If you’ve had unprotected sex the only way to know if you’ve been infected with the HIV is to take a quick saliva or blood test. It’s free and it's easy. And then whether you’re negative or positive you can get on with life and, if you test positive, start the really important early treatment.
Today people with HIV who get treatment can live a normal life. But if they don’t -- if they avoid the test and treatment -- in around 10 to 15 years HIV so severely damages their immune system that AIDS develops.
It hasn’t always been so easy to get tested and treated for HIV.
For 22 years, Philadelphia FIGHT, a comprehensive health services organization providing primary care, consumer education, research, and advocacy for people living with HIV/AIDS has hosted an entire month of free workshops, trainings, and outreach about HIV and AIDS. This year, Life of the Law traveled to Philly to take part in Philadelphia Fight’s inspiring work. On June 15th we presented LIVE LAW - Beyond the Walls: Prison Positive...stories told by people who have done the testing and been tested in the city’s jails and prison.
- Jessica Falcon produced and hosted Beyond the Walls: Prison Positive and has our first story. Jessica’s pursuing a PhD in biomedical engineering, but uses her spare time to advocate for the HIV positive population in Philadelphia. She is deeply motivated by the cause and says she has chosen activism as her passion.
- Waheedah Shabazz-El describes herself as a 50-plus African-American Muslim woman and retired U.S. postal worker who was diagnosed with AIDS in 2003.
- Sonia Williams is the program officer at First Hospital Foundation, a local health foundation that supports programs that serve the most vulnerable populations in Philadelphia County. While completing her Masters in Public Health, she conducted her internship at the Philadelphia Prison System.
- Odessa Summers has been the Prison Medical Case Manager at ActionAIDS for 8 years. She’s been doing HIV work for 15 years.
- Dr. Debra D'Aquilante is a board-certified Infectious Disease specialist for Corizon Health who has been seeing patients in the Philadelphia Prison System for 22 years. She conducts the Infectious Disease Clinic and sees all the incarcerated HIV+ patients, as well as other Infectious Disease consults.