It’s a topic often swept under the rug, one many people don’t want to talk about. But one organization is putting HIV front and center, hoping to stop the disease from spreading in the Mid-South.
In 2014 The Center for Disease Control ranked Memphis 8th in the nation for people being infected with HIV. Now people are working to educate communities to stop the rate of infection.
Eddie Wiley works from home under the watch of his hero Wonder Woman. Pictures of the Amazon surround him as he prepares for his latest presentation. He told Local 24 Wonder Woman’s “lasso of truth” helps inspire him to be honest about his own story.
“I’ve been living with HIV for two years,” said Wiley. Upon learning of his diagnosis, he said he felt uneasy.
“I felt like I had let my clients down because I had talked so much about HIV prevention and telling people to use a condom and take care of themselves. Here I was living with the virus, without knowing it.”
Wiley now takes medication to control the virus in his body. He uses his story to help educate others.
“I want the African American community in Memphis to know that the stigma is the biggest killer of our people,” he said. “I do feel like even in 2017 people don’t want to talk about HIV and because of the stigma it makes HIV a death sentence when it doesn’t have to be.”
Helping spread that message is The Haven, located at 206 GE Patterson Avenue.
“It’s going to be a place where you can get education,” said Friends For Life Executive Director Diane Duke. “It’s going to be a place for people to learn how to protect themselves from HIV. We want it to be a place of health and wellness.”
The 4,000 square foot facility is already seeing clients since it’s move from East Memphis. Duke is overseeing the Anti-Stigma Campaign.
“We want people to not be afraid to get tested,” she said. “We want people not be afraid to be around people who are HIV positive because now with all the medical breakthroughs there have been, you’re going to live a long happy, healthy life.
The hope is that people will take advantage of the free HIV and STI testing. In addition to testing there will be other resources available.
“I wish the center existed prior to me being diagnosed,” said Wiley. “I wish it was around when I was a because we are going to do some amazing things in there. This place is going to be a place for any person who ever felt different and ever felt isolated. You have a space at The Haven.”
Click here to learn more about Friends for Life or The Haven, click here.