Archive of ‘HIV/AIDS’ category

Why Are You #DoingIt? [Video]

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Today is National HIV Testing Day. If you are unsure about your HIV status or if you are due for your next screening, there is no time like the present to get tested.

Getting tested for HIV on a regular basis continues to be a priority for me. I talk about in this video shot last year as a part of the CDC’s #DoingIt campaign.

To find a free HIV or STD testing location near you, visit GetTested.CDC.gov and enter your ZIP code.

I’m #DoingIt. Are you?

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Why HIV Testing Should be on Every Woman’s To-Do List

Last year, I had the opportunity to participate in a campaign shoot for #DoingIt, the CDC’s latest campaign promoting HIV testing along with Rae Lewis-Thornton and Charreah Jackson (ESSENCE Magazine). In support of the campaign and National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, I shared this post today on The Red Pump Project‘s blog.

If you are like me, then you know that life can be incredibly busy. From family to work and beyond, it seems like there are always more tasks than there is time. As a new mom who works full-time and helps lead The Red Pump Project‘s incredible mission, my life is hectic, fast, and overwhelming. With so many items that must get done and so few hours, it is VERY easy to push self-care to the bottom of my list. Taking care of my body and mind becomes a last priority. We are all guilty of it.

However, there’s no time like the present to change that for the better.

Today is National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, a day of education, empowerment, and action. We should also use this day to take a step back and think about our health and how we take care of ourselves. We only have one life. It is worth protecting and you must be the one to do so. The best defense is a good offense and HIV testing needs to be part of your strategy.

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HIV testing is free, fast, and confidential. And, almost everyone should be #DoingIt. In fact, the CDC recommends that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 get tested for HIV at least once as part of routine health care and that people with certain risk factors get tested more often. If you aren’t 100% sure of your HIV status, then you need to add “get tested” to the top of your to-do list.

Write it down NOW. 

Always make time for HIV testing, girlfriends, and cake. In that order.

Always make time for HIV testing, girlfriends, and cake. In that order.

Getting tested is the first step to protecting your health. If your test reveals that you are living with HIV, it is important to get connected to a care team, which can include doctors, a case manager, peer supporters, and a specially-trained pharmacist. Available treatments are very effective; can prolong life; and may also reduce risk of transmission by reducing the amount of the virus in your body. If your test is negative, you can take action to continue to protect yourself and your status.

The great news is that new HIV diagnoses declined 40% among women from 2005 to 2014, with the greatest decline seen among African American women (42%). But, this doesn’t mean that our work is done. We must continue to talk about HIV with our loved ones and peers. If it is one thing that I have learned through my years leading Red Pump, it is to never underestimate the power of a conversation. Talking about HIV prevention, testing, and treatment is key to fighting stigma and ending this epidemic.

To find a testing site near you, call 1-800-CDC-INFO (232-4636); visit cdc.gov/DoingIt; or text your ZIP code to KNOW IT (566948).

Today’s to-do list: Know my status (check). Talk about the importance of HIV testing (check). #RocktheRedPump (check).

I know what I have to do today. Do you?

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Views from Miami

Over the past two months, I’ve had the pleasure to travel to Miami twice for work. Escaping the Chicago winter for sun and sand is always a good idea however, my trips to Miami provided me with much more than bronzed skin. For over a year, I have been working on putting together a plan for my company to celebrate and connect with those over the age of 50 who are living with HIV. Why this age group? Well, half of people living with HIV will be over the age of 50 in 2015.

My trips to Miami were essentially the culmination of all of that work. In December, I met the lovely ladies behind the incredible Graying of AIDS oral histories project. I joined them as they spent two days photographing and interviewing Miami residents who made the decision to join our campaign and tell their stories. When I returned last weekend, I had a chance to view the exhibit that our entire team worked to bring to life. Against the most gorgeous blue sky, we unveiled the beautiful and powerful Well Beyond HIV photo installation on a beautiful terrace facing the ocean.

Well Beyond HIV Exhibit at Miami Beach EDITION

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For the participants, it was an incredible day. A day filled with triumph, celebration, and reflection for all those who have been living with HIV/AIDS for many years. For me, the day served as a reminder of my purpose and of what can happen when you follow your instinct.

I did a lot of reflection during both trips. I thought about how I could continue to influence my company, even as we undergo a significant transformation. I thought about how I strengthen my legacy with The Red Pump Project and our work around women and girls HIV/AIDS awareness. Most importantly, I just thought about balance. There is so much that I want to accomplish in this life, but I’m only one person. Balance is something that I struggle with (because Libra), so I always feel like my life needs to be recalibrated.

Photo Jan 18, 1 33 22 PMDuring last weekend’s trip, it was important for me to not only be focused on work, but to also take some time to smell the roses (or taste the mojito). What good is it to be the best and the brightest if you’re stressed and burned out? That’s not how I want my life to play out. I want my efforts to be significant, meaningful, and effective. I don’t need to be the star but I do plan to make big things happen.

I’m ready.

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P.S. This campaign launch was #5 on my January to-do list. CHECK!

Is a Birchbox Subscription Worth It?

