Six months after being diagnosed with HIV, Anna Fowlkes was invited to be on a panel at the University of Maryland. The topic was HIV and aging. “That was the beginning of an awesome journey, a ministry, and personal growth for me,” she says. “I often am amazed, humbled, and grateful for the opportunities that have come my way... I now take better care of me. I have family and friends that I have known for many years who have stood by me on this journey. I now also have a family of sisters who are living with HIV, who are supportive, encouraging, and uplifting.”
At 71 years old, Fowlkes has been living with HIV for 12 years now. The Baltimore native discussed relationships and dating among older PLWH with her partner Paul Johns in a cover story for Poz magazine last year. Johns is HIV-negative and Fowlkes has incorporated educating people about being in serodiscordant relationships, and uses their personal life as a corner stone in her mission to amplify the message that being undetectable means it’s almost impossible to transmit HIV to one’s partner. Fowlkes was also one of the faces of New York City’s 2014 Age Is Not A Condom campaign. Created by ACRIA, the campaign encouraged older adults to practice safer sex.
Since her diagnosis in 2006, Fowlkes’s role as an HIV and AIDS education and prevention advocate, activist, and spokesperson has positioned her to host the Baltimore City Health Department’s e-learning HIV management program Positively!, a definitive guide for promoting safe and healthy living. She wrote and produced the videos, “Senior Dating: Older, Wiser, Safer” and “Love Ain’t Supposed to Hurt” on the topics of safer sex and domestic abuse among seniors.
Fowlkes was also inducted into SisterLove’s 2020 Leading Women’s Society in 2013, served six years on the Greater Baltimore HIV Health Services Planning Council, and was a member of the Baltimore City Health Department’s health literacy panel. She also has appeared on several television news programs, sharing her personal story on secular and Christian radio shows.
“I am glad that I have been able to help others and make a difference,” she says. “I am proud to be part of the solution and not part of the problem. I realize that many are still suffering from stigma, some are angry, some depressed, and some may suffer from low self-esteem or self-worth. To eliminate those issues is one of the biggest challenges we face.”