Continuing our profile of leaders at HAART that are helping to end the stigmas surrounding HIV/Aids in Baton Rouge, The Rouge Collection sat down with Meta Smith-Davis of HAART. Davis shared with us why she does the work. Davis is the assistant director of prevention at HARRT and has worked in the field for over 10 years.
Davis shared her candid thoughts and we love her passion for people.
A few facts about HAART the organization Meta Davis works for, which was birthed facing an increased number of HIV/AIDS cases in the area, in 1989 a task force was formed by concerned citizens and representatives of the Office of Public Health (OPH). Its purpose was to define the extent of the disease in the population, the affected subpopulation groups, and the need for services to assist affected individuals and families. From these early beginnings evolved HIV/AIDS Alliance for Region Two, Inc. (HAART), a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization that offers a broad continuum of services to people living with HIV/AIDS in the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA).
Q: What do you believe the community can best do to help in the fight to end the stigma around HIV?
A: Our communities can began to have serious and candid conversations about sex, we have to talk about sex, IDU (intravenous drug use) and SGL sex (Same Gender loving) sex to be able to have the kinds of conversations we need to have about HIV. the stigma is our communities biggest issue when it come to even bringing up conversations surrounding HIV, many folks in our communities believe still that if we are discussing HIV it must surely mean we are living with HIV, and that in turn keeps us from getting tested, which keeps us from knowing our status, which means we have a higher risk of not just transmitting but contracting HIV.
Q: Where does HAART fit into the conversation about solutions?
A: I believe that HAART plays a critical role in as much it employees folks that really give a damn about the issues surrounding HIV in the black communities. HAART has folks that are willing to get into black communities and provide answers to questions, offer testing for HIV, STD, HeP C and inform our communities why testing for HIV is so important and also why staying in care is equally as important.
A: Several reasons, however one that’s most important is that it gives me the opportunity each and every day to make a difference in my community, by being able to talk to folks both living with and those who are not living with HIV about why having discussions with our friends and family about HIV, and testing is so very important.
Secondly, when I received my diagnosis I did not not know one person living with HIV and I had no idea what my life was going to be like. I want people that are living with HIV to know that, yes receiving the diagnosis is life changing, it is not however life ending and that staying in care provides us with a life full of all the things we could possibly dream to achieve. That there is life after HIV, and it can be all that you desire.
Lastly, I want to be of service to my folks flat out!!! I want my community to know that we have to deal with all the issues that put black folks at a higher risk; like poverty, intimate partner violence, low literacy levels, food deserts, lack of access to nearly everything. It is my not just my honor to be of service it is my obligation to God who has given me so much mercy, grace and love.
Have you been tested? Are you sure of your status? How long ago were you tested? If not the place to get you the answer is HAART. Check them out and tell others about the great work they are doing to help us decrease our numbers of sexually transmitted deceases.
HAART is located at 4550 North Blvd. Ste. 250, Baton Rouge, LA 70806.