Suzan's Story

Hi. My name is Suzan. I am one of the growing number of women who are infected with HIV. Currently women make up 23% of the 1 million persons living with HIV in the U.S., and this number continues to rise year after year. I share my story because too often the stories of women living with HIV are not told. I want to end the silence and end the stigma. TIHAN is helping me become an empowered woman, and I hope you will read my story and why I feel so strongly that you should know how important TIHAN is to women living with HIV in our community.

Suzan Adkins shares her story of living and thriving with HIV. After being ill for many months, Suzan was eventually tested for HIV and the test was positive, a moment that changed her life forever. With the help of her family, TIHAN and her doctors, she has fought through her illness to make a slow, but steady turnaround to better health. She finds strength through surrounding herself with good people, and she and her mother appreciate the support that TIHAN provides.

Suzan became sick in the spring of 2006 and steadily went on the decline. She made numerous trips to the emergency room only to be turned away with various diagnoses. As her health worsened, Suzan became incredibly depressed. In January 2007, she finally found a doctor who was willing and able to listen to her. She was tested for HIV, and the test was returned positive.

Suzan was at a loss. She immediately turned to her family. She called her mother, Peggy, who immediately began to pray for her. Peggy went to her congregation for support and the congregation responded with prayer. Peggy also began to research any information she could find on HIV/AIDS and the accompanying depression so that she could better understand the issues facing her beloved daughter. Peggy attended various conferences and TIHAN's educational programs so that she could provide the best support possible for her daughter.

Suzan still felt lost. She couldn't get out of bed, and was in a very dark place. But slowly, over time, she began to reach out for help. She found inner strength, and knew that she needed to fight to get healthy again, not only for herself, but also for her family, especially her children and her young grandchildren.

About a year after her initial diagnosis, Suzan reached out to TIHAN. She began to attend TIHAN's Poz Cafe lunch program. "I have to admit that I never realized how many people were living with HIV until I went to Poz Cafe. It was very important to me to be able to meet others with this disease. It helps you realize you're not the only one, and it gives you more of an outlook on living with this disease instead of dying from it."

In addition to the sense of empowerment and comraderie, Suzan appreciates receiving the healthy and nutritious meal as well as the care package, a gift bag filled with personal care items. "These items can be expensive, and when you're unable to work and living on disability income, it's very, very helpful to receive these items from TIHAN. I am grateful for TIHAN for helping me and others living with HIV to meet some very basic needs," Suzan said.

Shortly after Suzan became involved in TIHAN, her mother began to volunteer. "I am so glad that there are agencies available for people to turn to," Peggy commented, "and the interfaith aspect of TIHAN has really helped to show compassionate care."

One of the challenges faced by Suzan and other women living with HIV/AIDS is the stigma of this disease. Because so many people still hold the misconception that HIV/AIDS is a disease affecting only gay men, Suzan finds that people often overlook how many women can become infected. Because of this, Suzan feels a need to better advocate for herself and other women. She strives to educate those around her by speaking out as a positive woman, and by speaking out against the stigma of this disease.

Suzan is grateful for the work that TIHAN does to help people who are living with HIV/AIDS in the community. She strives to let people know that people living with HIV are just like everyone else. They have a disease, like cancer, or another chronic illness that requires attention, care and support but that—with proper care—can be manageable. Suzan continues the fight to live a long, healthy life, and aims to watch her grandchildren grow up, and to ultimately become a great-grandmother herself!

To make a contribution to support the work of TIHAN, please click here or call (520) 299-6647 to make a credit card donation by phone. You can also mail your check, made payable to TIHAN, to 2660 North 1st Avenue, Tucson, Arizona 85719-2911.

Thank you for making a difference!


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