Sunday, February 20, 2011

Genia's Story; Hope is Vital (HIV)

By the time the world first heard the word AIDS, I was already grown up and out of school. The little I did hear about the virus seemed to exclude anything to do with me, so I was never concerned with it.
Over a decade later I started to get extremely ill and to make a long story short, I spent over 7 years seeing doctors and specialist and undergoing almost every test known to man. By this time I had lost almost 125 lbs., most of my hair, most of my teeth and every one of my fingernails. At that time my primary doctor told me “whatever was killing me was in my mind” and proceeded to prescribe antidepressants.
I called my daughter who lived over 1,000 miles away and told her I was moving up near her so that when I died she could finish raising her 2 sisters. That move saved my life! Not only had I not known I was at risk for HIV but my docs hadn’t known either.

Six months after moving I went to the ER with PCP pneumonia and thrush so bad I couldn’t breathe and the first thing the doc said to me was have you ever been tested for AIDS? The test came back that I had full-blown AIDS (probably had been infected 6-8 years) and my immunity was so low it was iffy if the meds would even work. Thankfully they did and I’m still here 8 years later!

I spent a year grieving and just feeling lost, but during that year I read everything I could get my hands on, learning about every aspect of HIV/AIDS. By the end of the year I knew I had to do something, besides just sit and wait to die, so I got involved with HIV prevention (I didn’t want anyone to not know the risks) then I got involved in advocacy and fighting stigma.

Through the years I’ve done tons of public speaking and educating, I’ve served on a half a dozen State boards, done a PSA for television, and many other things. I am in no way proud of the fact that I have AIDS, but neither am I ashamed. This disease does not discriminate, it can affect anyone! The "H" in HIV stands for HUMAN! To me personally, the greatest barrier to fighting this disease is the stigma surrounding it.

Until we have overcome the stigma of HIV; a cure, treatment options, prevention and everything else will always face barriers. Ignorance + Fear=Stigma. If those of us that are able to and can Rise Up to HIV we can make a difference in how people view this disease, and that will be the greatest advantage we have not only around HIV/AIDS, but in making this world a little better than we found it.

Hold onto HOPE, because Hope Is Vital!


  1. wonderful. i live in miami and i will volunteer for whatever is needed....

    much luv,


  2. Very sad and beautifully written keep up the good work


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