Subscription services are apparently the cat’s meow. From shoes to clothing and even dinner ingredients, you can pretty much get anything delivered on your doorstep every month. One of the first companies that I heard of doing this was Birchbox, a beauty-focused box. While intrigued, I never pulled the trigger.

Fast forward to last week.

While scrolling through my Instagram feed, I see that (RED) and Birchbox have teamed up for a limited edition December box in recognition of World AIDS Day. I don’t know if it was the packaging or the fact that I would be doing good, but I have been debating whether or not to sign up for Birchbox now. In full disclosure, I am not a product junkie and my monthly spoils might just end up in my linen closet.

If I subscribe by 11/30, then I can still receive this limited edition box and begin my own little beauty journey. That gives me less than two weeks to decide. So, I would love your opinion. Do you have a Birchbox subscription? Do you love it? Do you think that it is worth it? 

Help!

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Photo: Facebook

“Ain’t Nobody” Like Chaka Khan

Last week, I had the best week EVER. I hopped over to the West Coast for a work meeting with the Greater Than AIDS team, then went straight to Miami for the ColorComm Conference (recap here), returned to Chicago to participate in the 85th Annual Bud Billiken Parade with the Black McDonald’s Operators Association, AND *insert breath* watched the legendary Chaka Khan take the stage in support of my nonprofit organization, The Red Pump Project.

Is your head spinning yet? Mine certainly was by Saturday night. However, it was totally worth it. I mean, Chaka Khan?! She is every bit as fierce and fabulous as you would imagine her to be. Before the show, Luvvie and I had a chance to meet her backstage and thank her for agreeing to support our organization in this significant way. A few snaps are below.

Welcome to the Chicago Theatre!

Welcome to the Chicago Theatre!

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Red Pump posing with Chaka Khan and the Music is My 1st Love team

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Luvvie and I with the woman of the hour.

It was a night that I will definitely remember for many reasons. My favorite memory of the night? Singing “Sweet Thing” with my husband standing next to me. It doesn’t get any mushier than that, right? Don’t laugh.

We are so grateful to the Music is My 1st Love team for selecting us as recipients of their first benefit concert. They are doing incredible things and I’m looking forward to supporting their future shows.

To Ms. Chaka Khan, there are no words! From one Chicago gal to another, you are a powerhouse. Thank you for rocking the red pump with us.

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On One Accord with the Soweto Gospel Choir

On Wednesday night, I went to go see the Soweto Gospel Choir with one of my favorite gals, DeeDee (The Sassy Peach). I was first introduced to the choir a year ago and since then, I’ve been in awe of their voices, their spirits, and (of course) their awesome performances. As they weaved their way through African spirituals, Black spirituals, and contemporary songs in Symphony Hall, I just felt happy. I felt blessed to be connected to such a beautiful culture.

The performance was beautiful. Even though I didn’t know the words to 90% of the songs, it didn’t matter at all. Everyone in the hall was captivated by each note and each word. It reminded me that music is a true common denominator. It has the power to connect people from different walks of life in an authentic way. A certain commercial previously ruined Sarah McLaughlin’s “Arms of an Angel,” but the choir restored my love of this song. The video is below is them singing the song at a different performance. SO GOOD.

The Soweto Gospel Choir is an amazing group both on and off the stage. While browsing the program booklet, I learned that they launched Nkosi’s Haven Vukani, a foundation to support HIV/AIDS orphans in South Africa. As they travel the world with their performances, it is clear that they not only carry a connection to their home country, but also a responsibility to it. There were several tributes to Nelson Mandela, summed up with a touching rendition of South Africa’s national anthem.

As we ended the night clapping and singing “Amen,” it was the perfect end to a great show. I definitely filed it away in my memory bank. I wish them much success on the rest of their North American tour and hope to catch another show in the future!

Laissez Le Bon Temps Rouler at USCA 2013

Good morning from beautiful (and humid) New Orleans! I’m down here for this year’s United States Conference on AIDS and am super geeked for two reasons. First, it is my first work trip. That’s right. I’ve managed to complete the “elusive” task of landing in a job that I’m passionate about. Second, the conference is in New Orleans and I LOVE NEW ORLEANS. The music, the food, the people, the culture… Sigh. I could go on and on. Not only do I plan to get married here but I also wouldn’t mind setting up a part-time residence here later in life.

Enough about my future plans for NOLA. Back to the now. During my time here, I’m looking forward to learning some very useful information that I can apply on the job and with my work with The Red Pump Project. In case you have been living in a bubble, HIV continues to affect people of color at devastating pace so any and all solutions are always needed.

When I’m not at the conference, please know that I will be doing my best to completely pig out on NOLA goodies. I am obsessed with New Orleans cuisine and can always find a Creole/Cajun restaurant no matter what city I’m in.

My first stop when I got in yesterday was Café du Monde for their world-famous beignets. Oh. My. Gawd. They were so so so so good and didn’t last more than seven minutes. All I want to do is stuff my face with them.

As far as my other plans, here’s my NOLA checklist.

  1. Have a cocktail in the courtyard of the W French Quarter. I mean, look at this place.
       2. Try a piece of alligator.
       3. Complete an early morning jog around the Garden District.
Anything else that I should do while I’m down here? Let me know! I’m taking any and all suggestions. Just leave me a note in the comments or shoot me a quick tweet!

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