A Woodinville mom is erasing the stigma surrounding HIV and AIDS with a new educational campaign that prioritizes messages of prevention, understanding, and compassion.
Jodie Howerton adopted her 11-year-old son Duzi from South Africa in 2010. Duzi was born HIV-positive and is expected to live a healthy, normal life with modern medical care.
When Howerton did some research about how local schools were educating kids about HIV, she made an alarming discovery.
“The video was from the 1980’s, and it was very outdated, it did not talk about things like medication, it was very fear-based, and very much encouraged stigma,” Howerton said.
So Howerton formed an organization called Redefine Positive and worked with the Northshore School District and state education officials to produce a pair of new HIV education videos, which are aimed at fifth and sixth graders.
The videos emphasize that many HIV-positive people are living among us and they pose no danger. HIV prevention is also an important theme.
“I think it’s amazing that this family took on this grassroots effort using their own time and donations to move this forward, it's very innovative, and it was needed,” said Rebecca Cavanaugh, Health and Nursing Services Supervisor for Northshore.
Lake Washington School District and Everett Public Schools are in the process of adopting the Redefine Positive videos into their curriculums.
Some schools in Pennsylvania and New York are showing the videos, as are some hospitals, which use them to educate adults.
“He’s very proud of the work,” Howerton said about her son, “I think it’s helped him not feel ashamed.”
Watch the Redefine Positive videos for free.