CONTENT PROVIDED BY OUR FRIENDS AT THE RURAL WOMEN’S HEALTH PROJECT
In recognition of Women’s History Month, the certified Peer Educators of Let’s Talk About It are making history with their newest publication, “Sisters Inspiring Sisters: Our Well-being Matters.” This testimonial-style medium is a forum of advice for their peers living with HIV. It offers guidance for adhering to medical treatment and other tips to benefit their well-being.
Let’s Talk About It (LTAI), now in its 5th year, is the only program in North Central Florida dedicated to serving the support and advocacy needs of HIV positive women and female caregivers of adults and children living with the virus. LTAI is a program of the Rural Women’s Health Project, founded in Gainesville in 1991.
Let’s Talk About It was formed to serve women living with HIV and female caregivers and is now managed under the direction of a three-‐woman Advisory Team elected by the LTAI participants. The goal of the program is to improve adherence to treatment, build emotional support through community service and to develop the leadership capacity of women living with HIV. Since its inception, the group has made presentations, developed testimonial materials and hosted a national webinar to share its mission: increase health literacy, reduce stigma and improve health outcomes.
“Sisters Inspiring Sisters: Our Well-being Matters,” is a 16‐page booklet in the Rural Women’s Health Project’s signature fotonovela format. The photographs, with dialogue boxes, respond to common life experiences of women living with HIV. “The booklet talks about the things that people living with HIV think about, but don’t want to say out loud. It shows both strength and courage.” Resources are also included for local and national health and social services. LTAI is partially funded by Positive Action Southern Initiative of ViiV Healthcare. Funding for this publication was provided by Gainesville’s Emmanuel Mennonite Church.
LTAI Peer Advocate Crystal Coleman, who recently returned from her second year at the AIDSWatch National Lobbying Day in Washington, DC, stated, “Being a Peer Advocate is all about giving strength, guidance and encouragement.”
Let’s Talk About It is open to women who are living with HIV, or caregiving for those with the virus through monthly meetings, the Sister Support Pen-‐pal program, LTAI Blog and print materials. The Sister Pen-‐pal program offers support in a confidential manner, respecting privacy and helping peers to connect with services, information, support and encouragement. The program intends to engage more women in support opportunities to encourage better medical outcomes and provide referrals and information so that women live life to the fullest.
LTAI Director, Fran Ricardo remarked, “The ongoing work of the advocates is a testament to the commitment of the women themselves and their guidance in program development. Women living with HIV know best how to serve other women living with HIV, with respect, solidarity and support.”
LTAI members serve the community as speakers at local churches, school or businesses, providing LTAI magazines, brochures and materials to local social services and businesses, and by offering information and support via the LTAI blog at: letstalkaboutitblog.rwhp.org
In celebration of Women’s History Month, the RWHP will also be kicking off its annual fundraiser to support LTAI’s programs. If community members are interested in supporting LTAI or would like more information about the LTAI program, they should contact Fran Ricardo at 352-‐372-‐1095.
Fran Ricardo, Director of Development
Rural Women’s Health Project