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Working Together to Stop HIV

My name is Khadija. My journey with HIV began when I was 22 years old. While working and pursuing my undergraduate degree, a friend of mine was admitted. During his stay I found out he was HIV+. He was only 19 years old. The shock that raced through my body was unimaginable. I realized my own ignorance on HIV. A few years earlier in high school, my teacher invited a man living with HIV to speak to our class. Sitting in the room with him I could taste the disgust forming in my mouth. I thought I would ‘catch’ HIV simply by breathing in the same air. If I could go back in time, I would slap myself so hard for being so for the lack of better words…ignorant. After learning my friend was HIV+, I knew something had to change. I headed back to my college campus and organized AIDS Awareness Week with fellow student and local nonprofit organizations. The week was successful and included testing, a vigil, workshops, presentation by a person living with HIV, artistic showcase and more. This really bought the community together and even after I graduated my University continues to hold awareness events.

In 2009 I relocated to the Washington, DC area, interned at the National Minority AIDS Council and later founded RAHMA in 2012. RAHMA was founded simply to address HIV/AIDS in the American Muslim community. Why was this necessary? Working in that same hospital during college a Muslim man living with AIDS was admitted. This man was mean to all the nurses and gave them a hard time. I watched his behavior for some time and then one day I was assigned to be his aide. The moment we locked eyes, we understood each other. From that day forward I was his caregiver. We formed a connection and this man opened up. He wasn’t the mean person that he outwardly displayed. Inside he was hurt and alone. His own family did not know he was living with AIDS and this was a heavy burden on his heart. What could I do to help this man and so many others like him? At that time all I could do was be there for him, fast forward four years later I realized I could do something more. RAHMA was founded on the principle of Mercy, the English translation of the word. HIV/AIDS has been a taboo topic in the American Muslim community for far too long. Turning our backs is not the answer. With mercy as my guide, I hope to unite the Muslim community, raise awareness and provide support. Will you join me on this journey?

Khadijah, 28

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