How I Became an Advocate for People Living with HIV In Jail

By Teresa Sullivan TeresaSullivanPAGE4

When I went to jail in 2005, one of the biggest problems that I had was at the medication window. One day when going to get my HIV medications at the window, I looked at the pills in the cup and knew right away that they were the wrong medications. I knew that taking the wrong dose of my medication would make me sick. I was told that if I did not take the medication in the cup that I would be sent to the hole – solitary confinement. That scared me so much that I took the medications. If I knew then what I know today I would never have done this. I got so sick that they had to take me to the emergency room. I could have died.

John Bell at Philadelphia FIGHT saved my life. He is an advocate for HIV-positive people in the Philadelphia country jail system; he is the man my son called to help me; and he is the man who got me my life-saving medication the next day.

That is why today I am an advocate for people living with HIV/AIDS in the Philadelphia county jail system. I will never let what happened to me while in the county jail system happen to someone again. It is my job to make sure that people know their rights about taking medications while in jail. And when people re-enter into the community I continue to advocate for their needs as a teaching assistant for Philadelphia FIGHT’s Teach Outside program for people recently released from jail and living with the virus.

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