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No. 18 of 20 Most Amazing HIV-Positive Women: Lisa Tiger

No. 18 of 20 Most Amazing HIV-Positive Women: Lisa Tiger


Poz since the 1980s, Lisa Tiger has used education and storytelling to show what it's like to be a Native American living with HIV today — and to push others to include Native traditions in the testing to treatment care continuum.

Her name is appropriate, say her friends and followers: Lisa Tiger is a force of nature. A member of the Muscogee Nation and of Creek, Seminole, Cherokee, and Irish descent, Tiger has had HIV since the late 1980s and has been doing AIDS education nearly as long. She’s raised four kids, dealt with Parkinson’s disease, and advocated both for crime victims (after her brother was shot and killed in 1990) and for people with HIV and AIDS. Tiger has spoken nationwide, and she has received the Woman of Courage award from the National Organization for Women as well as honors from amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research, making her perhaps the most visible HIV-positive Native American woman in the U.S. But it is her talks to other Native Americans that are the most notable. When Wilma Mankiller, the pioneering chief of the Cherokee Nation, asked her to speak at the Oklahoma reservation, she accepted gladly.

“There is such a need for education,” Tiger told Positively Aware in 2009. “And people weren’t paying attention to the Red Cross coming in with their classes. They needed to hear from one of their own.”

Tiger has spoken about why every facet of dealing with HIV, including testing, treatment, and prevention, needs to be more culturally based in order to work in Native communities, often arguing that a return to traditional Native values could battle some of the biggest health threats facing Native Americans today, including AIDS, addiction, suicide, and violence. She knows these well, having lost a brother and daughter to murder, her father to an accidental self-inflicted gunshot, and a fiancé to alcoholism. She maintains a stoic sense of humor, though.

“You gotta go through the manure to get to the magic,” she told Positively Aware.

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