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#PositiveWhilePOZitive: The purpose behind the project

Montee Lopez

Thanks to The New Tri-State Defender for allowing me to embark on this special project – “Positive While POZitive.” It highlights the lives of a few African-American Memphians who are living with HIV/AIDS while embracing the goal of living his/her life to the fullest.

Why do the project? To create a tool to apply to the need of reducing the stigma of the virus and to further the dialogue about the importance of being tested.

In 2016, there were 266 new cases of HIV in Memphis. Most of those diagnosed were African-Americans – notably young men.

HIV – human immunodeficiency virus – is the virus that causes AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). When one is diagnosed with HIV, they are not necessarily diagnosed with AIDS.

HIV attacks T-Cells (also known as CD4 cells), which help our immune system. The virus destroys T-Cells and uses them to create copies of itself. The virus continues the process until there are no T-Cells left, leaving the body open to infections a normally healthy immune system would be able to ward off.

A person is diagnosed with AIDS when his/her T-Cell count reaches below a certain level or an “opportunistic disease” presents itself, which can be life threatening.

With a good medicine regime, the virus can be put at bay for years – even a lifetime – if treatment is properly adhered to.

African Americans are in danger from the fear of the unknown.

We have the ways and means to beat this. We can and will survive. Who knows? Maybe one day, there will be an effective cure.

I hope this project speaks to you the way it spoke to me.

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