservative and orthodox…But then CHANGES begin in you and it starts with YOU.

Why Mumbaiyya Gal (Jo) wants to be a part of A Girl Like Me: Here, in India, HIV/AIDS is a curse and those who are living with it are treated as “untouchables”. I want to reach out, through the powers of media, to even the remotest place, and extend my hands to those crying for love, care and acceptance. In a conservative country like ours, I want to expose myself to show that HIV is not related only to the poor, the downtrodden, prostitute or drug/sex addicts. Even your well-do-to neighbour could be one! We need to reach out, speak up and be heard! (Read all of Mumbaiyya Gal’s blogs.)

Barely Coping (Pretoria, South Africa)

I am a 38 year old single and very independent lady from South Africa, Pretoria. I am my mother’s daughter, my brothers’ sister and my lovely nephew’s aunt. I have no child of my own and I had hoped to have at least one before I hit 40. Although the future looks bright in terms of managing the disease with the constant research done and findings made, it is still a challenge for a + woman to live a normal life. My dream of having a little one seems to be just that……A DREAM. Although it is not impossible, I must admit it is a challenge.

I was diagnosed 4 years ago and started meds almost immediately (about a month after my diagnosis). Scared as I was, I took it upon myself to read as much as I could about the virus, and ask as many questions as possible during my consultations with my doctor. I am glad to say that the virus is now undetectable and my CD count has sky-rocketed from where it was when I started medication. Although I am living a positive and healthy lifestyle, I have not yet reached a stage where I can openly disclose my status. Besides my Doctor, only three other people are aware of my status.

Why barelycoping want to be a part of A Girl Like Me: HIV is a scary virus, but I always say to myself, everything happens for a reason. This might sound quite cliche’d but “It really is not a death sentence”. I have tried all avenues to get into contact with people (both men and women) who are in a similar situation, but I have never succeeded before. I would like to share my fears, my challenges and my joy with people who understand what it is like to live with this virus. Most importantly, I would like to share the good information that I always get every time I visit my Doctor. I would like to assist those who are struggling to accept their diagnoses and to have friends with whom I can talk to without the fear of being judged, discriminated against or being looked down at (as if we had asked for this). (Read all of barelycoping’s blogs.)

Bose (Lagos, Nigeria)

My name is Bose Olotu Oladayo. I am from Nigeria, from one of the south/west states, Ekiti state, to be precise. I am a woman, born in August 1975 to a family of seven. I am married with three children. I live in Lagos, Nigeria. Some eleven years ago I tested positive to HIV virus.

Why Bose wants to be a part of A Girl Like Me: I would like to share my expirence on the blog because it will help me learn from others and many can also learn from my experience as a woman living with HIV. I can also find relief and encouragement from lots of other women on the blog. (Read all of Bose’s blogs.)

Kat (Maryland, USA)

My chosen name is Kat and I am from Maryland. I am 30 years old and the mother of 2 adorable boys 5 and 8, and I am HIV Positive. Wow, that’s the first time I actually said it since I was diagnosed in March of 2010. I went to a regular prenatal visit, my then husband and I were expecting our 3rd child, and learned that I was having twins. I was so excited and they asked about HIV screening, that of course I said yes- I mean who says no? A week later, I was having a miscarriage and lost one baby, and the doctor wanted to see me. He told me he didn’t want me upset but we had to talk. I thought he meant counseling about the baby, and I was focused on not losing the other one so I blacked him out. About a month later, after I lost the other baby, someone from the health department called me at work wanting to talk. I thought the doctor was trying to force me into counseling, so I gave them the run around, until they finally came to my job to meet with me. That’s when they told me. I was shocked, COMPLTELY, and the first thing I thought was, I am going to leave my kids without a mother. The second thought was – that SOB cheated on me. I never really thought about my well being, just threw all of me into the kids. I have since gotten a divorce with full custody, and have only disclosed my status with my immediate family, not even with my ex husband. ( i gave his information to the health department for them to handle contacting him).

