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U.S. News

South Dakota: National HIV Speaker Shares Personal Story With Local Students

March 14, 2013

On March 12, James Pedro, a 21-year-old national HIV/AIDS speaker, spoke to Stanley County and Pierre Indian Learning Center students to raise awareness and educate them about HIV. The South Dakota Urban Indian Health organization sponsored the event through a grant from the US Department of Health and Human Services. Pedro shared his life story of growing up while taking care of his single mother who had been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS.

Pedro was born in California in 1992 to a 20-year-old college student mother who had contracted HIV from a boyfriend after Pedro's father had left them. In the 1990s, an HIV diagnosis amounted to a death sentence. "The main stigma was that it happens to people who are sharing needles and are drug addicts. It happens to people who are gay," Pedro said. However, Pedro stated that anyone can get HIV, stressing that HIV is present in every US state, and that every 9.5 seconds, someone is infected. He declared that the idea "it will never happen to me" accounts for 94 percent of all new HIV cases worldwide. One in five people who are living with HIV are unaware that they have it.

When his mother's adopted parents discovered that their daughter was HIV-infected, they disowned her; thus, she had to live on her own. Pedro's mother devoted her life to raising him. Pedro's grandmother invited them to live with her. As a four-year-old, Pedro understood that his mother was sick, but her illness seemed normal to him. When he was a bit older, he found that others were afraid of his mother because of her illness. Thanks to his grandmother, Pedro quickly learned to cook and clean; by the age of eight, Pedro was able to take care of his mother, even at her worst. His mother learned to live with her illness.

Today Pedro is a professional dancer living in Tulsa, Okla., with his mother who has since had two more children, both of whom were born without HIV. Soon Pedro will attend the Kansas City Art Institute. He enjoys the culinary arts, beginning when he learned to cook as a small child who took care of his mother. He particularly likes traditional Native American foods. Pedro also gets tested for HIV on a regular basis and encourages others to do the same.

Back to other news for March 2013

Adapted from:
Capital Journal (Pierre, SD)
03.13.2013; Allison Jarrell

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
See Also
More Personal Accounts of Native Americans Living with HIV

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