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Opinion

Tough-learned lesson anchors foundation’s HIV/AIDS support

 

As President of a community-based organization serving as a source of information and guidance to those infected with and affected by HIV/AIDS, I would like to share with you my story.
 
Phyllis D. Bonner

by Phyllis D. Bonner

Special to the Tri-State Defender

As the President of The Phillip DeWayne Alexander Foundation Inc., a 501C3, community-based organization serving as a source of information and guidance to those infected with and affected by HIV/AIDS, I would like to share with you my story.

Phillip Alexander was an intelligent, career driven, handsome young African-American male and more importantly he was my son.  Phillip was diagnosed with HIV at the age of 17, however, he never received any care or took any medications until it was too late. His HIV had developed into full-blown AIDS, which led to a more serious condition that affected his brain.  Phillip went from being able to function independently in March of 2009 to being bed ridden in November 2009.  He eventually transitioned May 31, 2010 at the age of 36.

 
PDA Foundation Vice President Lois Clemmons, a RN, delivers counsel during a Health Fair at Mt Pisgah M.B.C. in Westwood. (Courtesy photo)

Phillip still could have been with us today had he and my family been properly educated on the importance of knowing your status, and if you are HIV positive, to take your medication.  Had Phillip taken his medications sooner he would probably still be the intelligent, career driven, handsome young man that he was known to be and still be with us today.

I formed the PDA Foundation shortly after my son’s death. During the journey with Phillip’s sickness, my daughter and I discovered that it was difficult to find services for people that are HIV positive. That is not to say that there are not great programs out there; it was just difficult to find them. We found out much too late that we could have gotten better programs to help us with Phillips issues.  I vowed that this would never happen to another family.

The quagmires of programs are not visible to the average person. The buildings are unmarked and at secret locations. We passed by an excellent HIV/AIDS facility for 10 years and did not know what types of programs were under their roof. We are not a duplication of the already established programs in Memphis. The PDA Foundation is dedicated to be that bridge to connect people that need services to the services they need.

The African-American community only consists of about 15 percent of the population in Tennessee. The infection rate for African-American males is over 50 percent, the African American female rate is over 30 percent and the rate in the Hispanic community is a little over 20 percent. Frightening isn’t it? I would like to help Memphis be proactive in the push for testing and eventually get families the help they need.

We have done many positive things for Memphis. We worked with the Whiteville Prison system’s 90-day release program to educate prisoners that were in their last 30 days before their release. Most of those men have been incarcerated since they were teens and are not aware of the dangers of HIV/AIDS. We have worked with churches and businesses to educate the members and employees about the importance of being tested. Most recently, in collaboration with the Red Door Foundation, we served at a Health Fair for Breast Cancer Awareness sponsored by Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church.

All of the expenses come directly out of pocket and from a few donations. We plan to expand our programs this year. We do not want to rely solely on grants; therefore, we are asking concerned citizens that have been affected by HIV/AIDS to help us do more. We believe that there are enough private citizens that share our vision to support our cause. Our goal is to do a year round campaign to encourage people to be tested and to offer our services to all that need us.

For more information or to give a donation, visit www.thepdafoundation.org or call 901-303-3966 (24 hours) or 901-679-1496 before 5 p.m.  Or email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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