Friday, October 24, 2014

Video of 4 Advocates Speaking About Violence & WLHIV

Four diverse cisgender and transgender female advocates share why it is crucial to raise awareness about the issue of violence against women and girls diagnosed with, affected by, or at risk for HIV. here to view the video!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

In Memory of Elisha Henson

She was just a few years younger than me,
But she'd had a lifetime more pain than I.
Life can be cruel, and people can be judgmental.
Sometimes the way we choose to cope with pain
Can also create more pain even while it dulls the pain.
We all make mistakes.
We are always growing, learning.
Elisha wasn't perfect.
Neither are you
Neither am I.
But she, like you and I
And IS more than the sum of bad decisions.
More than mistakes - which we are ALL guilty of making,
More than flaws.
She was a daughter,
A sister,
A mother,
An aunt,
A wife,
A friend.
She had interests
She had people who loved her,
People who supported her,
People who prayed for her and rooted for her.
She had a whole life to live.
Those 3 letters - HIV - are NOT what ended her life
Elisha was killed by 4 letters...
Like Cicely was,
And numerous women across the globe.
Remember her name,
Remember her life.
End this hatred.
Stop the violence.
Don't let her death be in vain
Don't let another family bury their Elisha.
End violence against women living with HIV!
Elisha, you will NEVER be forgotten.

Almost Killed because of HIV

(Trigger/Content warning: This post contains references to abuse that readers may find to be triggering.)

My daughter is only 12 years old, and she doesn't have the greatest memory.  But still she remembers the day she almost got burned, years ago in Africa.

They took her in after her father died of an AIDS-related illness.  Her mother had died of the same a few years prior. They had promised her father they'd look after her.

But after several months, they were growing weary of the needs of yet another child. Especially a young child with an AIDS diagnosis. On top of caring for her, clothing her, and feeding her, they had to find a way to pay for the medication that she needed to live. They already had their own children and their own financial responsibilities. Though they'd given their word, they were beginning to feel burdened and resentful of the child.

The father was a devout Muslim and determined to keep his promise to his deceased friend. His wife, however, came from a family of herbalist that worshiped their ancestors as well as other African deities. She converted to Islam upon marrying her husband, but she still held fast to the beliefs that she grew up with. She was convinced that my daughter was "cursed" because of her HIV/AIDS status, and that she would bring destruction and bad luck upon the family. She begged her husband to get rid of my daughter and place her in an orphanage, but he did not. He wanted her to stay and asked his wife to try to give her a chance.

One day everything exploded.  My daughter and the other children were playing. They weren't supposed to play in or near the road, but they always did anyway, dodging quickly out of the way when a car approached and then returning when the car was gone.  Sadly, that day one of the sons of the family she lived with didn't move quickly enough, and he was hit.

Neighbors ran quickly to alert the parents. Fortunately, the little boy was not dead, but he was seriously injured. Praying fervently, the father left quickly with his son en route to the hospital to seek medical attention.  His wife remained at home with the other children, awaiting news.

Looking over at my daughter, she became enraged. She was certain that if my daughter hadn't been there, this wouldn't have happened.  Just as she had suspected, the AIDS child was cursed. And now because she was living with their family, they were now suffering for it.

She knew how to fix the problem.

She lit a fire.  When it was large enough, she began uttering the words needed for cleansing your home of an evil spirit.  She walked over to where the other children were seated quietly; they were not playing, as they were worried sick about Mohammed and were hoping he would be okay. They were just sitting there.

Grabbing my daughter, she lifted her high in the air.  Still uttering the proper words, she approached the open flames.  She was going to remove this evil spirit from this AIDS child once and for all.  This would save the child, and would save her family...

She was stopped.  Her older children, frightened, intercepted. One stood in front of the fire to block it. Another grabbed his mothers arms to prevent her from moving freely.  They told the younger children to run to get an adult neighbor for help.

My daughter was saved that day by the swift actions and bravery of those children.

She was moved, for her own safety, temporarily to an orphanage run by the Red Cross, and placed for international adoption.  The father and children visited her in the brief time that she was there.  Even little Mohammed, who had broken both legs when the car struck him, but fortunately survived.

She moved to the United States less than one year later.

Misconceptions surrounding HIV led to a violent act that could have killed her.  Thank God she is alive.  I'm blessed to be her mother, and so grateful that she has been able to live a happy, healthy life as a young lady with HIV.  I am hoping that she will grow up to be a strong, confident woman with HIV - until there's a cure.

A Bad Boyfriend

(Trigger/Content warning: This post contains references to abuse that readers may find to be triggering.)

