Let’s Stop HIV Together - Individual Stories
Campaign Participant Profiles
Houston resident Dena Gray will be featured in the campaign with her daughter, Kandace. Dena has an inspiring and compelling personal story:
- She was diagnosed with HIV in 1991, when she was a student at the University of Houston. At that time, HIV was rarely discussed, either publicly or with friends and family.
- It took Dena several years to come to terms with her HIV status. Becoming pregnant proved to be the tipping point – knowing that she would be responsible for another life, she starting seeing a doctor for HIV care, and successfully avoided transmitting HIV to her baby.
- From that moment, Dena began to learn – and then to speak out – about living with HIV. She became an advocate for black women and all those living with the disease. Dena decided to make fighting HIV her job as well as her passion, and today serves as the HIV Prevention Program Manager for the city of Houston
New Jersey native Regan Hofmann will be featured in the campaign with her sister, Tracy. Regan has an inspiring and compelling personal story:
- She was diagnosed with HIV in 1996, while in her mid-20s. At that time, HIV was seen as a gay man’s disease – not something that straight prep-school graduates from Princeton needed to worry about.
- For many years, while she enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, Regan kept her HIV status to herself, out of shame and fear of the stigma she might face.
- In 2006, she decided to take a public – and professional – stand, announcing on the cover of POZ, a magazine for people with HIV, that she was not only HIV-positive, but also the magazine’s new editor-in-chief. Since then, Regan has been a passionate advocate for people living with HIV and the fight against AIDS.
Hydeia Broadbent will be featured in the campaign with her friend, the actress Jurnee Smollett. Hydeia has an inspiring and compelling personal story:
- Hydeia was adopted by a Las Vegas couple as an infant. Although she had been infected with HIV at birth, she was not diagnosed until age three, and many doctors said she would not live past age five. Her parents struggled to ensure that Hydeia received the medical care that would keep her alive.
- Hydeia has been speaking against AIDS stigma since childhood, when she appeared on a Nickelodeon special with Magic Johnson, who had recently announced that he was HIV-positive. Like so many other people living with HIV, stigma has negatively affected her life – she once lost a man she loved because he able to cope with her HIV status.
- Today, she works to educate other young people about the dangers of stigma, the risks of HIV infection, and the realities of life with the disease.
Jamar will be featured in the campaign with his mother, Danielle. His journey to this point is inspiring and compelling:
- Jamar was infected with HIV after running away from home, during a period of heavy drug use. He didn’t learn that he was HIV-positive until he fell seriously ill with related infections.
- His HIV diagnosis proved to be a turning point in his life. His mother was the first person that he called, and her love and support were crucial to his recovery. From that point forward, he committed himself to staying healthy and pursuing his dream of becoming a professional singer and musician.
- That dream came true when he auditioned for the national singing competition “The Voice,” moving on to become a semi-finalist. Today, he is making music while using his newfound fame to raise awareness of HIV and fight stigma across the country.
Chris Vanek will be featured in the campaign with his boyfriend, Rique. Chris has an inspiring personal story:
- Chris, who is a road manager and make-up artist for the singer Macy Gray, learned that he was HIV-positive in January 2011. Like many young gay men, he made sure to get tested for HIV on a regular basis. Still, his diagnosis came as a shock, since he regularly practiced safe sex.
- In the first months after his diagnosis, Chris struggled with fear and stigma – fear that his dream of raising a family was now out of reach, and stigma against HIV, which persists in all communities. Shortly after his diagnosis, a friend who didn’t know that Chris was HIV-positive criticized another man by saying, “He probably has HIV anyway.”
- Chris finally decided that he wasn’t going to let the virus control his life – he was going to be happy and healthy. He quit smoking and started exercising and eating healthier foods. Soon after, he met Rique, who knows and accepts Chris’s HIV status and gives him the love and support he needs to stay positive and healthy. Today, Chris is committed to doing his part in the fight against AIDS, by educating others in his community and participating in CDC’s new campaign for all Americans.