“Stigma excludes the narratives”

Ellen ’s brightness illuminates our zoom screens, she is animated and invested in work. Presently she is our Manager of Data and Analytics working remotely. In her past Ellen has worked in HIV prevention. Through this work Ellen grew to focus on the intersections of maternal health, quality of life for both mother and child(ren) and developmental growth of children as it pertains to HIV. In this she witnessed women live lives they never imagined they could have, such as the opportunity of becoming a grandmother and witnessing their grandchildren grow up. In continuing her work with HIV Ellen articulates the stigma surrounding the work and how it affects the work. Stigma excludes the narratives. 

When speaking about navigating spaces that are typically dominated by white male presence/authority. Ellen describes her struggle: she feels that in work in the first year she expresses the need to build trust or demonstrate her value or worth in being in those spaces when around white people. She also expresses relying heavily on code switching.  

Ellen’s work intertwines with her personality and her life at home. When she speaks about her children Avery and Owen she speaks about the power in being able to provide her children with the language to identify and name themselves in the world. Through language and familial support Ellen provides her children with tools to form autonomy.  

Ellen shares with us the details of her father’s death who transitioned when she was 7, between the ages of 19-20 Ellen learns the true cause of her father’s death as HIV. After holding this piece of information Ellen decided to enter into HIV work through volunteering providing resources to those living with HIV. As she calls and connects with people living with HIV, Ellen collects their stories. In this work Ellen’s interest grew for this complex disease and its history. She fell in love with all the stories she became privy too and owes this love and opportunity to learn more about HIV to her dad. 

She demonstrates her appreciation of HIV history and all the stories that offer its complexity and holds that part of the history is her own father’s story. In women’s health Ellen feels she has found her nook of comfort, she relates to these women through their own journeys of maternal health while also working in the memory of her father. Through Ellen’s work and her life she continues weaving another thread into her father Edwin’s story.