Richmonder uses HIV diagnosis to help others - NBC12.com - Richmond, VA News

Richmonder uses HIV diagnosis to help others

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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) -

Every year 50,000 people are infected with HIV in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control. A Richmond woman is using her diagnosis to try and educate others.

"HIV positive. Most devastating news I could have ever heard," says a woman who speaks out under the alias of Kenette Johnson.

She spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect her young children. The Richmond woman, diagnosed last year, says it could happen to anyone.

"I was dating a gentleman. So happened to find out one day that he was dating three other people," Johnson said.

She had to get past the hurt to heal and then help fight those who know little about the disease.

"Having the stigma is worse than having the disease itself," she said.

See a full list of HIV testing opportunities in Central Virginia

The Richmond Health Department says an estimated 2,500 people live with the disease in Richmond. While new infections continue to climb, experts say the ability to fight the disease is better than it's ever been.

Khidhra Smith runs a non-profit called Salimah's House that works to prevent the epidemic.

"Every 9 and a half seconds, someone contracts the HIV/AIDS virus," Smith said.

She says with new life-saving medications, those infected can live long healthy lives and developments in testing make it easier to find out whether you've contracted HIV. And if you do....

"Life is not over. HIV/AIDS is 100% preventable but we also have a lot of things in place that can support people who are living positive," she said.

People like Johnson who says--in a sense--her life is just beginning.

"It's a bad disease but we can live. We can still live with the disease and not affect others…I contracted the disease to save others," she said.

The Richmond Health Department offers free HIV tests on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 7:30 am - 10:30 pm and 12:30 - 3:30 pm.

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