“My name is Wanda and I have AIDS.”

Four HIV+ women who participated in a movie about preventing AIDS with Boston College.

I got this letter from Wanda two days ago. (This is an abbreviated version that she wrote on a friend’s computer.)

Hello Betty,

I read about your site in Skirt magazine. I am 55 years old.  I have AIDS.  I was diagnosed in 2002.  I was infected by my “monogamous” partner who had previously slept with someone HIV+ (but he never bothered to tell me).

I converted from HIV+ to AIDS in May 2008.  The reason I am writing to you is that the state funded program that provides meds to myself & others is in DIRE straits (the Aids Drug Assistance Program).  As a retired RN Case Manager, I have been trying to utilize my many skills to help myself and many more like me in my area.

I have determined that I will no longer be “anonymous.” Someone needs to be an advocate for us. Unfortunately, most of my work to help my peers needs to be done online…I am hoping you will see my cause as one worthy enough to help me towards my goal of having my own computer & printer.  I ask this not just for myself but for others that can’t at this time speak out.

I thank you tremendously for taking time to read this.

Wanda Brendle Moss (and the many voices whose privacy rights I uphold)

When I went online (because I am lucky enough to have a computer) to learn more about women & AIDS, this is what I found: Every 9½ minutes, a person in the United States will be diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. 27% of them are women. Of those newly diagnosed women, 68% are black women and they die from the disease at a rate 20 times higher than white women. In fact, the disease is the leading cause of death for African-American women between the ages of 25-34.

My initial response to Wanda’s letter was to write back and gently ask her if I could talk to her AIDS Care Manager to corroborate her story. But now, I am ashamed of that. Not because I’m gullible, or think people are incapable of manipulation. It’s just that the upside is so much greater than the downside. If she’s handing me a line, I’ll have lost $100. If she’s telling the truth, (and in my heart I know she is), I’ll be validating what she’s doing and the tremendous bravery it takes to do it.

God bless you, Wanda Brendle Moss. Stay well.

For information about testing http://www.aids.gov/hiv-aids-basics/hiv-aids-101/overview/testing/

For charities, you may contribute to the National Minorities AIDS Council at http://www.nmac.org/