March 14, 2007 Print version
I have had to deal with some rather harsh realities in my life -- the hardest one being that my mother is HIV positive. Even as a child, I knew my life was destined to be different from the lives of most children. My grandmother raised me, and my brother is mentally challenged due to birth complications stemming from my mother's intravenous drug use. Because of her addiction, my brother and I hardly ever saw our mother, and over time we learned to accept that. Growing up and reflecting back over my child-hood, I wish I knew then what I know now, unfortunately, as a child my mother's drug addiction was stronger than her love for me. I knew she loved me, but sometimes it was hard for me to grasp the concept of what it really meant to be an addict. I often felt like I had assumed the role of the “older child" and her addiction was the newborn baby. As a child, I never once thought about AIDS being this vast pandemic that would soon become a major plague in the African American Community nor did I think that African American Women would make up half of the new AIDS cases. I just knew that people died from these diseases.
Although I have faced many obstacles and challenges in my life, I continue to work to promote HIV/AIDS awareness. My practice in working with HIV/AIDS prevention has been one of my life's more worthwhile challenges. I have now come to understand that the dynamics of class, race and socio-economic status accounted for these differences in my life and once I realized this, I made a personal commitment to destroy these structures for myself, my family and my community. I can honestly say that working as a peer educator and program manager has been a truly humbling experience. It has taught me "the race is not given to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all."
Through this personal growth as a young woman I am now able to build my own personal self-worth through the recognition of my efforts. It allows me to feel good knowing that everyday, when I wake up, I am given another day to continue the legacy of those in the same fight to end this crisis within the African-American community and as I grow and move on to the next stage in my life, I can say that I am grateful for everything that I have had to face. My struggles have made me stronger, and helped me develop character as an African-American woman. Through my mother's addiction, I have learned to become strong and stay focused. I have also learned the beauty and joy of helping others in need. My final words to my brothers and sisters that are affected by this pandemic are: HIV/AIDS is not a death sentence, we have the power to make healthy choices and we can live longer if we protect ourselves. "Get Informed, Get Tested, Get Treated, and Get Involved." A simple test might very well save your life. So I often ask myself, would I change anything? The answer is no! Life experience, preparation and training have been central in helping me achieve my goal of soaring to the heights of my endless possibilities. See you at the top.