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 May 10, 2010

“The color of my skin does not automatically identify me.” That is what I wish so many of my friends would say as I see countless agencies target their HIV prevention efforts to African Americans but my friends are Ethiopian, Nigerian, Jamaican, Haitian, Dominican or some other nationality and therefore get missed by these educational efforts. I honestly recognize that the CDC’s numbers are primarily reflective of African Americans but since the U.S. policy has traditionally banned entry of persons with HIV to this country all those black folk who are not African American are acquiring it here and we in the community are doing nothing to stop it because we see some shaded hues and think that this one message will fit all.  When the reality is, from my own personal experience, sex and HIV is not viewed or conceptualized in the same way. I remember those first conversations with my husband about risk as an immigrant who also had the added stigma of being one of the early “identified risk groups” based on country of origin. He did not identify with the messaging that was presented and certainly did not see his risk or mine because of it.

 The color of my skin does not automatically identify me. Does yours?

About Tiffany: Tiffany B. Dominique is a 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”

I would like to contribute to “A Girl Like Me” simply because 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.

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