Group in Albany works to eliminate stigma that surrounds HIV

Group in Albany works to eliminate stigma that surrounds HIV
Kenya Arrington (Source: WALB)
Kenya Arrington (Source: WALB)
Ola Perry Lee (Source: WALB)
Ola Perry Lee (Source: WALB)
Women 2 Women United Makeover (Source: WALB)
Women 2 Women United Makeover (Source: WALB)

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - A group in Albany is proving that a diagnosis does not define who you are, one fabulous makeover at a time.

Women 2 Women United meets every month to host an event.

Each event raises awareness of diseases that affect women and works to diminish the stigmas attached with each disease.

Last month it was diabetes awareness.

And the month before that, it was breast cancer awareness.

But on Tuesday, Women 2 Women hosted a makeover event to focus on a disease that carries with it possibly the most shameful stigma: HIV/AIDS.

The photo shoot afterward proved that these ladies with HIV are so much more than their diagnosis.

With every flash, each woman's confidence level magnified.

"I feel fabulous," said Kenya Arrington.

Kenya Arrington was diagnosed with HIV in 1994.

Over 20 years later, she said she's living proof your diagnosis does not define you.

"They helped me feel better about myself," she said. "All they can do is build your self esteem and let you know that you can be a productive citizen in society.  You know longer have to go in your house and hide and cower."

Ola Perry Lee was diagnosed with HIV in 2001.

"For 12 years I was in denial," said Lee. "And in that denial stage, you go through emotion turmoils, ups and downs, and shame. And those things are not easy.  And to sit here and talk about it is not an easy thing."

But what makes it a little easier are the four women who organized Women 2 Women United.

They strive to prove to these women that they're so much more than the disease they're battling.

Founder Nicole Randle said, "We just love working with other people, and as we grow, we want people to grow with us. And as we grow, we want people to help us grow, and bring awareness to the different areas not just in Albany, but the southwest region."

And as the women model their makeovers, the stigma disappears and the awareness spreads.

"HIV is a blood thing. It's not who you are," said Lee.

Women 2 Women needs volunteers and sponsors as they plan additional makeovers to raise awareness for other diseases.

If you'd like to get involved, you can contact Nicole Randle at (229) 291-5830.

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