California: Fullerton Mom With HIV Speaks Out Against Stigma
June 10, 2011
Sylvia Mata's looks defy how fatigue, headaches, restless legs syndrome, high blood pressure, and myriad other ailments make her feel. Diagnosed as HIV-positive 14 years ago at age 37, this Fullerton mother of four now counsels Orange County students on behalf of the AIDS Services Foundation.
"I have a lot of bad days in between the good days," said Mata, whose 14-pill daily regimen helps sustain her health.
Thirty years after the first documented AIDS cases, 1.7 million people in the United States have contracted HIV, and 600,000 of those have died, according to Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation statistics. Kaiser notes that 1.1 million are living with HIV; experts say 20 percent of those are unaware they are infected.
The US "sense of urgency about HIV/AIDS as a national health problem" has decreased alarmingly, says a Kaiser study. And CDC reports acknowledge that the stigma still surrounding AIDS is contributing significantly to HIV's spread.
Mata chairs the county's HIV planning council. In addition, she has joined Orange County's new HIV/AIDS Advocacy Team to combat complacency by promoting prevention awareness and stigma reduction, and to push for HIV/AIDS public policy advancements.
Mata recounts how she contracted HIV through a monogamous, heterosexual relationship. And, although telling her story has caused her family to be ostracized or to lose friends at times, she knows it has been worth it when students write to her and say, "I'm going to be more careful."
Thom Moser, the advocacy team's public policy chairperson, also got involved to help reverse public misperception, misinformation, and complacency. "Most everyone still believes it's a gay disease and it really isn't," said Moser. "It affects everyone."
Orange County Register
06.02.2011; Yvette Cabrera
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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