HIV hasn’t a face, for it doesn’t discriminate. Instead, it has many faces and plenty of faces. There is no way to tell, even if you think your eye has been trained, whether or not a person is living with the virus. However, this morning, in Philadelphia, on the corner where Germantown Avenue and Chew Street intersect I was able to capture one of those faces. I knew she had it because not only is she the Reverend Andrena Ingram, she is my own mother. Everyone else knew she had it because her status was boldly screened on a bright red t-shirt in honor of the 3rd annual A Day With HIV.
In essence, today, I too experienced a moment in a day with HIV as I proudly walked by her side with her in this shirt to the public square where she wanted her picture taken. Her moment became my moment as I facilitated the attention her shirt drew, taking picture after picture, amongst the denizens of the block.
Picture after picture, no one seems to be paying attention. The fact of the matter, though, is the attention we received was cloaked by people trying to not pay attention. As soon as they saw the shirt, they looked only long enough to see that we were taking pictures and from there, it was almost as if they fought themselves to not look again.
Indeed, this was an eye opener. I’d been anxiously thinking that the stares would be blatant. Knowing this city, I was afraid we were going to be ostracized or disrespected standing at this juncture in the city for the cause we were. Instead, no one payed us any mind. Even better than that, though, a few were totally oblivious. Is this why HIV and AIDS continues to be an issue?
The Reverend, Pastor Andrena Ingram knows she has been living with the virus for at least 20 years. Her most powerful and courageous ministry begins with this t-shirt.
The t-shirt is a reminder to people that HIV is something to remember. The t-shirt is support for those who are positive and are ashamed or feeling guilty, that it is okay to disclose your status and even that your status should be disclosed. The t-shirt raises awareness and takes away some of the power that HIV and AIDS has on humanity. She follows this t-shirt up by ministering to the community with free HIV testing, sermons and stories about her life. And she supports A Day With HIV, an organization dedicated to taking the stigma associated with HIV and AIDS away.
My daughter’s blog can be found here: