Let's Talk About It - Rural Women's Health Project

By: UFHSCL

It's like being on a deserted island and unless you have this disease, you don't know what it's like. Let's Talk About It came out of years and years of working around the issues of HIV in terms of prevention specifically in linkage to care. In our support group, we know we're not alone and that's why we want to try to reach as many other people, especially women, so they know they're not alone. The mission of Let's Talk About It is to allow women a space to come together to share their experiences, to think forward in terms of what they want out of their life and to find ways to use their experiences to improve the path for those that are yet to come. We all come from different walks of life but we all share this one common thing that knits us together...it's powerful. It is fulfillment of my purpose to know that I am taking part in helping other women deal with the stigma and the issues of living with HIV. I feel like my purpose is to be a voice to the voiceless. So that's what we're about..

We're about to empower, to come out the box, to not allow anybody to put you in a box, to break those chains, to break those stigmas because you're beautiful, you have life. For me, it's like mainly the support - that we all love each other, we're all there for each other. The program itself really is just the shell and what moves the the turtle forward is actually this body of incredible women that have to decide which way to go. What we do within the group, were always trying, you know, to combat the stigma of HIV with, you know, our testimonials, our work, you know, our outreach activities. Testimonial material is the tools that we use to educate others, to let them know that, okay yes, HIV is real, you know, and yes, it's here in our communities, but no, it don't have to dictate your life. Let's Talk About It testimonial media has include a variety of formats...the women they have themselves written, edited and designed two magazines, they put together a rights and responsibilities brochure, in conjunction with medical providers.

Probably the, my most favorite so far has been the one we just came up with the 'Sisters Empowering Sisters', little booklet, inspirational one, I really enjoyed that you know, writing out our phrases and then kind of looking up inspirational quotes or sayings that went along with what, you know, what we were feeling. Doing what it took to get 'Sisters Inspiring Sisters' was a wonderful process that we did and we worked together. So picking the colors, so that was that was great, I would go to the office then pick, we picked the flowers, which ones we wanted to and and the colors, the themes...what placement where, you know, paragraph should go on a page, that kind of thing.

Yeah, I've picked out you know many a quote...I can't tell you any of them, but I have! The writing is done by the women individually, or it's done as an interview, depending on whatever style best fits the woman and then the editors have to come back and look at the materials and figure out how it all placed together. So once I did that magazine, it allowed me to come out of the box, it allowed me to to live life, it allowed me to know that you're not here just for you, you here to help someone else. It brought out the artist in me I guess that I didn't know exist. We've been working with testimonial media for 25 years and we find that it is the most powerful medium for the communication of healthy messages.

Let's Talk About It - Rural Women's Health Project

You know, you know you sit down and you do this stuff and you never see the finished product, but when you see the finished product and, it touched my heart, you know like, wow that came out of me you know, and look at my girls, what they did, and it's overwhelming. They asked me how did I feel when I read the magazine about what the other women had wrote, and sharing their stories and how did I feel for reading it the first time and mans, like really trying to captivate it and put in into words, it was so inspiring to first of all when I first read it to see there is somebody out there just like me, that these women, no matter whether they white, black, you know, small, big whatever it is, we all share a common bond and I'm not alone you know and it made me feel good, honey. We think that if you come together with your group that's interested, you have someone who's creative and can organize it, if you have a format that you would like to utilize, it can be done. And so we bloomed as butterflies, now we're those butterflies that are soaring around and we're spreading the message and then not allowing stigma to dictate the women that we have blossomed to be. I think it's a healing, it's, um, it's liberating, it's freedom. Wow, if she can do it, then I can do it and you know, she looks happy, she looks healthy and she's, you know, she's positive and I can get to that point too in my life, you know, with the, with support. So I want everybody to get to the point that even if they do get diagnosed with HIV, you can stand tall and say 'yeah, I'm HIV-positive, and what?' You know, I'm me, and I'm still here.

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