I started handing out condoms in gay bars and providing AIDS education in Greenville, North Carolina in the ’90s when many of my friends were dying all around me. I affectionately became known as the “Condom Queen.”
In the late ’90s, I moved back home to South Boston, Virginia, had a family, went back to nursing school and lived quietly in my small town with small minds. I was no longer actively involved in AIDS education as there were absolutely no services or organizations to partner with in my hometown.
While on family vacation at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina last year, I was having lunch with a dear friend who I had not seen in more than 20 years. He was telling me about the work he was doing with the local AIDS services organization, and I had an epiphany. I knew in that very moment I was supposed to go back to school to become a nurse practitioner and start an AIDS service organization in my hometown.
I came back from vacation renewed and full of purpose. I immediately applied to Old Dominion University and started to research how to start an AIDS service organization from the ground up. That was in July 2011.
On December 1, 2011, The Halifax County AIDS Service Organization had its first meeting, in honor of World AIDS Day. Since that time, a small group of people with a common purpose, passion and commitment have come together to educate our community and ultimately provide services for those infected with or affected by HIV. To date, most of our efforts have focused on raising the necessary funds to apply for our non-profit status. We have participated in many community events to let people know we are here.
Once our non-profit status is approved, we will be applying for Ryan White funding so we can actually provide services like transportation, medication assistance, and linkage to local services. Currently there are 87 documented cases of HIV in Halifax County. Because of the stigma and lack of resources, most people travel several hundreds of miles to receive care. The Halifax County AIDS Service Organization is hoping to change that.
Additionally, I was recently accepted into the graduate Family Nurse Practitioner Program at Old Dominion University. My plan is to open a clinic locally for people with HIV. We are a tremendously rural area, and unfortunately, the mentality here regarding HIV/AIDS is full of fear, ignorance and hatred. Surprisingly, our organization has been well received, and we are fighting the good fight to educate others and de-stigmatize this illness. We are proud to be a part of the POZ Army, and we look forward to standing firm, with unfailing support, to fight this fight together, locally, nationally and internationally. We will overcome.
What three adjectives best describe you?
Passionate, intelligent, committed
What is your greatest achievement?
Raising children who love all people
What is your greatest regret?
I live by the code of no regrets.
What keeps you up at night?
Thinking about all the things I want to do with my organization, school, and family
If you could change one thing about living with HIV, what would it be?
That religion would never be part of the discussion!
What is the best advice you ever received?
Don’t let the opinion of others dictate your actions or lack thereof.
What person in the HIV/AIDS community do you most admire?
Paul Temple Coleman. He is the first person I ever met with AIDS in 1989, and 23 years later, he was my organization’s first speaker on a panel discussion! He is truly inspiring!
What drives you to do what you do?
The love of all people and knowing there will never be enough people around to show compassion and understanding
What is your motto?
Together, we can make a difference!
If you had to evacuate your house immediately, what is the one thing you would grab on the way out?
If you could be any animal, what would you be? And why?
A cat: They are full of personality, take lots of naps and appear to have not a care in the world.
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