Oakland, Calif., Woman Helps Others With HIV by Confronting Stigma
March 22, 2012
At the Summit Medical Center's East Bay AIDS Center in Oakland, Wellness Navigator Sylvia Britt seeks out HIV-positive women wherever they are to reconnect them to a regular medical provider. Through calls, hospital or home visits, Britt openly shares her story to encourage them to think not only of surviving, but thriving.
A recovered crack addict, Britt was diagnosed with HIV at 40 in 2003. She assumed she would be disabled, unemployed, and unlovable for the rest of her life. However, Britt said a team at Kaiser put her on the right medication, assuring her she would be fine. "And I believed them," she said.
In 2004, one of Britt's doctors recommended she become an advocate at Women Organized to Respond to Life-Threatening Disease, a female-led HIV/AIDS foundation. Her advocacy became a full-time job, which she maintained until 2007, when she left to pursue her dream of attending Spelman College in Atlanta.
Britt joined the Summit staff in March 2011 after returning to Oakland to care for her mother and further her education at Mills College. Along her journey, she has educated other HIV-positive women through discussion groups or simply by accompanying them to appointments to ensure they get answers.
Recently named a National HIV Hero by Bristol-Myers Squibb, Britt encourages women that they can get treatment, rise above stigma, and even enjoy romance again. And though she is nervous about doing so, she is appearing in a documentary on the HIV fight by Oscar-winning director Cynthia Wade.
San Francisco Chronicle
03.13.2012; Sara Hayden
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