Local and Community News
Pittsburgh: Vivacious Mom With AIDS Virus Publicizes Risks to Black Women
June 4, 2002
Every few months, Sheila Taylor invites a dozen strangers and friends into the living room of Beltzhoover house and announces that she is HIV-positive. Then she pokes the tips of her pink and silver nails into a condom and demonstrates how to use it properly.Adapted from:
The audience members gape at the vivacious woman with the stylish clothes until someone invariably interrupts: "But you look great. How could you possibly have HIV?" "That's the point," Taylor says, "Go get tested."
Taylor likes to give safe sex parties. Her advocacy is a big step in her growth as an HIV-infected black woman, a growing population locally. Two years ago, Taylor rarely admitted that she had HIV and never would have broadcast the news to strangers. When she got the virus from unprotected sex she was seething and terrified of becoming an outcast. It was her shameful secret, one that caused her to relapse into crack addiction. Today, the 38-year-old mother of three children, including a 7-month-old baby named Precious, is clean and an ardent AIDS activist.
The Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force (PATF) has seen a sharp increase in black women as clients. Of the PATF's 393 clients today, 75 (19 percent) are black women. That compares to 1990, when less than 2 percent of its clients were black women. Nationally, of the 136,219 AIDS cases among women reported since the beginning of the epidemic, 78,836 (58 percent) are black women, according to the CDC.
05.30.02; Cristina Rouvalis