My name is Kimberly Howard. Before I became a peer advocate at AIDS Project Los Angeles, I was a client.
I was diagnosed with full-blown AIDS on Feb. 13, 1998. After receiving this news, I came straight to APLA to find out what was available to women.
At APLA, I learned what a T-cell count was and how important a low viral load is. I went to the women's luncheons with my mom, and we gained knowledge together. I began to meet other women who were infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. I became active in speaking out on issues regarding HIV/AIDS and I began to volunteer at APLA.
Last February, a position became available at APLA for a peer advocate. The job description was to educate my peers. My definition of this is to help others know what meds are available and what is on the frontier ... to educate women on what they need to ask of their doctors ... to make them aware that HIV/AIDS affects them not only physically but mentally and spiritually ... to give them all the options available to help them make informed choices.
On the second and fourth Wednesday of each month we have Women's Luncheons. Many of the women who attend these luncheons are the same women who were here in 1998 to welcome me. I feel as though my life has come full circle.
As a client I know I need a lot of information in a basic way, so I try to continue that effort. As a woman, I know that I tend to take care of others before my own needs. So at the luncheons I always try to do something special.
If you're a woman with HIV/AIDS -- infected or affected -- please know that I am here to talk things over with, provide support and help you find answers to your questions. Please contact me at (213) 201-1677 or drop by the David Geffen Center, 611 S. Kingsley Drive, Los Angeles.