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Friday, March 2, 2012

Women of the Embassy: The Long Fight Against HIV/AIDS

Angela with HIV/AIDS healthcare professionals in Antigua
In observance of International Women's Day, we will be featuring women of the Embassy and their work throughout March.  For our first entry in this series, Angela Davis writes about her work with HIV/AIDS with the U.S. Agency for International Development.  

When people ask me what I do, I am often a little reluctant to share the fact that I spend my days working to fight a formidable foe, that which is HIV/AIDS.  This foe often leaves you reeling from the complexity of its nature and the far reaching scope of its impact. This disease like perhaps none other in modern history, has managed to engage some of the most brilliant scientific, political and humanitarian minds of our generation, mobilize billions of resources in aid, engendered some of the most compassionate facets of mankind and displayed some of the ugliest fragments of human nature. Many days it feels like this is a fight that will not be won but one for which giving up is not an option.

Clearly after 20 years of working in HIV/AIDS, one cannot help but feeling like a wounded solider. However, working in this realm has never been motivated by personal gain. Forging a career in public health and social development issues was deeply ingrained in my psyche. Coming from a long maternal lineage of community mid-wives and nurses, it almost seemed like this affinity for health and my passion for working to improve the health and wellbeing of others was innate.  From childhood I was intrigued with issues related to gender, health and medicine. This translated into professional development in maternal and child health, sexual and reproductive health, a broader public health focus and ultimately HIV/AIDS which encompasses all of these things.

I am not sure if I have another 20 years of “fight” left in me but after 30 years HIV/AIDS has left us with few victories and much work left to be done. What I do know is that I am driven to remember the humanity behind the statistics- every new infection represents a new life that will be forever changed by all that this disease encompasses. I have seen what that challenging reality can look like. The many faces of HIV/AIDS inspire me to continue to make my contribution to this global effort. …to fight for resources, to fight against stigma and discrimination, to fight for equality and to ultimately fight for life!  In many respects I believe that this is what I am meant to do…maybe there is no coincidence that World AIDS Day is commemorated on my birthday.

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