Creating Space for Women of Color With HIV

Lillian Anglada’s Journey With HIV

This article is part of Health Divide: HIV, a destination in our Health Divide series.

Photo of Lillian Anglada

Photo courtesy of Lillian Anglada / Designed by Julie Bang / Verywell

Meet the Author

Lillian Anglada is President of the Consumer Advisory Council for Alliance of Positive Change and a long-time patient advocate for HIV.

I looked for love in all the wrong places and didn’t realize that I got infected with HIV. I was infected in 1986 and later diagnosed in 1989. My husband and I were given two years to live. He passed away exactly two years later, and I’m still here.

I quit my job of 10 years because I didn’t want the company to know what I had. I used my retirement money for my daughter’s “Sweet 16” because I didn’t think I would be around much longer. It was worth it.

Getting Involved in the HIV Community

I started volunteering for the Peter Krueger Clinic doing data entry, and I was quickly intrigued by people’s reluctance to get health information.

In 1992, I went to an event called “Love in the Time of AIDS,” a health street fair to bring HIV education to communities of color. The goal was to meet people where they were, because it was hard to get them to come to you.

Agencies started doing more HIV outreach. They went to the community parks, where they had barbecues, musical performances, games, clowns, and more. These events made people more comfortable seeking help.

Lillian Anglada

Agencies started doing more HIV outreach...these events made people more comfortable seeking help.

— Lillian Anglada

One of the agencies at the health fair was the AIDS Service Center of Lower Manhattan, now called Alliance for Positive Change. They were hosting an eight-week Peer Leadership Training Program to empower people living with HIV to educate and help their community. I graduated from the program in 1993.

Out of the 12 people who did the program, I’m the only survivor.

Women Need Other Women

After graduating, I served as a Peer Educator in the Women’s Health program. I ran support groups, took women to clinics, and helped them cope with their new diagnoses. We did a lot of Reiki, massages, acupuncture, and other things to help regulate stress.

It was hard for me to find support groups for heterosexual women with HIV and children who weren’t also displaced or struggling with substance abuse. So my time with these women really helped me.

Lillian Anglada

It was hard for me to find support groups for heterosexual women with my time with these women really helped me.

— Lillian Anglada

We would talk about what it means to be a woman and what that identity meant to each of us. I would say a woman is loving and caring, sometimes cries a lot, and needs nurturing. A lot of these women never had that kind of nurturing. Their parents didn’t tell them they loved them, and they rarely got physical affection.

When I came to the agency, all I got were hugs and kisses. It was a little odd at first. My mom didn’t do that, and my dad wasn’t there. But to hear someone tell you they love you is truly amazing.

A lot of these women came to my meetings very resistant. But apart from the relaxation, it was fun. We taught sex education and how to love yourself and pleasure your body. 

People came miserable and left happy.

Becoming a Leader

The outreach center I worked at is now called the Luis & Lillian Outreach Center, named after me and in memory of my fellow staff member who passed away.

I also got to host what we call “Life-Affirming” events: Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts, Mother’s Day of Pampering, Valentine’s Day dances, and more. Everything was free, and I got all of the food and entertainment donated.

I became President of the Consumer Advisory Council for Alliance in 2003. In the same year, I started Caring Hands for Positive Women, Inc., where I was allocated small funds from the Hispanic Federation and other organizations to do health fairs in their communities. This community-based organization in East Harlem is focused on women of color to help them make educated, healthy choices.

Live Every Day for You

HIV is not a death sentence. You can live with HIV with the proper medication. Take care of yourself and set goals. Ask questions about your medication and do your own research because, at the end of the day, it’s your life.