Why Kat wants to be a part of A Girl Like Me: I know I should go to counseling, but my fear of people seeing or knowing is getting the best of me. Hopefully one day soon, I can be strong enough to deal with it the right way. But for now, I think this blog will help a lot. I know now that there are girls like me, not so much as ashamed, but afraid. Afraid of ostracism and ridicule and pure ignorance. I am hoping to not only help someone find a voice, but put one in mine, so that I can be heard. (Read all of Kat’s blogs.)

Joy (Kampala, Uganda)

My name is Joy,  am 32 years old, a mother to a handsome 4 year old boy and HIV positive. I live in Kampala, the capital city of Uganda.  It all started about 8 years ago when after finishing university on the course of my first job i met an older man who blinded me with material things and in return infected me with the virus. It was later, until about 5 years ago, when on an antenatal (prenatal) visit when I was expecting my only child that I confirmed what I had all along suspected. It was a challenging time for me because without a support group to help me cope with discordance (serodiscordance), we separated with the father of my son. I am a very optimistic person and always try to look at the bright side of life and hope for the best, so accepting my condition was not very difficult. I had self counseled myself by then.  The journey though hasn’t been easy because out of emotions we make decisions that affect us greatly. I want to share my experiences with young women like me and let them know they are not alone.

Why Joy wants to be a part of A Girl Like Me: I have always loved to write and am thinking of encouraging girls like me out there. We all have challenges living with HIV and it’s good to share these with others. I have been through a still birth, A miscarriage and a rejection from an HIV-positive partner because i was not giving him a child, but despite all this am still strong and yet hope to have another child someday. (Read all of Joy’s blogs.)

Tiffany B. Dominique (Voice From our Allies)

Tiffany B. Dominique, Center for AIDS Research Community Advisory Board Coordinator and Recruitment Coordinator at the University of Pennsylvania’s HIV Vaccine Trials Unit. Tiffany conducts research projects focusing on HIV/AIDS addressing such topics as: the connection between HIV and IV drug use; how depression effects disease progression; and the latest one for an experimental HIV vaccine.  Additionally, she actively seeks ways to ensure HIV+ women can access and receive health and social support services.   Mrs. Dominique is also a Black Youth Vote organizer and spends countless hours mobilizing youth and young adults around issues of voter education and participation, environmental justice, and youth homelessness. Tiffany was raised in New Orleans, LA and although she had moved to Philadelphia 15 years ago still referred to New Orleans as home until her parents relocated to Houston following Hurricane Katrina.   She has a series of poetry published by Thoughts In Black, Inc and contributed to South End Press’ Anthology “What Lies Beneath”

Why Tiffany wants to be a part of A Girl Like Me:  The voices of women are often marginalized and in the field of HIV my voice has become muted more and more not because I have HIV but because I don’t. So suddenly the little brown girl who conceptually understood the social justice issues of HIV at 10 is told her knowledge, passion, experience is not wanted or needed. HIV is me a Southern girl transplanted to the Northeast married to one of the original H’s of HIV.

Mandy (Portsmouth, UK)

My name is Mandy Webb and I was diagnosed HIV Positive back in 2002 after a long, long time of illness and looking back…wondering why the hell I wasn’t tested earlier???

I ended up being admitted to hospital in apparently the 3rd stage of HIV so it was touch and go that I would survive!!!  Luckily, I did survive…against the odds and had to start setting goals for myself to achieve. I had to learn to walk again which was, and still is, a huge hurdle…I walk, but it is painful and have had many falls as I think that because of the long time going undiagnosed (probably over 10 years plus) that the HIV has damaged my brain and spinal cord.

I managed to study a Fine Art Degree and won The Graduate of The Year Award for my degree show which was a gallery space filled with pieces based on my status. I got my first solo show at a local art space in Portsmouth and have had three since there.