I get tired of seeing him hit her. "Granny, you don't have to take that," I tell her all the time. He is a much younger man, married with children, and nowhere near as attractive and smart as she is.  Even at 53, Granny is still fine. Her hair hasn't turned grey yet, her skin is smooth. Her smile is sparkly white and her breasts are still high. The only thing wrong with her is that her cheeks are a little sunken in and her stomach is a little pudgy because of her ARVs for HIV/AIDS. But she still looks good and I think she can do better than him. But Granny thinks that no man is going to want her because she has AIDS. Not any man her age, anyway. When she grew up they hardly used protection and everything could be cured with a shot of penicillin. She said they used to call STDs "VD." Everything was different.

This man is 39 years old and I know his kids. One of them, his oldest,  graduated high school the same year as me, but we didn't know each other well. I don't think his family knows what he is doing, but it still makes me feel bad when he comes over and stays the night with my Granny when his wife thinks he is working the overnight shift.

And I don't like the way he acts. Even though he helps my Granny with bills and helped her get a car I don't think he has a right to hit her. He didn't used to hit her in front of me, but now sometimes he does.  I wish my Paw-Paw was still alive because he was a nice man and he never hit her. He died when I was a little girl, in a car accident. I can still remember his laugh.


(Trigger/Content warning: This post contains references to abuse that readers may find to be triggering.)

The bodies of the broken ones
 lay helpless, trampled
 on the battlefield
wincing, bloodied, throbbing with pain
 unable to escape
 to safety.

Unexploded bombs
 of unresolved issues
scattered in plain sight
 in the battleground
that has become our home.

Vulnerable to attack
 from all sides, at any moment
 I retreat, wounded
From the land mine that is your heart.

All this carnage
 --so much devastation
 by one man, so heavily armored
 wielding a solitary weapon:
 your tongue.

Breaking the Chain of Shame and Silence

(Trigger/Content warning: This post contains references to abuse that readers may find to be triggering.)

Most women have an IPV story to tell. Let’s break the chain of shame and silence against Domestic Violence……What’s your story?

Here’s mine…..Dating this guy and he showered me with gifts that covered up the subtle control. It started out as slow demands and put downs. “Go get the remote for me”, when he was closer to it than me and “take that outfit off it looks terrible”. After a while I started to protest his many demands and put downs. That’s when he stepped up his game in attempts to break me. 

He became physical when I turned down his sexual advances and kicked me out of the bed and I bruised my hip. He cried and apologized and I believed that it wouldn’t happen again. But of course it did, pulling my hair while I’m driving, choking, slapping, shoving, tracking my whereabouts and more verbal put downs. I had enough and took out a protection order against him. But it didn’t stop him, one day he showed up at the school where I taught and just walked in my classroom, he would leave gifts on my doorsteps and he followed me in the market where I shopped. 

When I would leave for work he would be standing on the corner of my street. I also found his brand of cigarette butts in the rear of my house. Plus, he had a connection at the phone company because; every time I changed my phone number he managed to get the new number. I kept calling the police, but he would always leave before they got there. One officer finally said, “off the record, I would get a gun if I were you”. 

I knew I was left to my own devices, so I used my contacts. I knew some people in the court system and as it turned out he had a bench warrant. I was told just give the word and we’ll have him picked up. The next time he called I told him I knew about his bench warrant, and stop bothering me or I will have you picked up and jailed. I needed to have something to hold over his head. 

And it worked. Didn’t hear from him anymore, but some years later I heard he had gotten married and I saw him and his wife at a concert. He was holding her hand and she looked scared. How well do I know what that look was about!! I felt so sorry for her.

By Asha Molock

HIV and Domestic Violence

(Trigger/Content warning: This post contains references to abuse that readers may find to be triggering.)

I am accustomed to seeing sad stories. In the impoverished district where I am employed as an HIV physician, domestic violence and HIV are common bedfellows. But this case was especially disheartening.

A shy mother of one, she had one failed marriage behind her when she met him online in a dating site for singles with HIV/AIDS.  Dating had been challenging for her as an HIV+ single mother, so she was glad to find someone kind and suitable who also shared her HIV status. After a lengthy courtship and many visits back and forth, he proposed and she accepted. They wed and she and her teenage daughter relocated so that they could start their new life together.

Things eventually deteriorated and he became abusive. Although he was a good stepfather and a good provider, the physical abuse was devastating to her. After an especially volatile brawl two years into their marriage, she'd had enough. She decided to leave. However, her daughter was unhappy about moving again, especially in the middle of the school year. She begged her mother to let her remain to finish the school year.

She was reluctant, but her daughter was a conscientious student and would lose the entire year if she was moved. And though her husband had struck her many times, he had never once hit her daughter. She decided that she would leave her with her stepfather and return to her hometown to secure a job and a flat. She would retrieve her daughter upon the completion of the school year.

Upon her return, she discovered terrible news. Her husband had molested her daughter in her absence. Not only was her daughter now also HIV+, she was now pregnant with her stepfather's child.

She went to the police and pressed charges. He was arrested and sentenced to prison for his crime. The mother and daughter are patients in my HIV clinic and I share their story with permission.

(Dr. Ed Mulago)