Howard University hosts World Aids Day forum

Howard University raised awareness about HIV on Thursday’s World Aids Day, focusing on the stigma the infection carries.

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“Disclosure is one of the scariest things in your entire life,” said Jill Greene, who lives in D.C. and is HIV-positive.

Greene found out she was infected in 1981, when she was 23 years old, after having unprotected sex with a male friend.

“It was a one-time encounter, but I later found out that individual was not only bisexual but had also succumbed to Aids,” she said. She discovered the infection after attempting to donate blood.

At the time, many Americans thought of aids as a gay disease. That a heterosexual black woman like Greene could contract it “was just unheard of,” she said.

The Howard university conference featured medical experts and activists, including the 2010 Miss American, Virginia native Caressa Cameron. Cameron moderated a panel and got tested, hoping to encourage other young people to check their HIV status.

“You go to the dentist once a year. You go to your primary-care physician for all of these things that have to do with our overall health, but for some reason we don't take our reproductive health as seriously as we should,” Cameron said.

Greene, who was honorably discharged from the Army, is now working as an advocate with the National Association of People with Aids.

“Each day that I stand up and talk about it and tell my story and share with people it helps plant a seed to know that this is what I can do to make a difference,” said fellow HIV activist Paul Gordon.

Over the years, she's shared her status with close family members and friends. She believes talking openly about the disease will help prevent its spread.

“We have to ask ourselves, here it is 30 years later. Why is this epidemic still raging?” she wondered. Dealing with the disease through medication like the ones she takes is also important, she said.

In a city where at least three percent of residents are HIV-positive, D.C. and health organizations sponsored free HIV screenings on Thursday’s World Aids Day.

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