Even though this whole experience at times has been pretty scary, it has also been very empowering for me.

Why Mandy wants to be a part of A Girl Like Me: I think I have a lot to offer to others with some of my daily experiences and how I deal with them…usually by creating art and a great sense of humour. (Read all of Mandy’s blogs.)

Celina (Winnipeg, Canada)

I’m a 27 year survivor of HIV. I’ve been widowed since the early 90’s  when my husband died of AIDS. I have a degree in Dramatic Studies and a Teaching Certificate which I used to teach high school in both French and English. I’ve been a single mother raising my 3 children to  productive adulthood. I’ve been on Palliative Care for over 2 years  now; but I’m still vertical, albeit wobbly in the legs. I live in the prairies, in a city called Winnipeg, in the province of Manitoba.  It gets nice and cold here in the winters, but our summers and lakes are glorious.  I am French-Canadian and my family has been very supportive of my condition and I’ve grown to  learn just who my friends actually are.   Though I was raised in the Catholic faith, I lean toward the eastern philosophy of living and to the  Buddha.

Why Celina wants to be a part of A Girl Like Me: Because “girls like me” were ghosts when I was diagnosed in the 1980’s.  I intend to change that , for myself, and especially for our younger generation of newly diagnosed women, and most of all for all our children.  They need models to reassure them that we did not just sit down and “take it”.  They need to know how we faced our fears, how we fought the stigma and refused to shut ourselves in isolation. (Read all of Celina’s blogs.)

Lynn (Minnesota, USA)

My name is Lynn, I am 41 years old and I live in Minnesota.  I have one young son who is the light of my life.  I hold a Master’s degree in the mental health field and work two jobs. I have been HIV positive for 2 years.  Breathe.  I learned of my HIV status on October 6, 2008, just a few weeks after I learned that I was finally pregnant with my beloved child.  Breathe.  I will never forget that day.  It was a Tuesday.  I was at the same desk from where I am writing this personal introduction.  My doctor called me and asked if I could come to her office that day.  I realized immediately it would not be a good visit.  I begged her to tell me over the phone what was wrong with me which she did as long as I promised to still come to her office that day so she could support me with this devastating news.  Breathe.  It’s been a very difficult process to move forward through this and to become a new mom.  I feel as though the universe has granted me with light and dark at the same time.  Life and death.  Breathe.  The joy and light of a child and the darkness of a chronic illness for which there is no cure.  An illness that is grossly stigmatized and isolates those inflicted with it.  I often wonder what is worse, the physical aspects of HIV, or the mental anguish that it brings.  Breathe.  I am now ready to reach out to give and receive support to and from other women who are going through this similar battle.

Why Lynn wants to be a part of A Girl Like Me I want to share my joy and my pain so that I may feel supported and hopefully provide a light to others.  I am profoundly aware of how alone I am in my current support community.  I have a wonderful family, a few supportive friends who are aware of my status and a great medical provider.  What I don’t have, are other women who are HIV positive with whom I can connect.  I am writing this blog as a radical means of self care.  I cannot live alone in this battle any longer. (Read all of Lynn’s blogs.)

Maria Mejia (Miami, FL, USA)

My name is Maria Mejia. I am a 37 year old Colombian female that lives in Miami,FL. I’ve been positive for 20 years. Although almost all my life I have been in long term relationships with HIV negative men, I am happily married to a woman that is wonderful and caring.  We have been together almost 3 years and she is HIV negative. I have no children but we will look into having :)…I am an activist, a peer educator, a caregiver. I volunteered for the Red Cross in education for the Hispanic HIV community and also the American community.  I was a pre- and post-test counselor. I have spoken in may conferences and have done a lot of outreach in the community, especially in the schools for prevention and education..and it is part of my every day life to educate everyone I can in this subject..Being HIV positive is nothing to be ashamed about! We are strong women, and we will take away all the stigmas slowly but we have to open up.

