Why Not Me? How I became an advocate for women on HIV and reproductive issues
-by Michelle Anderson
My name is Michelle Anderson and I live in Dallas, TX. Here is my story on how I transformed into an advocate and leader for women on HIV and reproductive justice issues.
At the age of 5, I experienced molestation. Because of this, I felt that my life didn’t matter and that no one loved me. As I grew older, I experienced a lot of difficulties due to being molested and feeling unloved. I became victim to a lifestyle of drugs, alcohol, and sex work, which fuelled feelings of guilt. I found myself in and out of jail and then in rehab, where I tested positive for HIV in April of 1999. I thought my life was over and I wanted to die. With my diagnosis guilt and shame re-emerged. I continued to play the record over and over again. I would tell myself no one is going to want me because I am positive.
I found hope the first time I shared my story, but continued to feel shame and blame myself. After meeting Marsha Jones, co-founder and Executive Director of The Afiya Center: HIV Prevention and Reproductive Justice, I began to understand that my past experiences with incarceration, sex work, and drugs were symptoms of vulnerabilities I had encountered in my life. Those words gave me voice and empowered me. I knew that I was not the only woman who had suffered this devastation.
Today, I am the Lead Peer Educator and Programs Assistant for The Afiya Center. The passion behind my work stems from the desire to remove stigma, guilt, and shame from HIV – it is to show that we can re-claim our lives with dignity and respect. Every time we share, we are speaking for every positive woman who is afraid, but through our support can find dignity, hope and empowerment!
Michelle Anderson is the Lead Peer Educator and Programs Assistant for The Afiya Center: HIV Prevention and Reproductive Justice and is 2011’s Ms. Duncanville Plus America. She is based in Dallas, TX.