Black Women Living With AIDS Thrive Thanks to Peer Support
August 31, 2010
Roberta Willis (name changed), 26, has come a long way since first discovering she was HIV-positive, thanks to a little help from her friends: peers and mentors who are also living with HIV. Raped and impregnated by a neighbor when she was 15, Willis didn't tell anyone, including her ob-gyn. It wasn't until her daughter was born that she learned they were both infected. "A year later my mother put us out," Willis says. "I was overwhelmed and ashamed, with nowhere to turn."
Willis saw a newspaper article about a clinic that specialized in caring for women and families affected by HIV/AIDS. "We just showed up, not knowing what to expect," she says. A female volunteer who had been living with AIDS for a decade greeted them. "She told me her story, helped me fill out the paperwork, and introduced me to the case managers and told me about services," Willis says. "I trusted her because she wasn't afraid to say that she was living with AIDS, and she wanted to help me." Nine years later and doing well, Willis volunteered as a peer advocate at the same clinic, offering emotional support and helping to link other women to medical care; sharing information on treatment, resources and support services; accompanying women to the doctor to help them ask questions and take notes; and role-modeling how to live a productive HIV-positive life. A year later she was hired as a paid peer advocate-educator -- the first job she had ever had. "I never want another girl or woman to go through this alone," Willis says.View Full Article
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