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World AIDS Day in Pennsylvania: Marking Achievements, Remembering Victims

December 3, 2012

PHILADELPHIA - Pennsylvania marked World AIDS Day on Saturday, by remembering those who've died from AIDS but also by bringing communties together to fight the disease and educate people about it. This year's theme is, "Getting to zero: Zero infections. Zero discrimination. Zero AIDS-related deaths."

Waheedah Shabazz-El of Philadelphia is a founding and advisory member of the U.S. Positive Women's Network, and coordinator of PWN-Philly. She was 49 years old and married when she found out she had AIDS.

"I don't know when I got infected but I got diagnosed with AIDS in 2003, the very first time that I took an HIV test, and I believe that a big problem for women is that women don't understand all of their risk factors."

Shabazz-El says reaching the goal associated with World AIDS Day will mean better data being collected about the numbers of women affected by it.

"That women be counted into the data, counted into the data correctly, and all women are counted. And when we say all women we also include transgender women."

Shabazz-El says transgender women have an equal if not greater chance of acquiring HIV or AIDS as straight women do. She says too many women assume that if they're not taking part in risky behaviors, they're safe from AIDS, when, in reality, their risk factors may not be just their own but also those of their partners.

Shabazz-El's story has gone international. In 2010, she gave the closing address at the 18th International AIDS Conference in Vienna. A study by the group AIDS United shows that in 2010, women made up 29 percent of the people living with AIDS in Pennsylvania.

Tom Joseph, Public News Service - PA