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Self-Respect Key to AIDS Prevention, Activist Says

December 10, 2002

Paulette Hogan, who has performed in musicals since she was a child, said her favorite role yet was Evileen in the "The Wiz," when she sang "Nobody Bring Me No Bad News." But the 39-year-old Oakland resident got almost more bad news than she could bear in February 2001. Hogan learned she was HIV-positive.

"There's this wonderful life that I've had. I was knocking on all kinds of doors," she said in an interview, "But when I tested positive, for some reason my knock was stopped. I didn't know how much time I had." Hogan's knocking on doors again, however, and this time it's with an impassioned message: The best protection against HIV/AIDS is self-respect. "When you respect yourself, you do not allow yourself to get involved in risky behavior," Hogan said.

Hogan, who is also an ordained minister, now travels the country spreading her gospel. This summer, she addressed about 2,000 people at Detroit's gay pride festival, and in honor of World AIDS Day, she talked to about 400 people at the Berkeley, Calif., church she attends.

The mother of two teenagers struggled for months with shock and fear, and felt isolated even in the HIV/AIDS support groups she attended. But an encounter with Women Organized to Respond to Life-Threatening Disease, an Oakland advocacy group for HIV-positive women, lifted her attitude. "It was the beginning of my living again," Hogan said.

What women need most to protect themselves from HIV, Hogan emphasized, is better self-care. "Among African-American women, the rates will continue to rise until we start feeling better about ourselves," she said. "We must start taking care of ourselves. Stop using the ER as your primary care," and visit a doctor for checkups and at the first sign of illness, she said. And, she emphasized, get tested for HIV. "It's far better to know your status," Hogan said.

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Excerpted from:
Oakland Tribune
12.01.02; Suzanne Bohan




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