“I tell people all the time He needed a big mouth chick that was not afraid to do His work and to work in the HIV community, and that was gonna be me.” It’s not unusual to see music industry veteran and HIV/AIDS advocate Maria Davis addressing crowds loud and proud with her bullhorn, but even over the phone the conviction, urgency and fullness of life in her voice – warmly wrapped in a New York ‘boogie down Bronx’ accent – is evident. Instead of dampening her spirit and hardening her heart toward God, Davis’ 1995 HIV-positive diagnosis has fueled her faith even more.
What should have been a routine HIV test for a young, healthy woman in her 30s who simply wanted a life insurance policy so that her two small children would be taken care of should anything ever happen, turned out to be life changing for Davis, now 54. “At that time, we weren’t very educated about HIV or AIDS, so in ’95, that’s when I got diagnosed, we thought it was a gay, white man’s disease.” she recalls. “Especially as an African American woman, I definitely didn’t think that I had HIV.”
After the “weird way” she found out her status – reading a rejection letter for the $100,000 life insurance policy while standing in the middle of a post office – Davis immediately wrote on the back of the letter “God has another plan for me,” dated it and for nearly two decades she’s been working His plan ever since.
Davis has been an ambassador for The American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR), and partnered with organizations like BET Rap It Up Community Service and Lifebeat-Music Fights HIV/AIDS.
As a current spokesperson for the Project I Design campaign, Davis sees how her long-time career directing her successful “Mad Wednesdays” music showcase and guiding new artists in the ways of the industry has prepared her for this new mission. “It’s so important for me to be a part of the I Design team because I’m doing the same work that I’m doing in the music industry – getting out there, educating people about HIV, empowering people that are HIV positive, empowering women and really being a voice for African American women.”
Even in 2015, there’s still a lot of shame and stigma around HIV and being HIV positive and like Davis’ experience when she was first diagnosed, she believes fear comes from not being properly educated.
Not only are many people not educated about the facts of HIV/AIDS, but many don’t know the right questions to ask their doctor, Davis explains. This is true whether they are HIV positive or not. With the help of the tools and resources available on the I Design site, Davis helps people have what she calls “open and honest conversations” with their healthcare team and their sexual partners. “You can still find love, you can still be in a relationship, but you don’t know these things if you don’t have the information.”
Being a mouthpiece for HIV awareness and for Black women is a labor of love for Davis and she wants women to know that having open and honest conversations about sex – even suggesting getting tested together as a first date – is an act of true self love. “Love you so much, not in a conceited way, but love you so much that you ask those important questions.”
For help asking those “important questions” and resources for answers, visit www.ProjectIDesign.com.
Maria Davis: Hip Hop’s Big Voice For HIV/AIDS & Black Women was originally published on blackdoctor.org