I remember my poor, strong mother when I told her. She told me you will not die from this, but you will tell the family you have another disease…I was a kid and she was ignorant to the subject..but without her love and support I would of never made it. Being HIV+ is not a punishment, it is just a condition that we have to live with! And it’s not a disease of homosexuals, drug addicts or prostitutes.  I have seen everyone from infants to 80 year old ladies with this condition! We have to empower ourselves and give ourselves self worth and teach people not to pity us..and believe me..at the end of the day they end up admiring us..because as I say we are soldiers.  We were struck with something delicate and serious. I am not going to sit here and minimize the seriousness of the illness…it is not easy.  That is also what I teach people that think ‘oh, I will just not protect myself because I just take some pills and I am fine!’ just cause they see i look good and look healthy.  They don’t know the side effects and things we have to endure mentally with this illness! So with all this being said…let’s continue this battle because one day we will look back and say YES, WE MADE IT..peace and love..Maria

Why Maria wants to be a part of A Girl Like Me: To empower other girls/women that after 20 years you can come out as a survivor. With all of the situations that we live being HIV positive, there is hope and a reason for all of this..and basically what makes me happy and full of JOY is to HELP others 🙂 (Read all of Maria’s blogs.)

Sonia(Roy) (India)

My (chosen) name is Sonia. I am 31 years old and discovered I am HIV+ less than a month ago. Still feels like a bad dream and I have been waiting for somebody to wake me up, but doesn’t seem to happen. I bumped into this website while searching on the internet for “Life after finding out you are HIV”. I am from India, and being a third world nation struggling for a place in the modern world, people are still are not ‘modern’ enough to accept HIV as a reality that can be a part of anybody’s life, whether it’s their fault or not. In fact my doctor, who is well aware of the social pressures of the community, has advised I keep this reality limited to my spouse and immediate family only. Hence the alias.

I was, till a month ago living in the UAE and extremely happy. My husband had a great job and life was good. We have been married for just above 3 years and been trying for a baby for the last 2 years. A routine bloodtest, for my Visa extension, brought up my HIV positive status and I was asked to leave the country right away. Leave my home which I had built  bit by bit. I am still not able to come to terms with the fact that I will never be seeing my beautiful home, full of precious memories, ever again.

Sonia on why she wants to be a part of A Girl Like Me: Since there are not too many people I can share my feelings with, I was happy to find a portal where I can discuss and share whatever my feelings are regarding my newly found status.  There are so many questions and emotions in my heart and feedback from a ‘circle of friends’ will make a whole lot of difference to my life. (Read all of Sonia’s blogs.)

Elaine (Cleveland, Ohio, USA)

My name is Elaine Henderson. I am a 39 year old HIV positive woman from Cleveland, Ohio. I was diagnosed in April 2008. I am a contract worker for the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland. I am an HIV/AIDS educator and advocate.

I live openly with my status thanks in part to a wonderful support system (all of my family, friends, case workers, and co-workers). They give me the encouragement to move forward and God gives me the strength.

The first person I told I was positive was my mother who lives in Chicago. If I had to pick out the most important words anyone has ever said to me that helped get me to this point it would be these words that she said that first day “No matter who you tell or when you decide to tell them, if they have a problem with it, it’s their problem.” Those words made me realize early on that what other people thought about me being HIV positive didn’t matter. I had to take care of myself and live the best life I possibly could. With the help of my Early Intervention Case Manager that is what I set out to do.

Elaine on why she wants to be a part of A Girl Like Me: Living with HIV is the hardest journey I have ever taken in my life. I mean truly living. I’m talking about dating, working, going to church and all of the things that living consists of. But, it can be done. I want others like me to know that being HIV positive is not a curse, it’s not a sin, and it is not punishment for any action. I want women to move past their diagnosis and live with HIV as just another part of life and know that they are not alone. (Read all Elaine’s blogs.)

