Florida: One Woman's Odyssey of Drugs, Sex and HIV Leads to a New Life on South Beach
August 9, 2005
Not long ago, Merle Soden was pimping women in Harlem, selling and smoking crack, and robbing other hustlers. After she ripped off some neighborhood drug dealers and heard her life was endangered, she figured she would be safer hiding in rehabilitation facility at Daytop Village in Parksville, N.Y., for a while. It was here that she discovered she had repressed memories of childhood sexual abuse, got off drugs, and learned she was HIV-positive. Soden said she adopted the name Conscious after she finally got that way.
"The person who you're talking to right now is not the same person who lived that life," said Conscious, whose self-published autobiography, "Getting Unstuck, Girl to Girl, You Can Be Infected," is in development as a Showtime biopic with rapper Eve as star and executive producer.
"I thought everything I was doing, with the drugs, treating women badly, walking around like a gangster, I thought that had nothing to do with the sexual abuse," said Conscious. "But you know what, that sexual abuse makes you act out in all kinds of ways. You're not supposed to find out about sex that way. It breaks a child." The daughter of a single mom who sold drugs, lived off credit card fraud, and hosted drunken, drugged-out parties, Conscious was often left in the care of relatives.
Earlier this year, Conscious moved to South Beach to become a party promoter and speaker, telling her story to students and groups nationwide.
"I've got so much information. Information about HIV, information about female-to-female transmission, information about recovering from drug and alcohol abuse, information about sexual abuse, information about going from being down and out to bringing yourself up," Conscious said. She wears two watches, one just to make sure she takes her HIV medicine on time. "I have learned how to be strong. That makes all the difference," she said.
08.07.05; Lydia Martin
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.