AUGUSTA, GA (WJBF) – Health departments report that African-Americans have the highest rates of HIV diagnoses in Georgia and South Carolina and it remains the leading cause of death in the US. HIV activist, Wanda Collier, making it her goal to ‘Stop the Stigma’.
“Always remember that HIV is what you have, it’s not who you are,” says Wanda Collier.
Stop Da Stigma is a non profit organization started by Wanda Collier to bring attention to HIV and AIDS.
“Anybody that does not want to be in your life because you have it, is not meant to be there because we need strong people that can endure our challenge,” says Wanda.
Collier says this virus is something she is all too familiar with.
“I found out at a very young age and I went through a lot of disruptive thoughts and did a lot of disruptive things because of the fear and the stigma that comes with it and not wanting people to know,” says Wanda.
Collier says her kids motivate her and now she’s taking control of her life. Along with getting herself on track, she’s making sure people in the community know their HIV status too.
“My kids are like 100 percent to 150 percent behind me and none of my kids are positive and so I am grateful for that,” says Wanda.
The HIV activist is not alone in her fight to spread awareness on getting tested. Primary Care Center in Aiken, SC is joining the cause too by offering free Rapid Testing on Saturdays.
Ebony Kerlin, a Physician Assistant at Clyburn Center for Primary Care, says “[people] need to be educated on how this is a disease that if untreated can be very detrimental, but people who are treated with the Antiretroviral Therapy are living very healthy long lives. So, it’s important to get treated and to know your status that way you can’t transmit it but so you can live a normal life with it.”
Ebony Kerlin says living with HIV is not the end of the road and she encourages people to know whether they are positive or negative. Collier agrees, saying knowing your status can be the start of a new path because you can begin to plan health options.
“If we stand up for each other and we stand up for what’s right and get the naysayers to sit down and break this stigma, ” says Wanda.
Collier’s Stop Da Stigma is planning to hold an event this month that will offer at home HIV tests. Click or Tap the Link to find out more information. If you want to know your status, follow the link at HIV.gov.