July/August #136 : Pole Position - by Julie Pena

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Table of Contents

The Killing Fields


Vote of Confidence

Getting Crystal Clear

Mother Lode

High Definition

Control Issues

Going Green

The Mirror Has Two Chins

Trans America

Gimme Some Skin

Pole Position

RED Bull?

Uniform Care

Bush's Test Results

Achy Breaky HAART


A Ryan White Scorecard

Hot Dates-July/August 2007

The Art of Activism

Bringing Sexy Back

Trigger Happy

Culture Wars

Oui Are the World

Big Gulp

Editor's Letter-July/August 2007

Catch of the Month-July/August 2007

Mailbox-July/August 2007

Most Popular Lessons

The HIV Life Cycle


Herpes Simplex Virus

Syphilis & Neurosyphilis

Treatments for Opportunistic Infections (OIs)

What is AIDS & HIV?

Hepatitis & HIV

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July / August 2007

Pole Position

by Julie Pena

This Fourth of July, I’ll be thinking a lot about independence. I’ve lost my freedom so many times—only to regain it, then lose it yet again.

My world used to revolve around drugs; in the early ’80s in New York City, I was arrested three times for possession. After being set free, I moved to Texas, thinking life would improve. But I found myself in prison there on three felony convictions involving heroin and cocaine. I was still bound by drugs when I was released and returned to New York.

But finally, in 1994, I found the support to break the cycle of incarceration. I was living in a shelter when I met someone wonderful. We moved into an apartment, and I trusted him dearly. I thought I was free, forever, at last—until I learned that he was HIV positive and that I was too. I thought I was going to die, but this time I didn’t turn to drugs. I learned to live freely while being positive at New York City’s Housing Works, which put a roof over my head and self-respect in my heart.

I enrolled in the agency’s job-training program in 1996 and then became a Housing Works employee. I didn’t stop there. I had earned a GED in prison, so I decided to go to college and grad school. I have three degrees now—not bad for a seventh-grade dropout. As the director of a Housing Works program for positive women leaving the correctional system, I advocate for those who don’t have a voice. I help them declare their independence—from fear and stigma.

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