B2 (Colorado, USA)

I am 56 years old and live in the mountains of Colorado. I was infected by my fiance in October of 2002 and diagnosed in July of 2003.  Very healthy, I taught aerobics for 21 years and now take yoga classes and fitball classes every week.  The outdoors is where I really play though-hiking, skiing, snowshoeing, camping, running, rollerblading.  I have been on meds for since July 2009 and part of a study at the University of Colorado Hospital.  Isentress and Truvada are the drugs I take.  I tried to stay off meds but my body eventually couldn’t handle the virus.  Before drugs, I took many supplements (I have a naturalpathic Dr. as well as an HIV Doc) in hopes of staying healthy.  I’ve always had a healthy lifestyle, eating right and exercising.  This virus shook my self concept to the core of my soul. But I’m determined to stay as healthy as I possibly can for as long as I possibly can.

B2 on why she wants to be a part of A Girl Like Me: It would be nice to connect with other women who may be experiencing some of my concerns.  I live in a very small town in the mountains of Colorado. (Read all of B2’s blogs.)

Vickie (Florida, USA)

Vickie is a 44-year-old woman who was infected with HIV in 1985.  She currently lives in Florida but was raised in a military family and has lived in many countries throughout the world.  She recently graduated with Masters Degree in Clinical Social Work and a Masters Degree in Public Health from the University of South Florida.

Over the past twenty years, Vickie has participated in fund raising and volunteer activities with various AIDS Service Organizations in her area. In 2005, she helped create and co-facilitate the “Sisters in Spirit,” a support group for women infected/affected with HIV/AIDS.

Vickie on why she wants to be a part of A Girl Like Me: I believe it is important that women around the world find a voice, find others who they can identify with, and find hope.  I am not alone and neither are you! (Read all of Vickie’s blogs.)

Linda (Michigan, USA)

Hello, I am a 50 year old woman from the Midwest & HIV positive. I am not sure how long…several doctors did not check me because I did not know “how to ask”. I was sexually active and showed precursors to testing…but because of the additional paperwork and because I ‘looked healthy’, as one said, I was never tested. I thought I HAD been tested!

More importantly…I am healthy! I am not on meds yet, and my body is fighting it. Nutrition, nutrition, nutrition!

Why is there so little said on nutrition? My doctor is only good for monitoring my levels. I have read about the body and immune system and increased my healthy practices on my own!

Linda on why she wants to be a part of A Girl Like Me: We get so little, if any!…nutritional information. My viral load hit 20,000 after a severe wasp attack. My body brought it back down. My doctor has no input. My Wellness staff…no input. I am not depressed. I’d like a lover, but that’s what got me in this ‘pickle’. I even forget I am Positive and have to remind myself. I think more of us could have a better quality of life, if we used nutrition to maintain our health. I heard a speaker from Africa say the very same thing in a radio address. He spoke of needing food not medicine, to make the people stronger. I am a long-term non-progressor, so I am sensitive to that. However, I am curious, if people get better nutrition….will their CD4 keep increasing and need less meds? Especially with newly diagnosed? Nutrition is key, for all health….not just HIV. BUT,  especially for HIV. (Read all of Linda’s blogs.)

 

Mano (aka Sharon) (Durban, South Africa)

I am a 29 year old yummy mummy from South Africa Durban with three boys: one five year old, a 19 year old (stepson) and my husband.  I have been married for five years.

I have a degree in Food technology and work full time fas a Food Technologist for an FMCG company in SA.  I am also studying towards a project management diploma part time.  I love my family, I love life.

Mano on why she wants to be a part of A Girl Like Me: After five years of being diagnosed, I am only now slowly coming into terms with my status.  It has taken me five years to truly know that I am strong and I will conquer. (Read all of Mano’s blogs.)

