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Southern Women HIV/AIDS Leaders Speak Back to Their Communities

October 27, 2011

Leadership Conference

In October 2011, a powerful group of women living with or affected by HIV came together for the Women's HIV/AIDS Advocacy and Leadership Summit in Baton Rouge, La., to build their skills as leaders in the HIV movement. We asked these dynamic women, "What message would you want to share with your community about HIV/AIDS?" Here's what they said.

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Donna, New Orleans, La.; Diagnosed in 1999

My message to the community is that we need to find a cure. There are so many people dying, and there's no need for it.

Marcia Dorsey

Marcia Dorsey, Lafayette, La.; Diagnosed in 1996

My message to the community is exactly this: All of us who have HIV did not stand in line to get it. We weren't waiting around for our turn. We got infected by people who we loved who just simply didn't love us back.

Patricia Fleurinord

Patricia Fleurinord, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

I'm affected -- I've lost several family members to HIV, and my dad. What I want my community to know is that it's time to get tested, know your status, and just get educated and empowered about HIV.

Millicent Foster

Millicent Foster, Baton Rouge, La.; Diagnosed in 2002

It could happen to you!

Ronda Hodges

Ronda Hodges, Louisiana; Diagnosed in 2009

My message to the community is that being HIV positive is not being any color or gender, that it is just being a human being, and that the stigma needs to stop. We do have it and it's not going to go away, and people need to see that and respect it. Every disease kills, and so does this, except for now we have medicine to help us live longer. A disease is a disease -- no matter how you look at it or what the name of it is. HIV is a disease.

Janet Kitchen

Janet Kitchen, Tampa, Fla.; Diagnosed in 2005

My message that I'd like to leave my community is that it's important to get tested and it's important to know your status. I'd like to leave this message to everybody who is not infected with HIV: Everyone is positive unless they take a test to prove that they're not HIV positive.

>Meta Smith

Meta Smith, Baton Rouge, La.; Diagnosed in 2001

To the African-American community: HIV is a virus that we don't have to get. It is preventable. With condom use -- consistent and correct condom use -- we do not have to get HIV. That's my message.

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