New York, NY
Katrina Haslip was incarcerated at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility and while in prison, was diagnosed with HIV. Appalled by the discrimination and mistreatment of her fellow inmates living with HIV/AIDS, she and other inmates, including Kathy Boudin and Judy Clark founded ACE (AIDS Counseling and Education), creating a powerful group of peer educators and advocates. Once released, Katrina continued her fight against stigma and discrimination by mobilizing to end women’s invisibility because their symptoms were not included in the CDC definition of HIV. She was a defendant in the ground-breaking lawsuit against the Federal Government challenging women’s exclusion. She continued her activism until she died in 1992, just weeks before the CDC definition changed to include women with HIV which provided women access to lifesaving treatment and support.
Jeanne Gapiya tested positive for HIV in Burundi in 1987 when pregnant with her second child. Her doctor told her that because of her sero-status she had to have an abortion—and then removed her uterus without consulting her. After hearing a sermon in the National Cathedral describing people with HIV as sinners, Jeanne became the first person in Burundi to publicly and without shame declare herself HIV-positive. She discovered she was not alone and in the absence of meaningful HIV/AIDS care, she launched a national movement to provide access to treatment and education.
She is the president of ANSS (Association Nationale de Seropositifs) the only organization in the country that was serving HIV+ Burundians. Through the ANSS she founded a medical clinic, smuggled essential anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) into the country, and successfully pressured her government into finally providing these treatments free of charge to its citizens.
New Orleans, LA
Gina Brown came of age in the shadow of sexual and physical violence and contracted HIV from the father of her two children. Diagnosed in 1992 while pregnant, she’s told “You have AIDS and you’re gonna die.” Her first thought was suicide but she enrolled in an early pre-natal preventative study. Her daughter Jamanii, was born HIV-negative and Gina began her own journey of rebirth as an HIV activist.
Positive for two decades, Gina has worked in the HIV field for over a dozen years and has become a valued advocate and speaker. She has made it her life’s mission to help the broader community gain a higher level of health literacy and to bring to light the connection between HIV and intimate partner violence.
‘Rolake Odetoyinbo is a prominent voice in the international fight against HIV/AIDS. She comes from the country that bears the world’s second-largest burden of HIV. Approximately 3.5 million Nigerians are, like ‘Rolake, living with the virus—and most of them are untreated, ashamed and afraid. After she learned that she had contracted HIV from her husband, she returned to her parents’ home. There she reconnected with a college friend Omololu Falobi, a prominent journalist, and began to transform herself from a shy housewife to a bold, charismatic media figure. She mobilized through a column in the biggest selling newspaper in the country and her own TV show to challenge the rampant stigma and discrimination against HIV positive people in Nigeria. She fights for treatment access and HIV literacy for all with an emphasis on the empowerment of women and girls.
Dr. Joyce Turner Keller
Baton Rouge, LA
Joyce is a mother, grandmother and HIV/AIDS activist who is HIV-positive and the founder and president of Aspirations, which addresses the issue of HIV/AIDS through outreach efforts at health fairs, homeless shelters, churches, schools, colleges and universities, vocational centers and women and children abuse centers. Living in one of the cities with the highest rate of new HIV infections, Joyce provides testing, education and counseling and regularly hosts a support group called, Straight Talk at the Kitchen Table, “celebrating those living with HIV/AIDS, remembering those that lost the battle.”
Mary Bowman is a 24-year-old spoken word artist from Washington who was born with HIV. As a child, the hospital became her second home and her sero-status was hard to share with her classmates and teachers. Determined to make a difference, Mary started an organization, Purpose Over Entertainment (P.O.E.T.) that uses social media, and the visual and performing arts to foster conversations that confront the stigmas that surround HIV/AIDS. Honoring her mother and all the women who died of AIDS, the “Dandelions” of the world, she spreads a message of hope and challenges her own generation
New York, NY
Sonia Rastogi received her diagnosis in the age of ARVs (anti-retroviral treatments.) Although an HIV diagnosis was no longer the death sentence that it once was, Sonia, who was in her early twenties, was devastated by the news. Slowly, she started seeking out organizations who could provide support, community and information—and there, she found her life’s work.
Sonia was the Advocacy Coordinator with Positive Women’s Network/U.S. and continues to be one of its most articulate and impassioned spokespersons. She supports and trains women living with HIV across the country in advocacy skills and media/communications, so that they have the tools to speak up, organize and take action on behalf of themselves and others.
Abidjan, Ivory Coast
Rose Dossou was a participant in an early AZT versus placebo trial, Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT), in Abidjan in the mid-1990s. This study sought to further “prove” what was already known in the West: that taking AZT while pregnant could result in an HIV-negative baby. Rose and the other Ivoirian women recruited for the study were not informed of the power of AZT to keep their babies healthy, but discovered the truth only after the trial had begun. And none of them knew who was taking the drug and who was taking the placebo. Each woman “prayed that she was taking the real thing.”
At the study’s end, Rose’s son was born with HIV; and this is how she learned she had been given the placebo.
Desperate to take care of themselves and their children, Rose and the other placebo recipients began holding support group meetings at the research site. They prodded the research team for educational materials and information about HIV medicines available in their country—and their group became AMEPOUH, one of the first organizations on the African continent to deliver services to HIV+ women.