 

Jae Martin (S. California, USA)

My name is Jae, I am 39 years old and have been HIV+ for 18 years. I am a wife, mother to 3 boys, an employee, and full-time student. I live in Southern California, USA. I work in the medical field, the city I work in I come in contact with men that are HIV+. I just don’t have anything in common with them. First of all they are men. Second, most of them are gay. I am neither. I have a family and have been married for 21 years. My husband is in law enforcement and I was a stay at home mother for many years. He is a bit of a private person and has suppressed my participation in activism. So reluctantly I have agreed to forgo being a face to the masses to sitting back and Blogging about my own experiences.

Jae on why she wants to be a part of A Girl Like Me: I have been so alone when it came to women’s issues and HIV. I have always wanted to be a voice of women that are HIV+. Then I realized I don’t know any other women with HIV. When I got pregnant with my youngest, I was the first HIV+ patient to deliver a baby at that hospital. I still had nobody to talk to. I wish there was a website that I could have turned to when I had questions. Just to know that I wasn’t alone would have been nice.

More about Jae…I am a very outgoing person. If there is a challenge on the table, I am usually the one to accept. I am the first to accept an invitation to go to a Karaoke bar, and sing (no alcohol needed), although the singing would sound better to you if you were drinking. I am generally a happy person. I have a big heart and want to help everyone. This is my opportunity to help others like me.  Thank you for the opportunity to share my story. I hope my story might help someone create a positive one of their own. (Read all of Jae’s blogs.)

 

Dikeledi Mahlangu (Johannesburg, South Africa)

I’m a 25 year old single mother and an IT professional. I was born, bred and buttered in Johannesburg, South Africa. I am a co-founder of a youth group called Direct Devine Connection Club (D2Csquared). I hate seeing other people suffer and try, by all means, with all I have to change our generation one child at a time. I worked with HIV+ women while at university but as soon I moved back home I stopped because my family felt it was shameful to them. I have three great loves: 1) Food, 2) Books and 3) Art.

Dikeledi on why she wants to be a part of A Girl Like Me: I have been alone, scared and confused (and still am from time to time) it was my small (3) network of HIV+ women that kept me going. They didn’t do much, they just shared their struggles with me and I shared mine with them. And after their death I made it my mission to help other women with their struggles. (Read all of Dikeledi’s blogs.)

 

Waheedah Shabazz-El (Philadelphia, PA, USA)

Waheedah Shabazz-El, 56 years of age, is an African American Muslim Woman and retired postal worker who was diagnosed with AIDS in 2003. Shabazz-El is a founding member of the US Positive Women’s Network (a membership body founded in 2008 of, by and for women living with HIV in the US, working to develop healthy policies that affect the quality of life of women who are living with HIV/AIDS). She is currently employed by Philadelphia Fight as an HIV Counselor/Tester and Prison Reentry specialist.   Shabazz-El –El is also national organizer /trainer for Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project, CHAMP.

As a member of ACT UP Philadelphia, Waheedah serves as organizer, spokesperson and treasurer.  She was very instrumental in coordinating a “Condoms in Jails” campaign in 2006  that resulted in the signing of an updated condom policy in Philadelphia County Jails that gained inmates greater access to condoms and  having condoms added as commissary items.  She is a graduate of Project TEACH, and a member of the PRHCN (Prison Re-Entry Health-Care Network) both based in Philadelphia. She is an editor for a widely circulated Prison Health Newsletter and features a “Dear Waheedah” column where she corresponds directly with incarcerated individuals who may have questions about HIV or Re-Entry options.

In the area of research, Shabazz-El is Vice-Chair of the Community Advisory Board for Univ. of Penn’s Center for AIDS Research (CFAR). Shabazz-El has been the sole community representative on a protocol team of expert scientist and researchers who have developed an NIH approved US based HIV prevention study entitled ISIS, targeting women at risk through the HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN064).   She is a member of CHAMP’s PRAWG (Prevention Research Advocacy Working Group).

