Cheryl Edwards, a native Dallasite, is the CEO/Executive Director of A Sister’s Gift, an HIV/AIDS service organization designed for women of color. It provides daily necessities, counseling, referrals and educational opportunities. She volunteered for 15 years with programs like the American Cancer Society and Bryan’s House before founding A Sister’s Gift in 2003.
How did A Sister’s Closet begin?
A Sister’s Gift was started becasue I made a promise to my brother, Ronald Lewis, who passed away from HIV/AIDS in 1995, to do something to assist those who suffer from HIV. What a great gift? A Sister’s Gift was launched in 2003 and we are housed out of a confidential location inside a city of Dallas facility. We are primarily a social service agency focusing on promoting mental health and support for women and their families.
What are some of the daily challenges that your clients face?
We have a female client base where 98 percent are mothers, and their primary issues center around caring and providing for their children while juggling their own intensive medical issues. A Sister’s Gift provides daily necessities like bus passes and grocery cards, as well as career counseling, for the clients.
If you could say one thing to communities of color about HIV/AIDS, what would it be?
We must accept and believe males or females of color who have unprotected sex are clearly at risk. The risk is elevated if we have relations with what I like to call a “suspect” partner. It’s time to wake up and practice condom use or be selective about who we pair up with.
What needs to change in the general society to address this crisis in communities of color?
Our communities need more HIV advocates of all colors more people to embrace the devastation of HIV in the hardest-hit areas. More educators, more HIVers who disclose their status, more volunteers and congressional advocates. It is my prayer that general HIV support will not diminish now that HIV is disproportionately affecting communities of color.
What do you think is the most important thing that HIV-negative folks need to learn?
Stop the mindset that HIV/AIDS is a gay disease. It has now crossed over into “unsuspecting” households and communities. Better to be safe than sorry. Practice condom use or become celibate.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 2, 2007