type of drugs eventually. Thus, one has to change the cocktail for it to be effective as it
recently occurred in Venus’s situation. Finally, females have the added concern of giving
birth. It is well documented that a woman can give birth without passing on to her newborn
child. Of course, a cessation is highly recommended. There is less chance of
transmission than a natural birth. Perez followed the doctors’ advice and delivered a
healthy baby girl who tested negative for the virus.

There are good and bad days, ups and downs for a person
living with HIV/AIDS which is to b e expected. Yet, Perez
takes it all in stride depending on her spirituality to get her

It must be recognized and accepted that the information presented has been around for
some time, and that is the point that Venus drive’s home. It must also be recognized that
not everyone is privy to such data especially those who are poor, strung out on drugs, have
a low self-esteem, and occupy the category of minority. These are the people who are not
getting basic knowledge concerning HIV/AIDS. Thus, Venus Perez advocates that such
fundamental facts should be disseminated and publicized at a rapid constant pace
through the media.  The media should step up this information to such an extent that’s it’s
literally in your face.


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In Your Face | Interview with Venus Perez
by Maria A. Hernandez

HIV/AIDS…an unresolved issue …a plague…a dis-ease…a health crises…a non-
discriminatory virus….HIV/AIDS…it’s the last thing on your mind until it’s the only thing
on your mind.  Across this nation and beyond, an endless number of individuals have
lost and are currently losing their battle against AIDS for decades. Only recently within
the past several years, instead of a decrease in the quantity of HIV/AIDS cases there
has been a resurgence of the virus.  A few of the populations affected are: the
homosexuals, African American and Hispanic communities. In addition among women
and young adults, the death toll keeps rising. From the scorching, barren desserts in
Nigeria, Africa to the scenic, mountainous terrain in Flagstaff, Arizona, HIV/AIDS has
painted the landscape of sexual mores and practices. As a civilization regardless of
ethnicity, customs or traditions, safe sex has colored our discourse, changed our
language, and crept into our schools, churches, our way of life. It’s been normalized to
such an extent that it’s no longer newsworthy for there’s nothing new to report.

In ‘I’m still here’, 2nd edition, Venus Perez exacerbates this point.  Perez initially
proceeds to offer information that has previously been recognized and reported at
length to the population as a whole. The historical trajectory, statistics, facts displayed,
both at the beginning of the book as well as the end, can be easily researched by
anyone interested in knowing more about the complexities of this disease. Yet, it’s
those who don’t have the tools to seek such knowledge or who are paralyzed by the
stigma associated with HIV/AIDS that Perez is aiming to impart this knowledge.

Miami's Gay Performing
Arts Festival
July 7-11, 2010
The introduction of the
book takes a chronological
approach by tracing the
events leading up to the
mass hysteria and
misinformation that arose
in the 1980’s.where it was
mainly the gay population
that seemed to be at risk.
In a most detailed, pain-
staking, manner possible,
Perez covers all the
landmarks concerning the
virus from the
advancement of knowledge
about HIV/AIDS, which
many take for granted
today, added by the
medical community to
displaying the political
rhetoric and government
legislation through the
years to showcase the
latest technologies more
likely to be integrated into
the gamut of tools equipped
for a wide-ranging line of attack for disease prevention.  Her narrating journey ends with an
explicit, exhaustive discussion and graphic display of other STD’s. Generally such
information is undeniably common; however, her central theme throughout is to impart
such basic intelligence to minorities which compose the crux of new cases, reported and
unreported and who don’t have access to this information. Perez, in her own words, states
that “…people are perishing due to lack of knowledge.” The ‘perishing of people’ is geared
to a specific population: minorities, the poor, drug users who are so strung out that they
just aren’t equipped to deal with such a life threatening disease.

