This is a role model story created for Project PaTHwAY (Preventing and Treating HIV with American Indian Youth).
The focus of Project PaTHwAY is creating systems-level changes to build and strengthen the capacity of California Indian Tribes and Tribal health programs to implement effective practices and policies to prevent and reduce the onset of substance abuse, reduce sexual risk factors to prevent new HIV and viral hepatitis infection, and decrease HIV transmission among American Indians youth. For more information about Project PaTHwAY, please visit this link: https://crihb.org/prevention-and-education/hivaids-education/
(Text version of the story):
Mananhuu. Hello my name is Laura. I am 20 years old and a proud PAIUTE-SHOSHONE. I used to enjoy being involved in my culture through dance and sweat. When I got older I started hanging out with people who were into partying. At first I was just there, until I was surrounded by the lifestyle so often I began partying myself. I was involved in so many things, I was doing it all- sharing needles, driving under the influence, and having sex without condoms. I was having some fun. It was the condom thing that really got me. I don’t know what I was thinking. I know that I should have used them, but I just was not taking care of myself- physically, mentally, spiritually, or emotionally.
This is not how I was raised to be. I knew I needed to change for the better. I retired to my sweat family for guidance. One of the women there shared her powerful story with me and how she received help from Toiyabe Indian Health Project. I went to the clinic to see where I was physically. It was then that I knew I wasn’t where I needed to be. The doctor told me I had HIV. I couldn’t believe I had done this to myself. I needed someone to talk to about this.
So, I went to the family services department to get some counseling. It really helped me. I started sharing my story amongst the youth within my community and how my risky behaviors affected my life. Spreading awareness gives me purpose. I may have HIV, but I will be well again. Now I am open about how far I have come and I will use condoms from now on and encourage others to do so as well.