Monique Howell-Moree has been living with HIV since 2005, but her journey of survival has not come without its dark moments.
The mother of three young boys found out she was infected with the virus that causes AIDS while she was pregnant with her third child.
“I was depressed, suicidal and in and out of psychiatric wards. I hated myself and even God, but I came public with my status in 2009. I just got tired of being silent and people thinking that I had it all together. I went public in my father’s church in Holly Hill,” she said.
She said it was like a weight was lifted off of her shoulders. The church embraced her — an example of how other churches should react to the disease, she said.
“Going public in the church was like a healing process. I wanted to help people in that process. It helps to let people know that this girl went through all of this and is still standing strong,” Howell-Moree said.
She has been thankful for the loving support of her family and friends and realizes that while she was not engaged in risky sexual or substance abuse habits, she was still not immune from HIV.
“The stigma is still out there,” she said. “I was able to make it with the support of family and friends. There’s hope.”
She went on to write her own book, titled “Living Inside My Skin of Silence: One Woman’s Struggle with HIV.”
She also opened a Holly Hill-based nonprofit organization, Monique’s Hope for Cure Outreach Services.
The center’s services include HIV/AIDS and STD testing, counseling, health education classes, a social club and emergency food and clothing assistance.
“I’ve been on Capitol Hill three times speaking about my HIV diagnosis. I’ve done three documentaries since being diagnosed and am now just about raising awareness. I am going to the International AIDS Conference on July 21 to speak on a panel,” she said.
Howell-Moree is now busy rearing her three sons with the support of her new loving husband, Steven.
“I never did think someone would love me for me and live with me with an HIV diagnosis. HIV never defined Monique and love still found me. But I had to get myself together first before that happened. Life goes on. You just can’t sit and give up,” she said.
Steven said, “I’m happy for what my wife is doing. I support her to the highest. It was her experience that gave me the strength to go on. I applaud her.”
Howell-Moree is continuing to be a champion for others and realizes that she’s blessed to be able to do it. She has planned a fun fest for noon Saturday, July 14, at Lake Marion High School. She will be sharing her story at the event, which will feature entertainment, vendors, a car and bike show and free HIV/AIDS testing.
Howell-Moree will hold a “Heroes in the Power of Hope” summit to address health disparities on September 14-15 at the Whitten Inn in Santee.
“I always tell people that I turned what I thought was a negative into something positive. I never knew I was going to write a book and open up a center, so my experience actually gave me a little drive to actually do something,” she said.
Howell-Moree will be holding a book signing event at 1 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 28, at Solid Rock Outreach Ministries, 9007 Old State Road in Holly Hill. Individuals can also go online to purchase her book at www.moniquehowell.com.
For more information on her outreach service center, call 803-496-0160 or visit www.moniqueshope4cure.com.
Contact the writer: firstname.lastname@example.org and 803-533-5534.