By Carol A. Poore
President & CEO, Southwest Center for HIV/AIDS
When I joined Southwest Center for HIV/AIDS as the first woman president and CEO, I was honored to be selected to lead a nonprofit chronic disease prevention, wellness and research organization in Phoenix, the fifth-largest metropolitan city in the United States. This was a bold step that few women have been invited to take. Most AIDS service organizations had previously been run by men, dedicated pioneers of HIV/AIDS, who fearlessly advocated for healthcare resources at a time when many ignorantly labeled AIDS as a “gay man’s disease.”
As a woman from corporate and higher education backgrounds, I have been proud to take the baton of creating awareness and urgency to shatter the myth that HIV has gone away… to refute the stereotype that HIV is a “gay” disease, and to dispel the erroneous belief that a pill prevents the disease. Nothing could be further from the truth. Once diagnosed, HIV/AIDS is a chronic, life-threatening, debilitating disease that will never go away until the day a cure is discovered.
When I first stepped foot into the lobby of Southwest Center for HIV/AIDS, I immediately felt that I had arrived to a warm, hospitable place where judgment and scorn was banished and health concerns were addressed. Those who seek help find new resources and healthy solutions so that they can be empowered to help themselves. This is a much different response from the awkwardness and dismissive attitude I occasionally encounter from people who ask me about my job. How can people prevent the spread of a disease if they’re unable to discuss and understand it?
I come to work everyday with the inspiration of working with a great team of dedicated people who are bringing hope, encouragement and empowerment to both young and old who are living with HIV/AIDS. The lessons we can learn and share apply to all who battle chronic diseases, placing emphasis on living well and strong, and making the most of each day by living life with purpose and authenticity.