Over the past weekend, I was on the go. I had the opportunity to see some improv comedy, which was VERY cool. I also helped with an event called She Remembers. It was an event held in honor of Women’s History Month (March) dedicated to HIV/AIDS awareness. The event consisted of a prayer vigil and panel discussion about the effect of HIV/AIDS is having on the black community.
Ever since I was in high school, I have been an advocate for educating people about HIV/AIDS. It started when I was a volunteer with the A.S.K. U.S. program at AID Atlanta. A.S.K. U.S. is the youth based education and outreach program. A.S.K. U.S. stands for Adolescents Seeking Knowledge Understanding Safer Sex. As a junior/senior in high school, I was very active in the A.S.K. U.S. program at AID Atlanta. I joined the program because a good friend of mine did it first and when she told me about it, it sounded very cool. I was (and still am) always looking for cool and different things to get involved with. Well I joined and went through the training and came out with a passion to educate as many people as possible about HIV/AIDS. Not only did I want to educate them about the disease and how to interact with people who have it but I also wanted to educate them about protecting themselves from the contracting the disease.
Over the weekend, I was asked by someone (thanks Jodine Dorce for the introspection!) why I was an advocate/volunteer for HIV/AIDS. I answered her question but later I realized that I never said why. I only explained how I became a volunteer. I have a friend that has told me the why is the most important thing to discover. Once you know the why, you’ll truly understand the person. Well here is my Why.
When I was officially introduced to the severity of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, I wasn’t very sexually active. I was in high school and trying to figure out who I was as a person and how my sexuality fit into the whole scheme of things. I was dating and having boyfriends so sex was definitely around me. Two of my oldest friends had gotten pregnant at 17 and I knew of several other girls that had babies as well. I was definitely aware of sex but as far as I knew, the biggest ramification was pregnancy. Now that was enough to make me pause because I had absolutely no intention of having any kids while I was still a kid.
Then I learned about HIV/AIDS. I was floored at how this disease that was preventable and not passed through every day contact was spreading so quickly largely because of a lack of education and a stigma. It made very little sense to me how something as simple as using a condom could greatly reduce your chances of contracting this incurable disease but people weren’t using them. I was saddened to learn that kids my age were contracting this disease because no one was talking to them about it and they didn’t feel comfortable going to their parents. I totally understood and wanted very much to help.
As a part of A.S.K. U.S. we went out and did presentations and educational seminars for kids our age. We would do skits, presentations, demonstrations and question and answer sessions to educate them about safe sex, STD’s and HIV/AIDS. We went to churches, community centers and other gatherings of our peers. We were trained how to deal with the questions we may get and how to educate with care. It was awesome. I became much more outgoing and extremely comfortable talking about sensitive subjects like sex, STD’s, condoms and everything in between. I met some really cool kids of different backgrounds and socioeconomic statuses. Some of the kids in the program with me were gay, lesbian and bisexual and I learned to accept everyone for their differences and embrace them in spite of them.
It was a great time in my life and I shared it with two of my closest friends and one other classmate of mine. Going through that experience helped make me the person I am today. It also helped create the passion that I have for educating people about HIV/AIDS and safe sex. When I left Atlanta and traveled to Tallahassee for college, I took a big bag full of condoms with me. I created a tin o’pleasure that I kept full of condoms for anyone to stop by my room and use. I encouraged everyone I met to let me know if they needed condoms so I could get them for them.
I also did some volunteer work with Big Bend CARES, which was the HIV/AIDS organization in the Tallahassee area. So now that I’m back in Atlanta, I’m back at AID Atlanta. I’ve been doing mostly health fairs but now I am seeking other ways to get more involved.
So that is one of my Whys. Why am I am advocate for HIV/AIDS education? Read above.