"If you take a long view about what has worked, [successfully fighting stigma] has been attributed to social movements — people coming together to help fight the disease," Nunn says. "And part of it is to get the faith leaders involved."
Nunn is currently working to organize a citywide HIV-awareness campaign with area black ministers, and hopes to get Ingram on board. "I believe we all can learn much from Pastor Ingram's leadership on this issue, particularly how other members of the faith community can contribute to HIV prevention and minister to those infected or affected by HIV/AIDS."
But when it comes to visibility, Ingram's already several steps ahead of the game. As a member of the Ryan White Planning Council, she reviews local statistical data and helps allocate funds for the cause. She is chaplain of the Lutheran Youth Organization, where she teaches area youngsters about the importance of making responsible sexual decisions. And she's frequently asked to share her story in different congregations throughout the region — an experience that she admits usually leaves her feeling "exhausted" and "vulnerable."
"When [the speaking engagements] are over, when I'm walking to my car ... it's just a lonely feeling," she says. "I know I've done a good thing, but I always ask myself, 'Why me?' 'How come I can't get a break?'"
So what's her answer? "Because I made the wrong choices."
On some accounts, though, it seems like she has gotten a break. Thanks to medication, her HIV test results have come back undetected for the past nine years. She has an upstanding career and three healthy, well-adjusted children. But this kind of thinking, she says, is one of the biggest misconceptions in an age when new life-saving HIV meds make it seem like you can pop a pill and be OK.
"It's still a big deal," she says, pointing out the draining regimen of medication she takes every day — currently a four-pill HIV cocktail and numerous others to offset serious side effects like diabetes II and high blood pressure.
"I may seem fine now, but it's a constant concern," she says. "I don't live with regret, though, because I'm here. I know that everything I've gone through is to get me here — to be helpful for somebody else."