An oblivious and overt challenge she proposes to the reader is her insistence to get
actively involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS whether by advocacy or volunteerism or by
joining a support group or by becoming a member to an organization committed to
teaching and helping those affected by the virus. There is no question that Perez leads by
example. Indeed, it is important for her to ‘practice what she promotes.” For her, actions
speak louder than words. So Perez does her best to practice what she preaches. In this
vein she attended the Wilsey Institute in 2001 for Nursing, Phlebotomy, and EKG
certification. Presently, Ms. Perez is a volunteer certified pre and post counselor and tester
as well as Program Director, of the Palace of Comfort, and Easy Access Resource. Both
associations are non-for-profit whose aim is to assist individuals who are medically frail,
need assistance to receive resources, and who are in crises situations. She is very
committed to help those in need “…to get housed, food, disability benefits.” Helping others
is a central theme throughout the book largely because she believes that it fulfills the fear,
anxiety, and discrimination felt upon having an incurable disease.  If interested, visit her
website (
www.venusperez.com)  to get a total list of her accomplishment.
Her work and message is quite effective mainly because she is
atypical, and the more she gets out there sharing her story the more
people are able to put a face to the disease. This way HIV/AIDS is
not just some
untreatable condition. Rather, Perez hopes that it hits
close to home for people from all walks of life are able to witness
to her struggle, understand its authenticity, and see that she is a real
person who made a dreadful mistake.  Thus, if she is subject to
contracting this disease so are they.

“Everyone believes that it can’t happen to them,” so they are careless in their behavior.  To
drive this point home, one must consider every societal category she represents: a woman
with HIV/AIDS, a surviving woman with HIV/AIDS,  a Hispanic  surviving woman, with
HIV/AIDS, a surviving, heterosexual, Hispanic woman with HIV/AIDS, a spiritually based
surviving, Hispanic, heterosexual woman living with HIV/AIDS.   

The original piece of the text discloses s Perez’ own testimony which again shows that
anyone is subject to acquiring the disease if they don’t stop and think of the consequences
of their sexual behavior. Venus was born in Brooklyn, New York, brought up in a middle-
class family household, and is one of five children. Perez has had her share of difficult
obstacles to overcome. She’s a child of an alcoholic, grew up in a house inhabited by
several alcoholics, mother died of cancer, physically abused by her partner, and not
cognizant of ever practicing safe sex. Why should she? It was never taught at home. Plus,
Perez was young and under the misconception that HIV/AIDS could never happen to her.
After getting out of that abusive relationship, her subsequent boyfriend eventually informed
her that her ex had died of AIDS which he contracted through intravenous drugs.

As in many traumatic life threatening experiences, Perez underwent the beginning of a
transformation. It’s been documented that individuals in such cases experience an altering
shift in their personalities, and a new appreciation for
surviving the trauma. In most cases, behavior changes; an intense feeling of gratitude
overwhelms them. So, it is not abnormal or uncommon that Perez’s’ conversion occurred
after she was diagnosed with the HIV virus.  After much thought, soul searching, and
depression rather than envisioning a death sentence, she made a conscious decision:
she wanted to live. Venus made up her mind that there was no way she would become a
victim of this disease no matter what the cost.

Though she lost many ‘friends’ due to the HIV/AIDS stigma, all the obstacles and hardship
she faced growing up “gave her the skills to deal with the results of testing positive, and
with the doctor’s diagnosis.” Indeed, becoming an HIV/AIDS advocate, educating minorities
that don’t have the means to fight this disease effectively, and offering support to those
affected has become her life’s mission..  It is extremely important for her to assure these
individuals that they are not alone. They too can conquer their fear, anxiety, and most
importantly live life to the fullest by helping the person that will come after them. Spreading
knowledge is definitely her purpose for Perez believes right down to the core of her bones
believes that knowledge is power, and her ultimate goal is to not only parlay this
information but hopes that others will pay it forward.

Venus has had her share of medical problems beside the virus: open heart surgery;
gallbladder surgery, plus a hysterectomy. Yet, having the virus presents tribulations which
are uniquely distinctive to HIV/AIDS. For one, a person’s immune system is extremely low
which causes cold\flu symptoms to heighten. As a matter of fact, any illness that ‘normal’
people have is amplified for a person living with HIV/AIDS.  Secondly, there is a continuous
concern about what level is one’s T-cell. At present, Perez’s “T-cell count is good.” There is
no doubt that continuously monitoring one’s count causes worry and anxiety. Thirdly, a
person affected with such a disease has to ingest what is known as a ‘cocktail’ on a
regular basis.   A cocktail is an antiviral dosage of combined drugs which is not only
required as part of the HIV regiment, but also supposed to block the virus itself.. After
several years, it is common for someone to change his/her ‘cocktail. It seems that the body
gets used to a certain