By Elizabeth Brosnan, Executive Director Christie’s Place San Diego, CA
National Women and Girl’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is perhaps the single most important day for organizations of, by and for HIV-positive women in the United States. The goal of NWGHAAD is to raise awareness about the increasing impact of HIV/AIDS on women and girls and to encourage them to take action. Over the past eight years NWGHAAD has raised much needed domestic visibility about the epidemic’s impact on women and girls and has been a call to action for women to mobilize, get tested and know their status. This message is very close to our heart at Christie’s Place. NWGHAAD gives us a platform to share the actions we’ve taken, the struggles and the successes as well as lift up the voices and needs of HIV-positive women. And NWGHAAD is a time of remembrance for the sisters we’ve lost in this fight.
Christie’s Place is dedicated to the memory of Christie Milton-Torres who at age 30 passed away from AIDS complications in 1994. Christie dreamed that one day there would be a haven for women and families living with HIV/AIDS. At a time when very few women were speaking out about their experiences with HIV, Christie became a spokesperson and advocated for the needs of families. She was a tireless advocate with a vision to have a center for women and families to go to get support and care. What for her and her family was once only a dream, a hope . . . is now reality for the hundreds of women and families Christie’s Place serves each year.
April will mark seventeen years since Christie’s mother Irene made her dream a reality by founding Christie’s Place. What started as a small grassroots organization has grown into a full service social service agency guided by its mission, one woman’s vision and a mother’s determination. As NWGHAAD approaches, I think of what Christie and her mother fought for frequently. I often wonder if I personally am doing right by her legacy and if she would think we are doing enough. One of my favorite quotes from Nelson Mandela is – “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” When we started CHANGE for Women, it was my hope that we could accomplish great things, even if they seemed impossible. While we are far from done, today I know that Christie would be proud of our achievements . . . achievements that once seemed impossible.
At Christie’s Place we have been fighting to make sure that women’s voices are included in the national and local HIV discourse and have worked to strengthen the position of HIV-positive women in service and treatment policy decisions that impact their lives. Like Christie, our goal has been to ensure that HIV-positive women have a voice in decisions that directly affect their lives, be represented and valued at all decision making levels, and have equal access to resources and services that address all of their needs.
Christie’s Place is an AIDS United grantee