Thank you, Jewelers for Children!
This week, I was honored to speak as an ambassador for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) at the annual Jewelers for Children (JFC) Facets of Hope Dinner in Las Vegas. Having benefited from EGPAF’s services since I was a young girl, I was excited to meet JFC members and to share my story.
This partnership has had a tremendous impact on the lives of mothers and children living with and affected by HIV. I know that one partnership can make a change. I have lived it. I am just one example of the many children and adolescents that EGPAF helps.
When I was a child, I found a letter my mother was hiding. I read it, even though I wasn’t supposed to. At ten years old, I had no idea that reading that letter would change my life forever. The letter said I was HIV-positive, and noted that my mother, father, and younger sister were too. I was so scared for my future.
Thankfully, I wasn’t scared for long. Through my work with EGPAF, I have learned that my HIV-positive status does not have to define my life. Shortly after my diagnosis and the beginning of my treatment, I joined an EGPAF Ariel Club in Uganda – a psychosocial support group for children and teens who are infected or affected by HIV. Now I am a friend and mentor for other young people struggling with their diagnosis.
I use my own personal story to guide others as they overcome the challenges of a life with HIV, and to advocate in front of members of Congress for better treatment options. I hope to inspire others to learn about and defeat the stigma surrounding HIV.
I shared my story with the JFC community this week with one message: being a child with HIV is a challenge, but EGPAF support programs help children living with HIV – like me – not just to survive, but also thrive. From my longtime work with EGPAF, I know firsthand that JFC’s support helps to change the lives of women and children every day.
It was a wonderful experience to celebrate the longstanding partnership between EGPAF and JFC, and our shared commitment to creating an AIDS-free generation. JFC’s legacy partnership has enabled EGPAF to save lives, just like mine, and give children hope for a bright and healthy future. I’ve met so many new people and businesses who, through their work with JFC, want to make the world a better place for children. While I attended the event hoping to inspire them, I think they inspired me even more.
Today I leave Las Vegas (what a city!) and head to Washington, D.C with more excitement than ever to continue this work here in the United States and at home in Uganda.
Thank you to JFC for their renewed commitment to EGPAF!