Florida HIV Patient Shares Her Story: "It Took Me Two Seconds" to Make a Wrong Decision
February 8, 2007
On Sunday, around 75 teens gathered at Fort Lauderdale's African-American Research Library and Cultural Center to attend a health and wellness forum on HIV/AIDS. Organizers of the event said the topic was chosen specifically because the message is still not getting through to some youths. "They're not getting this in schools and they're getting misinformation from their peers," said Dr. Pamela Merritt, medical director of the HIV/AIDS division of the Broward County Health Department, an event sponsor.
According to the Health Department, people ages 13 to 29 comprise 24 percent of the county's 6,752 HIV cases and 15 percent of the 16,625 AIDS cases.
During the two-hour forum, teens watched intently as a local group, STOP, performed a skit that showed how everyday people can contract HIV. They asked detailed questions during presentations made by peer educators.
Damaries Cruz, 35, started out by telling the teens how smitten she was with her former fiancé's good looks and personality. "It took me two seconds to make the wrong decision," Cruz said as she recalled having unprotected sex that led to her contracting HIV 15 years ago. "Boyfriends and girlfriends come and go. HIV stays with you forever," said Cruz, urging the teens to protect themselves.
Though initially startled by Cruz's frankness, the teens soon had many questions: Did her fiancé know he had HIV when he passed it on? Does she feel healthy? Can she still date? Cruz answered "yes" to all of them.
More young girls should hear the messages the forum delivered, said Sadrina Habersham, 18, of Miami. "A lot of people know the right thing to do, but they're not doing it."
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
02.05.2007; Georgia East
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.