As a transgender woman, Tiona saw firsthand the impact that HIV was having on her community. She had numerous friends contract and pass away from untreated HIV. “There was information about HIV out there, but there wasn’t anyone to talk to, no one making sure my community understood and could act on the information.”
Transgender women have been disproportionately affected by HIV. According to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, an estimated one in five Black transwomen is living with HIV. Tiona is on a mission to turn around those statistics.
When she learned about PrEP – a once daily pill that protects against HIV – Tiona was compelled to make sure others knew about it as well. “I felt that it was not only my duty but my honor to go out there and show people something different, how it could be.”
For people who do not have HIV, PrEP, offers another powerful prevention option. Often described as birth control but for HIV, PrEP gives individuals a means of protection they can control themselves. When taken as prescribed, PrEP is highly effective in stopping HIV.
In Powered by PrEP!, a docu-video series from Greater Than AIDS, Tiona shares how going on PrEP has emboldened her to take control of her health, “Why not take care of yourself, the best way you can?” She also hopes to ensure that everyone has the information they need to stay healthy, regardless of their HIV status. “It still shocks me how much misinformation there is around PrEP and HIV. I think it’s my duty to take the information I’ve learned and share it with others.”
Today, Tiona is continuing to find new and exciting ways to reach and empower her community. She has hosted “PrEP parties,” informal gatherings where people can get information about PrEP, hear from others on the pill and even get connected with services. “I host these events because I want people in my community to see that there are people out there willing to help. And that they can – and should – have more hope than they did 10, 20 years ago.”
Her work has given her hope for the future. “I love when people come up to me on the street and say to me, ‘You are right. Now really is the time.’ We’re empowering our community to know more, to change the stigma, to give hope.”