In addition, Waheedah is a member of Women of Color United Against Violence and HIV (WOCU) whose charge is promote reproductive justice and identify the intersections of domestic violence and increase in HIV infections.  She serves on the Ryan White Positive Committee for Philadelphia’s Office of HIV Planning.  Shabazz-El is a member of the National Association of People with AIDS (NAPWA) and board member of the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania.   Recently widowed, Shabazz-El continues to be a beacon of hope for many who struggle with the reality of living with HIV/AIDS.  She resides in the Overbrook section of Philadelphia, and has the full support of a loving family that consists of her 3 adult children and four teen grandchildren.

Waheedah on why she wants to be a part of A Girl Like Me: Mainly because I know how alone I felt when I was first diagnosed.  Not only did I feel alone but I felt violated, vulnerable and powerless.  Today I have taken control of my HIV and my destiny through the power I gained from other survivors.  Now I live the life and carry the message that you need not surrender your lives to HIV.  Now my life is full because I have learned the power of being a part of the solution and I learned that from a girl like me. (Read all of Waheedah’s blogs.)

 

Kate (Ohio, USA)

I am a 29 year old woman, wife and mother.  My husband and I were diagnosed during my pregnancy in 2007. I was raised in a middle class family and am well educated.  In fact, I hold three college degrees and am currently pursuing my fourth.  I am also a full-time professional, working for the state of Ohio.

Kate on why she wants to be a part of A Girl Like Me: I would like to share my challenges, fears and accomplishments with other women who are experiencing similar situations.  It is easy to feel so alone after being diagnosed and sometimes hard to remember that you are not.  I want to encourage others and share my strives. I hope to let other women know that they can relate to someone who is walking the same path through life. (Read all Kate’s blogs.)

Dawn Averitt Bridge (Nellysford, Virginia, USA)

Dawn Averitt Bridge was diagnosed with HIV in 1988 at age 19 and has since become one of the nation’s most prominent HIV and AIDS advocates as well as an accomplished speaker and published writer on women’s health issues.  Dawn is the founder of The Well Project (www.thewellproject.org), a 501(c)(3) organization formed in 2002 to improve the lives of women living with HIV and AIDS.  The Well Project’s mission is to change the course of the AIDS pandemic through a comprehensive focus on treatment and prevention for women.

As an advocate for social justice for people living with HIV and AIDS, Dawn has developed programs to increase awareness, accelerate testing, provide access to treatment, disseminate information and expand clinical trials.  She is a frequent speaker in corporate boardrooms, at national and international conferences and at major universities, and has been featured on CNN International, the CBS Evening News and in Good Housekeeping magazine.  In July 2007, Dawn received a Women Leading Global Change Award from the World YWCA for her leadership in the HIV and AIDS pandemic.

Dawn’s numerous board and panel affiliations range from a Food and Drug Administration Advisory Panel to several NIH Working Groups.  Dawn is a member of the Perinatal HIV Guidelines Working Group as well as a member of the Office of AIDS Research Advisory Council.  She has served on the organizing committees of several important scientific conferences, such as the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections and the National Women and HIV Conference.  Dawn also serves as an advisory board member for most of the pharmaceutical companies involved in the HIV arena.  As the founder of the Women’s Research Initiative on HIV/AIDS (WRI), Dawn has been instrumental in shifting the research paradigm to include more women and people of color.  Dawn was a catalyst for the design, development and implementation of the GRACE Study, among others.  Dawn’s unique ability to assimilate information and generate novel solutions makes her a highly sought-after consultant.

In 2000, Dawn celebrated the 12 years of living with HIV by completing the 2,167-mile Appalachian Trail hike from Maine to Georgia. She lives in Virginia with her husband and their two daughters. (Read all of Dawn’s blogs.)

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. april permalink
    April 10, 2010 10:58 pm

    Thank you for having such a resource available. I work with young ladies from abusive backgrounds who live in fear that the actions of others might have endangered their lives. I will share the website and blogs to my students for them to gain strength and knowledge. May each woman be blessed for her ministry to other. I will continue to pray and be a voice for greater awareness and knowledge.

