HENRICO, VA (WWBT) - As the world tackles the tough topic of AIDS, local ladies are leading the conversation.
As December 1 marks World AIDS Day, the local chapter of the Rita & Keonda Foundation, hosted a special evening called Let's Talk About It. "The goal of the event is to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS with a candid discussion about prevention along with powerful stories of women whose lives were directly impacted by the disease. This event is also designed to provide hope and encouragement for those who are caregivers and family members of those living with HIV/AIDS," the organizers, Lafonia Page and Juliette Davis, wrote in a press release.
The foundation is named after Page's mother and sister, who both passed away from the disease. "[My sister] was born with it and it took nearly six years before she had any signs of having the disease," Page shared before the event. Her sister was only ten years old.
The second organizer, Juliette Davis, also lost a loved one to AIDS. Her husband was diagnosed just before their wedding. "The decision to abstain, saved my life," Davis shared. She felt it was a death sentence, but one she couldn't share because of the secrecy and shame surrounding the disease. It was a major reason she decided to become a counselor for others. "I was at his bedside and I said 'God, what do I do with this? How can I use this to save lives?" Davis explained.
Both women turned to faith
"I was carrying a lot of pain with me, and God put it in my heart to start a foundation in honor of my mom and sister," Page said.
Then, they found each other. It started simply enough with Davis coming into Page's salon. Soon, the two were brave enough to share their stories with one another. It then grew into a conversation about supporting the community. They were brave enough to share their story with each other. The two launched a forum this week to give others in the community a way to be a part of the conversation.
"About four months ago, we got to talking about World AIDS Day, and we thought it would be great to use that to keep the conversation going," Davis explained.
The women are hoping to share their stories to students in local high schools. "When your life has been touched and you can share that message... You're not pulling it from the textbook or [the] Internet. Its [sic] real stories, which touched real lives," Davis said.
They also plan to put on support groups while also educating people, especially about prevention.
If you would like more information, need support, or want to learn how you can get involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS, you can contact the foundation by emailing them at RitaKeondaFoundation@gmail.com.
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