Positive Organizing Shero: Satrise Tillman

Satrise Tillman
Satrise Tillman
AIDS United

Satrise Tillman is a community leader and mentor in Detroit, MI. She has been living with HIV since September 2011 and recognized the need for more Trans women living with HIV to be in leadership roles in her community. Recently, she has been working closely with Bré Anne Campbell to open Sista Space, a safe space led by and for Trans women supported by the Positive Organizing Project, in collaboration with UNIFIED-HIV Health and Beyond. In recognition of Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, we had the opportunity to connect with Satrise to learn more about herself and her work in the HIV field.

This interview is a part of the series Positive Organizing Sheroes -- Highlighting Women Making a Difference. Positive Organizing Project (POP) is supported by Gilead Sciences, Inc. Learn more about POP here!

How did you get involved with Sista Space?

Bré Anne Campbell approached me to work with her in creating Sista Space in 2016. We noticed that in the Trans HIV-positive community, most people running the organizations are not HIV positive or not Trans. So there is a question of how can they best assist us, relate to our experiences, and build trust if they don't have our lived experience. A lot of girls especially feel more comfortable talking to someone who has lived their experience or has walked down the path that they are walking now. So we decided that we need more leaders heading up operations in our community.

When I think back to when I was diagnosed with HIV, it was very scary. I didn't have access to many resources in the beginning. You don't really hear many trans specific resources, so it was really hard. We have trans positive leaders we can have someone to go when we are in that time of need. From previous experience, I had no clue of what to do, it wasn't until I met Bré Anne Campbell and other couple of other girls that I discovered what my potential was. I want other girls to learn from my experience.

What services do you hope to provide at Sista Space?

First, it will be a safe space. After that, whatever people need, we want to support them. If they want a name change, we want to help provide it. And we definitely want to support girls to get trained for whatever kind of work they want to do, medical, social work, etc. we want to provide it.

I am also very interested in reaching out to the 30 and up crowd. In the community, we have people that we look up to, and those are the first people we run to when we have problems. If we have more of those people engaged, it would be a real benefit.

Right now, we're just getting started. Currently Sista Space is putting on a retreat in mid March and we already have girls signed up for a training that we'll be offering after that.

What message do you want to share on Women and Girls HIV awareness day?

Don't be afraid to be who you are and become someone great, because you are great. This is an open door, this is something that can be great. Don't hide from it. There's nothing to be afraid of. There are people who are here to support you.

Sarah Hashmall is communications manager at AIDS United.