Becoming a Positive Leader
As a Positive Leader through MAP’s Public Policy program, Annie has had the chance to help others learn about living with HIV.
It started with a chance meeting with Minnesota AIDS Project staff in 2008.
“I attended a weekend event called Empowering Heroes where there were sessions about different topics of living with HIV,” Annie says. “I saw the description for the Public Policy session and was very interested in seeing what that was all about.”
MAP’s Public Policy program is the only one of its kind in Minnesota. The program mobilizes the community affected by HIV to advocate for policies, programs, and laws that reduce new HIV infections and support the efforts of those living with HIV to live long, healthy lives.
Annie is a long-term survivor and she’s been talking about living with HIV since 1995 including being interviewed by the Pioneer Press and being a resource at her job. At that conference in 2008, Annie found out about AIDS Action Day.
“I was excited to find a connection to the community I hadn't realized I was missing at this stage of living with HIV,” she says. “I started participating in AIDS Action Day annually.”
MAP launched the Positive Leaders program in 2010. Positive Leaders are the voices of those living with HIV. They meet with lawmakers, and speak to decision-makers to ensure that the interests of those living with HIV are being addressed. Annie was one of the first people to sign up.
“I'm especially interested in getting a comprehensive sex ed bill to make sure all children in Minnesota get age appropriate comprehensive sex ed so they can learn how to make informed decisions about their relationships from an emotional and health point of view,“ she says.
For Annie, ensuring that youth have the facts about HIV and healthy sexuality is a deeply personal quest.
“I didn't end up having children so sharing my story and getting the comprehensive sex ed bill into law have given meaning to my life.”
It hasn’t always been easy as there is still a lot of resistance from some lawmakers. In fact, the bill has been waiting to pass for more than a decade.
“When I share my story and the importance of comprehensive sex ed to my conservative friends, they seem surprised that it's a partisan issue at all,” says Annie. “If I get to chat with people one on one and get to discuss the details, I do think that I at least get them thinking about the topic a little more positively.”
Getting involved with the Positive Leaders program was a remarkable experience for Annie.
“It was just what I was looking for!” she says. “I get to make a difference by letting legislators know what we need living with HIV.”