  2. May 14, 2010 6:03 am

    My name is Dikeledi im HIV+ But im scared of my two sisters i think their also + the thing is i dont know how to face them and tell them to go and check please help i cant stop thinking about it.

  3. linda1st permalink
    June 2, 2010 12:14 pm

    I am humbled at the company I am in! We all seem so alone, but obviously…miles are the only thing separating us.

    I try to get active in my local group, but I am the heterosexual woman in a group of gay men. I have tried to become active as a speaker, but the process eludes me. Anyone of you, with all of the education you have amassed, if you could point me in the right direction, or offer suggestions…I’d be grateful.

    I am living at below poverty level, finding it difficult to keep power, water, and computer on.
    I am planning on returning to school, but I am not sure what to study to further my quest to share information on health and wellness, and speak about it.

    You are all an inspiration, I wish we could have breakfast or lunch together often…..Or Even Once! Be Well, Eat to Live, and Peace…..Linda

  4. November 26, 2010 10:16 am

    I’m having my 53rd birthday on Nov 30, 2010, which means I’ve had HIV for nearly 27 years. I was diagnosed in the crazy years; in the 80’s when AIDS=DEATH. My husband died in 1990, leaving me a widow with 3 children. Fortunately I was a teacher and able to work, remained asymptomatic for a number of years, without the use of any anti-retro viral drugs. I wish I had met ALL of you so long ago, as I wasted a lot of time in self-pity and depression. I do have a wonderful family and did manage to raise 3 wonderful children to adulthood. In keeping my blog, my little hiv voice has expanded and I’ve learnt to look at the world around me. I don’t have far to look to see the massive suffering that is going on in the world. I can sit in a fine dwelling, with warmth or coolness, depending on what I need. I receive palliative care in my home, all my pain medications are free, and I do have the comfort of a few very close friends. I’m tired of being stuck on myself, when I look at Africa and the epidemic that is destroying so many families. The poverty that rules the life of millions, which deprives children of parents; of food; of education , of safe water; of the basics. I finally woke up a little bit and decided that I could afford to share my tears with those who truly deserve them. And I still have the time to actually DO something about this growing hardship. I write, and I’ve published some of my work and I am currently looking for a publisher and I intend to donate the proceeds of my little book to THE STEPHEN LEWIS FOUNDATION. The foundation raises funds for the GRANDMOTHERS of the countless orphans left behind when their parents die of AIDS. These women are overburdened with the load of caring for small children, in extraordinary poverty. My goal is to assist as many as I can with the writings of my life with HIV/AIDS, which in comparison, is a small bit of sorrow.

  5. jae permalink
    January 4, 2011 12:18 pm

    What a truly inspiring group we have… thank you for you contrabutions!
    Jae

  6. k-gee permalink
    March 9, 2011 7:08 am

    HI + people Gisele i cant you hav bin living with HIV for nearly 27 years OMG im shocked….i was diagnosed in 2006..biliv or not i still havent told anybody, my family found out by mistake….. m nt taking medication yet….bt soo m gonna hav to face it one way or the other….i dnt find life interesting anymore…i guess il see with time

  7. k-gee permalink
    March 9, 2011 7:10 am

    you lot inspire me deeply..this is the only place/blog i feel normal in….i feel m still human

  8. DARAMOLA TOSIN permalink
    March 29, 2011 10:38 am

    Daramola Tosin is my name, living in Nigeria, tested positive 4years back, living as a single mother of a wonderful 3yr old boy…… what else can i say about myself? ok… living happily with my HIV status…..
    I love seeing or hearing from people who are living positively.
    LOVE U ALL.

  9. joy permalink
    May 10, 2011 9:51 am

    Just found out about this family of sisters a few days ago. am so excited because i have all along wanted a place where i can be myself and openly share my fears and joys.

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