It’s not everyday you have an opportunity to meet someone who’s story ravishes with agility, might and inspiration – but, A Girl with Red Pumps did!
This month, we sat down with Patricia Harris, a 49-year-old HIV/AIDS advocate who’s mission rings true in Stopping HIV Together by connecting with family members, local organizations and everyday people to fight against stigma.
For people aged 50 and over, these individuals account for almost 20% of HIV diagnoses in the United States. We rarely think about HIV in relation to this group – but we should. because they have the same HIV risk factors as younger people, but are less likely to get tested and, as a result, are subject to higher mortality rates than their younger counterparts.
Before we share the story of Patricia for this year’s National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day, provided below are a few notes to consider as you communicate with loved ones, healthcare providers and others about HIV/AIDS:
- While the overall infection rate has decreased in the U.S., there is a significant risk to those 50+ who are less likely to get tested and, as a result, are subject to higher mortality rates than their younger counterparts.
- Stigma associated with HIV is one of the underlying reasons for low testing rates within this age group. Stigma leads to marginalization of those that are positive, decreased testing due to the fear of a positive diagnosis, fear of disclosing status and getting treatment, and fewer conversations about safe sex.
- A positive diagnosis is no longer a death sentence – people can live healthy fulfilling lives with the proper treatment.
- HIV is not a thing of the past, but rather something we should continue to raise awareness about while advocating for those most affected.
A girl with Red Pumps
Red Pump: Why is it important for women to speak openly about HIV?
Patricia: Speaking openly will help women who are afraid to go out and get the help that’s needed. As someone who is a part of a strong support group within my church, being a part of this group has helped me have a very strong foundation. It’s helped me grow into the person I am now and through ministry, I’ve been able to identify what makes me happy. Over the years, I’ve learned that we all make mistakes, but being open to discussing them is where the healing can begin. This is where women can speak openly about HIV/AIDS and much more.
Red Pump: What has been your biggest challenge as a woman living with HIV?
Patricia: Some of my biggest challenges were accepting my situation and believing I would overcome. I was embarrassed, ashamed, and treated differently by people who were unaware of what HIV/AIDS truly was. Then suddenly, I discovered HIV/AIDS was not going to define who I was. I quickly made the decision to do something about what I was experiencing and it was at this moment when I decided to stand up and fight, no matter who walked out of my life. I educated people on what the symptoms were, how HIV/AIDS affected the body, ignored negative comments, and most importantly, regained my faith and trust in God. Through his words “I shall live and not die”, I knew I would win no matter what. I knew I was beautiful, and I knew nothing could destroy me.
Red Pump: What do you like to do during your free time?
Patricia: In most of my free time, I try to eat well, exercise, stay within constant prayer, and stay busy with small projects I’m involved in. Without many of these activities, I would probably be pretty imbalanced. When I’m busy or active, negative thoughts are free from my mind and I focus on ways to help others fight against HIV/AIDS and how to speak with women who are mourning. I mostly encourage them to turn their sorrow into joy. I also love educating myself and reading materials on HIV/AIDS, so that I’m informed when I speak with women.
Red Pump: Do you use social media or blogging to share your message? If so, where can people find you online?
Patricia: Yes, I have a few social media accounts and although I am currently not blogging, people can reach me via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and email:
- Facebook page: Trisha A. Harris
- Email address: email@example.com
- Twitter page: FAVORABLEDIVA31
- Instagram: FAVORINMYHOUSE0831
Red Pump: What do you want women to take away from your story?
Patricia: A scorn woman is someone who maybe be deemed as broken or lonely. Well, this is what society has said and I would like to challenge women everywhere to never place themselves in a box of shame or defeat, but as winners. I would encourage every women, similar to what I’ve told myself many times, you are a fighter, I am your sister. Placing yourself in someone else’s shoes is an important piece of the puzzle and healing can derive from that. From there, place triumph in your mind and use power from above to forgive whomever did harm to you and move forward. Although this is more difficult to do, we have to be in control of our own lives and believe there is someone out there looking over us. From this experience, God planted my feet with strong faith and through this – healing was delivered. He taught me how to believe in what I prayed for and how to trust God for everything. This is what I encourage women everywhere to believe in.
Red Pump: Why do you Rock the Red Pump?
Patricia: I ROCK Red Pumps to raise awareness, by speaking out for those like myself who may be ashamed to speak up. Most people believe you should be quite, but I believe you should deal with the disease and allow those who want to support you into your inner circle. If I, as an individual, kept my mouth closed – my story would be untold. So, I say why not remove the mask and be the spokesperson for suffering individuals, and make a difference. From being stigmatized, rejected, ashamed, embarrassed, and distancing myself from friends and family – I rock red pumps for awareness, because I want to make a difference.
This post is made possible by support from the Let’s Stop HIV Together campaign. All opinions are my own. If you would like to see more stories of HIV advocates living with HIV, click here to see the story of Theresa or here to see the story of Kamaria Laffrey.