This post is based on an online interview form submitted by Benita on December 4, 2012.
Tell us about yourself. My name is Benita Terrell. I am HIV+, and have been since 2000. I did not know how it was contracted. I am currently a student at Community College of Philadelphia, majoring in behavioral health and human services. Once I graduate, I plan on giving back what was given to me - help. I also sing with the Philadelphia FIGHT gospel choir. We perform at events like World AIDS Day. In addition to that, I was recently hired by Philadelphia FIGHT as a peer counselor.
What made you get involved in the HIV/AIDS community? We as a group should always give back or help in any capacity we can. My heart goes out to disadvantaged people and those who can not take care of themselves. I just want to help. When I give back, I find joy within.
If you could change one HIV policy or implement a new policy, what would it be? The federal government, HRSA, and the CDC are some of the organizations that determine how money is distributed into my community. I would change the amount of dollars being sent to areas like case management, and put MORE dollars into HOUSING! Also, I would turn several abandoned homes into an entire complex for people living with HIV/AIDS. Atlanta, Georgia has several of these.
Who do you look up to or admire? President Obama, Tina Radin (Philadelphia FIGHT), Jane Schull (Philadelphia FIGHT), Bishop McNear (Philadelphia FIGHT), Kathleen Squires (infectious disease doctor), Ruben Wiggins Sr. (my dad), Judy Dyitt (my sister), and Ben Malone (my second dad).
What do you think is the biggest challenge facing people living with HIV/AIDS? Finding affordable housing! No house [means] nothing to store medicine in. [With] no medicine, we die!
If you found out your friend was recently diagnosed with HIV, what would you tell him/her? "It is not a death [sentence]." I would also let them know that I would help any way I could. I would advise them to always use condoms, and tell their partner about their status.
What do you think? Would your answers be different? Take the interview yourself online, and we'll post your responses here.