It’s easy to look at the dark and depressing side of HIV and AIDS, but many women like Shatoya Brown, 35, use their situation to help others and enjoy life more.
Brown said in an e-mail that she works as a program coordinator for an HIV counseling and testing program at a community base organization in Brooklyn, New York. She has been HIV positive for 14 years and was diagnosed with AIDS two years ago. She acquired HIV and AIDS sexually.
The most common ways to contract HIV and AIDS is through exchanging bodily fluids during sexual intercourse, injecting needles and syringes from an infected person into your body or if your mother had HIV/AIDS during pregnancy, according to Avert.org.
Of course, HIV and AIDS can complicate many parts of a woman’s life, despite a positive outlook. “Life is different because I have to take medication, see the doctor more frequently and when I get into a relationship, I have to disclose my status,” Brown said. Losing a best friend and needing a hip replacement doesn’t help.
She said she attended support groups in the past for her condition and now attends the AIDS Walk every year in New York.
Brown is hopeful for an HIV vaccine and cure and said she thinks it’s great that there has been an improvement in the vaccine effectiveness. “Thirty percent is low but it is better than nothing,” she said. “If a vaccine can be invented, then maybe the next will be a cure.”
The positive outlook that Brown has can be shared through her advice to others with HIV/AIDS:
“Be strong and keep the faith. What does not kill you makes you stronger. HIV is not the end of the world. Life does not change because you have HIV/AIDS; whatever issues you have it will still be there. If you have positive people around you, positive things will happen. Take stress out of your life.”
Brown has empowered herself and others due to her newfound education about HIV/AIDS and her ability to educate others. “I have met a lot of wonderful people that are HIV positive and [were] able to help me with my diagnosis,” she said. “I was able to create great friendships.”