May 2, 2012
Some local African-American women marked national Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day and the 40th anniversary of the publication of "Our Bodies, Ourselves" by taking part in an intergenerational symposium at the University of Pittsburgh. The March 10 event was hosted by Educating Teens About HIV/AIDS (ETAH) Inc.
"African-American women ages 25-34 are the leading group who are dying from AIDS," said Kezia Ellison, founder and president of ETAH. "We wanted this to be an intergenerational day because this is about all of us."
"What we've found is that just because policies exist, doesn't mean it's trickling down," Ellison said. "We have information; we have the statistics, and the infection rates are still increasing."
Dr. Nekesha Oliphant, who practices family medicine and psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, was among the symposium's speakers. "A lot of what goes on in our thought process affects our physical body," she told the grandmothers, mothers, and daughters in attendance. "In the US, there's a stigma" about HIV/AIDS. "We don't talk about it."
Other speakers shared their personal stories of living with HIV/AIDS. Shelia Taylor, a peer advocate with East Liberty Health Care Center, said her HIV-positive diagnosis "was the most devastating information [my family] had heard. But luckily God had blessed me with a good family. I challenge you all to educate someone," she said. "This disease is 100 percent preventable."