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Shero of the Month: Pat Kelly

April 5, 2018

Pat Kelly

Pat Kelly (Courtesy of PWN-USA)

Our Shero of the Month for March 2018 is Pat Kelly of Orangeburg, South Carolina. According to Tammy Kinney of Georgia, who nominated her: "Pat is a rebel when it come to women living with HIV! She is extremely versed in all areas in addressing the needs of women living with HIV unapologetically. She stands in her truth, rarely compromises and when she does, it is for the good of women living with HIV. Pat Kelly works diligently in her community and abroad to serve at an outstanding level of perfection. Pat is indeed a SHERO -- my SHERO!"

Pat has been an advocate and a leader for over twenty years. She was a founding member of Positive Women's Network - USA and is currently the treasurer of our Board of Directors. She also started a group in Orangeburg, A Family Affair, to do HIV outreach and education in the faith-based community. Most recently, as senior member of PWN-USA South Carolina chapter, she has been leading the chapter's campaign, funded by an AIDS United Positive Organizing Project (POP) grant, to educate the community and lawmakers about HIV criminalization laws in the state and then, along with a coalition she has helped build, change those laws. She is also leading the South Carolina host committee for our SPEAK UP! Summit next month.

Asked what accomplishments she is most proud of in her career in advocacy, Pat had a couple. "I created the Afghan of Life -- a big crocheted quilt. Each square has the initials of a person living with HIV and their year of diagnosis, and it's all different colors. I use it as an educational tool for the community; I use royal colors in it to show we are still royal people. We are people first and foremost. People choose their own colors for it. The quilt is full now. Some people on the quilt have since passed away. I bring it to health fairs and community events; it offers a way to start talking about stigma. Another accomplishment I'm proud of is our Serenity Garden in the back of my church. There is a red ribbon; at one time, it had the names of people in the community who had died. It's a way of being able to remember those who have died. And another thing I'm proudest of is my work on our efforts to modernize South Carolina's HIV criminalization laws. Starting the process is a great accomplishment; I can't wait to finish. We will be talking about HIV criminalization at our next Serenity Garden Celebration."

Related: Positive Organizing Shero: Mona Jessi


When asked what gave her the motivation to continue in advocacy, she thanked her mentors. "The people still doing the work after so many years. ... Sometimes I feel like I'm not appreciated and want to quit. Then I see people like Naina Khanna and Vanessa Johnson doing so much work that is so impactful in people's lives. And I think, if they can do it, so can I. If I don't do it, who will? I'm in the business of service, and everything I do for others also helps me. As I help others, I'm also helping myself."

Her advice for anyone new to advocacy? "Put on your big girl underwear. People will hurt your feelings; you've got to persevere. You have to be ready. People will fight you from everywhere; you'll feel like people don't care. Be determined. You have to have the passion to be a strong advocate."

Congratulations, Pat, on your many achievements, and thank you for your service! We look forward to continuing to work with you for decades to come!

[Note from TheBody: This article was originally published by PWN-USA on March 30, 2018. We have cross-posted it with their permission.]

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This article was provided by Positive Women's Network of the United States of America. Visit PWN-USA's website to find out more about their activities and publications.

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