One in a weekly series about the Black AIDS Institute's Greater Than AIDS ambassadors, who are using their VIP status in Black America to increase awareness of HIV/AIDS and HIV testing and treatment.
"It means beating it, arming ourselves with knowledge; it means coming together. I think it means loving; I think it means self-respect," says Tamara Taylor of the Fox TV show Bones, defining what the slogan "Greater Than AIDS" means to her. "I remember the first time I was made aware of the disease: I was in my teens, and all you heard was it was this big, bad, scary thing that you'd hope you never, ever have to deal with.
"But being from Canada with our 'horrible socialized medicine,' " the Toronto-born actress adds with a laugh, "I went to the clinic and got myself tested as often as I had to."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in five people with HIV in the United States are unaware that they are infected. "It's a whole lot easier to bury your head in the sand and pretend things aren't happening," says Taylor, 41. "It's the path of least resistance. But unfortunately it's not the way to end this epidemic."
By getting tested early and accessing care and treatment, people diagnosed with HIV can live long, healthy lives--and help protect others. And if the numbers of new infections can be reduced, many, including Taylor, see an end in sight to the disease.
"I think about a whole lot of people living, and living happily and living healthy," she says. "A whole lot of people living out loud."
Janice Rhoshalle Littlejohn is a Los Angeles-based freelance journalist, author and documentary filmmaker.