September 2, 2011
Six years after a 1995 sexual attack, Joyce Turner Keller learned the rapist had infected her with HIV. But since then Keller has persisted emotionally and physically, becoming an advocate for AIDS awareness, prevention, and resources.
"I had to reach down deep ... for the energy to make sure I was going to be OK," Keller said of the period following her diagnosis. "You can do this," she thought to herself. "I knew I was going to live."
Keller, who is a minister and a grandmother, founded the nonprofit Aspirations a decade ago to help educate people about HIV/AIDS. "If it was happening to me, it was happening to someone else. If I didn't know anything about HIV, I wasn't as smart as I thought I was," she said. Aspirations focuses its outreach on teens and covers related topics including violence, conflict resolution, self-esteem, and teen pregnancy.
Occasionally, Keller, who accesses her medications through the state AIDS Drug Assistance Program, with additional help from Volunteers of America, will bring along her many medicine bottles to educate youths about the reality of AIDS. "Young people need to know there is no quick fix to this," she said. "It's horrific what you go through" before learning what the body can and cannot tolerate, she added.
Yet, if someone asks Keller how she feels living with HIV/AIDS, her answer is, "Empowered." "God has been good to me," she says.