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HIV -- At an Airport Near You!

November 15, 2013

Rev. Andrena Ingram

Rev. Andrena Ingram

I am well known to walk around my community on Germantown Avenue in Philadelphia in my HIV shirt. I have worn my shirt at a conference in Orlando (pretty much insulated with church folk). I wear my HIV shirt in supermarkets.

It is my intention to send out a few messages:

  • I am just what the shirt says: HIV Positive.
  • I am what HIV looks like.
  • HIV is in your midst, walking amongst you -- do you know it?
  • I'm not afraid to put myself out there.

Nine times out of 10, all I will get is the side eye.

Yep ... folks will look first at my shirt out the side of their eyes ... then do a quick up and down -- and keep it moving.

Only one of two might ask me what my shirt means.

At the airport in Atlanta, on this particular day, as I came through the security gate, the security officer said (as I went through): "Hey, what's up with that shirt?" I turned around and said: "Oh, I am HIV positive." (And in my head: What, you don't know?) But he was busy, didn't have time to engage him fully ... it was, after all, at the security gate.

Rev. Andrena Ingram

Rev. Andrena Ingram

Nothing I had on buzzed ... but my shirt buzzed his curiosity. Thankful he at least asked the question.

As I stood in line waiting for a "pastrami on rye" (remembering my time in Kentucky the week before, at the writing workshop), there was a young man who couldn't take his eyes off of the shirt.

In my head, I'm thinking take a picture, it'll last longer. Instead, I said: "Hi, would you do me a favor and take a picture of me in my shirt? I'm working on an assignment." He said: "SURE!" As he was taking the photo, I asked him: "Have you been tested?" He never answered my question. His friend had returned from paying for his sandwich.

They walked away, laughing. About what? I don't know.

Make no mistake. HIV is still around ... just waiting to encounter you. Just waiting to engage you. HIV is in your community, in your supermarkets, and yes ... especially in the airports.

Get informed. Know your status. Get Tested. Abstain ... and if you cannot ... protect yourself.

Rev. Andrena Ingram (also known as "Pastor Andrena" or "Pastor Ingram") is a strong advocate for those living in the margins, as she once was. She is the pastor of St. Michael's Lutheran Church on Germantown Avenue in Philadelphia, Pa.

Send Pastor Andrena an email.

Read Pastor Andrena's blog Is the Ribbon Enough?

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Reader Comments:

Comment by: Anna (New Jersey ) Sun., Dec. 1, 2013 at 2:35 pm EST
Hi. I am the first generation living past 21 yrs with HIV. My comment is what studies are being done to the children who were born of two positive parents. I had two children one 31 yrs now and the 26 yrs. both are negative . One very healthy the other not so. He had double hernia at 7 months has had non Hodgkin's lymphoma and has lost his dad at 3 yrs old. Now he has a lot of bone pain said to be from the aggressive chemo given to him . But the fact remains that he is in pain and cause of his age they won't give him pain meds they rather do all this other stuff that doesn't work and now just so he can keep his job due to pain has gotten addicted to pain meds from the street , he says it's the only way to stop the hurt so much so that he can work a full day . He just wishes as he is an adult that a doctor would issue him pain meds so he wouldn't have to spend all his money on the street. He never used drugs before or does anything else. As an adult who came from two positive people he is aware that he would of never has cancer ( that type) even if it wasn't for his parents being HIV positive . So now where is he to go in life . Where can he get help . All those needles pricks and X-rays do not help the pain . He needs to work from 6 am to 9-10 pm 6-7 days a week who is going help him . We need do studies on what happens to these children as they age cause the compromised immune system they are born with but lose after after 6 months does have some problems , if they were acknowledged he would be able to get on disability or a doctor would out him on pain meds management. So what are we to do when our children are showing signs that being born to positive parents can have serious set backs . Any suggestions!!
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