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New Book Shares Women's Stories of Living with HIV

Sistahs Speak

Sistah’s’ Speak is an anthology, a collection of personal narratives from women living with HIV/AIDS. 

Sistah’s’ Speak edited by Plus contributor Khafre Kujichagulia Abif  [with an introduction by Plus Editor-in-Chief Diane Anderson-Minshall] seeks to create a space for women to share their stories in their own voice, with an open heart as a vehicle for chronicling the lived experiences of women living with HIV/AIDS. The goal of this project is to empower the reader, supports the soul and uplifts the spirit of women living with HIV/AIDS and the collective communities each represent. 

Laurel Sprague, Executive Director, Global Network of People Living with HIV, says of the book, "Sistah’s Speak is a heartful and welcoming collection of stories from women living with HIV. Many authors are long-time community activists and women warriors, known and beloved in their communities and in the broader networks of women living with HIV. Most may not be well known to people outside of our struggles to ensure decent, non-discriminatory treatment and care for all women living with HIV. That is a shame, which this collection should remedy. From the deeply personal to the boldly political, women write of racism, misogyny, exclusion, and violence, and of solidarity, love, community, and support. This is a book of bold and direct truth-telling."

Below are three powerful poems from the forthcoming book.





HIV Loved My Family

HIV came into my home,

way before I was even born.

HIV lingered around my father and his friends,

as they risk using injection drugs.

HIV exposed itself when my father got sick

and went to the hospital.

HIV stayed around to creep up on my mother

HIV found a home in my mother

while she was pregnant with me.

HIV and my mother argued a lot

and HIV usually won.

HIV won so many times while

my mother was getting sicker.

HIV got closer to me.

HIV got a hold of my hand

and wouldn’t let go.

HIV liked holding my hand so much

it decided to stay with me after I was born.

HIV liked my brother too when

he was born a year after.

HIV loved my brother so much

my brother couldn’t take it anymore.

HIV and my family cried

as we had to bury my little brother.

HIV and my family cried when

we had to bury my mother.

HIV still had my father

and I soon it was coping

HIV got so mean my father said,

it was best if I left for my safety.

HIV kept making things hard for him

and eventually led him to be locked up.

HIV shadowed my life growing up

and I didn’t understand why it was still here.

HIV kept me from living with my grandmother,

because she was battling HIV herself.

HIV lived and thrived with my family.

HIV loved us so much we couldn’t breathe,

which sometimes resulted in death.

HIV hit me hard again when it selfishly took

my grandmother from me.

HIV made me want to fight back for the first time.

HIV and I struggled to co-exist which,

made things worse mainly for me.

HIV said it will never go away

but I had a solution.

HIV kept getting quieter

when I kept taking my meds every day.

HIV was there but it wasn’t bothering me so much anymore.

HIV and I made a deal,

as long as I am taking my meds

it must understand some things.

You are just a part of me.

I am still somebody without you.

I will live a long and healthy life.

I am stronger than you.

I deserve all good things which come my way

without you causing me pain.

I will learn as much as I can

so, one day we don’t have to co-exist.

You don’t like this but it’s not about you anymore.

Yes, you took a lot from me but it stops with me.

I don’t need your love.

Even if there isn’t a vaccine or a cure in my life time,

I want you to understand that this cycle ends with me.


Tranisha Arzah



My Blessed Life-A Dialogue Poem

HIV is my companion.                                                                        

HIV is not my acquaintance! 

HIV is my disease. 

HIV is not something that will forever be in my life

HIV is the way I’ve met the most amazing people in my life.

HIV is fraught with folks I’m not sure I want to meet! 

HIV is my gateway into all my social and racial justice work. 

HIV is not something I want to keep conversing about with you. 

HIV is going to be talked about.

HIV is not something you’re supposed to have.

HIV is my chronic illness.  

I want you to help me eradicate the

stigma surrounding this disease. 

HIV is not in my daily vocabulary! 

HIV is in everyone’s life. 

I want you to learn the

vernacular of an HIV advocate. 

HIV is not worth my time,

HIV is an amazing part of my blessed life! 

HIV is not a blessed anything.

You will die of AIDS! 

HIV is something you may need to welcome

into your life if you don’t use condoms soon.

HIV is not something that will happen to me. 

I told you that.

HIV is 100% preventable,

but you have to be pro-active with safe sex.

  HIV is not something we get in this town,

you moved away, that’s why you got it! 

HIV is something we get in this town

and every rural, suburban, and urban area in America. 

HIV is for real. 

HIV is coy and will not interview you,

nor respect your wishes. 

Just when you don’t expect an HIV positive diagnosis,

that’s when you will get one. 

HIV is an equalizer.  It can happen to any of us. 

HIV is not what I want us to have in common,

but I think I do want to know how you are so fearless,

so, intrepid, so remarkable. 

HIV is part of my autobiography.

HIV is not part of yours.

Let’s keep it that way. 

Susan Mull



My HIV Monologue

HIV told me to hate myself!

I wasn’t prepared for the emotional numbness.

The pitch black mental darkness.

The assassination of my Happy Go Lucky Spirit,

That every young person should have.

How dare you,

I was only 23 and two weeks after my diagnosis,

You told me I was pregnant.

Don’t touch me,

Don’t hug me,

I don’t even like me anymore.

HIV positive and seven months pregnant

and I’m working in this stupid pharmacy.

Only thing is when you come to pick up your HIV meds,

I am behind the counter

And I see yourself inflicted shame and stigma.

The only thing is you think I’m judging you

When you don’t even know

I’m taking the same medicine as you.

I had my baby and she’s three years old and HIV negative.

Her brother is 11 and he knows about HIV/AIDS too.

Now, I’ve done my part to protect him and her

and they’ll have to do their part to respect themselves,

Check themselves, and protect themselves.

Masonia Traylor


Check out Sistah's Speak: Reading & Book Signing on Eventbrite!
Date: Sat, Sep 9, 2017 at 7:00 PM
Location: United States Conference on AIDS - Marriott Marquis, Tulip Room Washington, DC 901 Massachusetts Avenue NW Washington District Of Columbia 20001 USA 901 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington, DC 20001

Contact Khafre at:

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