March #162 : Wonder Women - by Laura Whitehorn and Staff

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Table of Contents

Leading Ladies

Wonder Women

Crystal Clear

Go With the Flow

A Tell-Tale Heart

Going Rogue

Medicine Chest

Shifting the Starting Lines

The Power of Pampering

POZ Q&A: Senator Kirsten Gillibrand

Big Talk in the Big Apple

Faith in Numbers

Tropic Thunder

Are You Positive You’re Negative?

Editor's Letter-March 2010

Your Feedback-March 2010

In Memoriam

GMHC Treatment Issues-March 2010

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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March 2010

Wonder Women

by Laura Whitehorn and Staff

Tracey Dannemiller, 49 • AIDS educator • Lakeland, FL • HIV diagnosis: 1985
When I tested positive I went into denial. I thought, “If I get sick, I’ll know why. But if not, they must have made a mistake.” I didn’t want to believe it. I thought my life was over. I knew my husband had been diagnosed, but I was shocked and surprised, thinking, “Why me?”

Before I tested positive, I thought the stats were that one in a million people test positive. I envisioned a room to put 1 million people in, and I thought, “I’m going to be this person?” I stayed in denial for about eight years, until I finally came to grips with the fact that the children had to be tested. I had a second test performed in 1993 when my fourth child was born, and he is negative. But while I was pregnant with him, a doctor told me I needed to have an abortion because I was HIV positive. I have six children, and only one—she was born in 1989—has HIV.

Women are more vulnerable to HIV because we give our partners a chance to woo us, saying, “Oh, it’s going to be OK, and I’m faithful.” And women sometimes put ourselves at risk because we tend to be caretakers. We’re caught up in taking care of children or partners, and we tend to let ourselves go. Honestly, at times that has been true for me. I have put myself on the back burner, even with being such an advocate. There have been times when, for whatever reason—taking care of the family—I’ll say, “Okay, I’ll let myself go and tend to a different need now.” But the truth is that if I’m not around, I’m not going to be able to care for my kids.

One thing that spurred me [from denial to activism] was seeing and feeling death all around us. It seemed like there were people dying, dying, dying. Then in 1999, I first disclosed publicly that I have HIV, at a university here in 
Florida. One of my doctors asked me if I’d speak at a World AIDS Day event. At first I was a little hesitant, and then I felt in my heart it was the right thing for me. I am driven by the fact that there is so much animosity out there, so much misinformation, so many myths circulating, so much stigma, fear and ignorance. When my daughter was younger, a soccer team forfeited a game because they didn’t want their kids playing against her. So the voices of those of us who choose to be advocates need to be heard.

Another example of stigma: A family moved into our subdivision, our quote-unquote “typical” neighborhood. Anyone who moves into our neighborhood knows about “the AIDS family,” which is OK with us. But two of our children were playing outside, and this gentleman came out with a gun and shooed them away from his house. So we talked to him. [To educate people,] we meet the people where they are, try to explain so they can understand. Fast forward: Today, we are friends. Another time, in 1996, we were kicked out of our church. They made me resign from teaching Sunday school and working with the children’s choir.

I’m helping people along by speaking out through my nonprofit, Straight From the Heart of Florida. This is my purpose in life, aside from being a mother and wife. Speaking and sharing for me is very therapeutic. I have to do something to try to make a positive difference.

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  comments 1 - 6 (of 6 total)    

Ingrid Kloet, Rio Rancho NM, 2010-03-01 14:47:27
Dear friends I like to thank you from the bottem of my heart for the kind words. It feels so good to receive so many responses here and in my email, I feel truly blessed with so many friends, some of them I know in person many of them not, and it is from all over the world, I like to say thank you to all of you and really appriciate what you are doing for me. Warmly, have a great weekend. Ingrid

Dragonfly, , 2010-02-26 22:44:08
You are truly a survivor, a beautiful, brilliant, unselfish survivor. We have never actually met, but through our conversations I feel as if I have known you my entire life. Keep doing what you do, for me, for you, for all the HIV pos. people every where. We need more people like you and I proudly call you my friend.

Richard Brodsky, Atlantic Beach, 2010-02-24 13:35:57
Ingrid, you're a fighter and always have been. It's great how you look after your sisters and magazines like POZ cover our stories. One day maybe I can get you to revisit Kenya for the World AIDS Marathon, Last year we had the best time as we sponsored 3 orphan dinner dances for 700 orphans and one of them was in Kendu Bay, the ancestral home of President Obama's family.

saum Hassan, Nairobi, Kenya, 2010-02-22 18:11:55
God bless you, that is good work, you are doing, for really you have Inspir us, and others who dont know anything about HIV/AIDS. it is time people come out and tslk about it, in our muslim communit it is still a problem, but now you really helped US, thank again.we are praying for you, and you will live long, God bless you.

Kauthar Bitok, Ekdoret, Kenya, 2010-02-22 17:58:23
Hi Darling, Thank you so much for opening your heart and shareing this you have so, tachted many other peoples hearts, I belive anybady why will read this, will went to know ther HIV status. I am too Positive Living with HIV, and this is really encouraging. God bless you as you keep helping others,

Christine Harris, Buda, 2010-02-22 03:55:18
Ingrid ~ Thank you for sharing your story. You are truly an amazing women and an Excellent example for all.

comments 1 - 6 (of 6 total)    

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