Brown preaches awareness, caution and perseverance

October 31, 2008

by Justin Phillips

Marvelyn Brown is a statistic:an African-American woman under the age of 25 with the HIV virus. She is a victim; unknowingly infected with the virus after sexual intercourse with a boyfriend who had the virus, but was unaware of its presence.

Brown is a personification of life; young African-American women make up 49 percent of individuals infected with the virus around the country. Most importantly, she is an inspiration; travelling the country using her experience to shed light about the dangers of being uninformed about the debilitating disease and the importance of knowing your own personal HIV status.

An auditorium’s worth of Tech and Grambling students sat side-by-side in attentive silence to learn more about the AIDS virus from Brown, the guest speaker in an awareness program hosted by Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. last Thursday in Davison Hall.

Brown candidly began her lecture recanting the events which took place as she lay in a hospital bed waiting for a simple explanation for an illness completely unfamiliar to her.

“I was lying in the hospital bed with a 106-degree fever,” Brown said. “I couldn’t eat anything really. I had dropped down to 99 pounds and I remember thinking to myself, ‘I must be pregnant.’ I mean, what could be worse than being pregnant at 19?”

After Brown’s medical staff ran a litany of tests, the doctor entered the room and said three words to her, changing her life for both the better and the worse: “You have HIV.”

“I remember when [the doctor] said it; I knew then name of the virus was familiar, but I wasn’t truly educated about it,” Brown said.

The changes in Brown’s life were evident from the day of the doctor’s announcement up until her impromptu visit to campus. As a result of the diagnosis, Brown’s family, friends and familiar faces all began looking at her in a new, condescending light. A light which hinted toward a life gone wrong opposed to the type of light which reveals another one of America’s youth affected by an unfortunate turn of events.

“After the doctor gave me the news, I eventually picked up the phone and began calling my closest friends. One of my close friends that I called was pregnant at the time. She wanted me to be the god-mother to her baby,” Brown said. “When I gave her the news, she told me she wanted nothing to do with me. My mom even wanted me to tell people close to our family that I had cancer, not HIV.”

With her book currently available for purchase titled The Naked Truth, Brown concluded her lecture to the audience of North Louisiana students by including both the highs and lows of being a 19-year-old single female with HIV.

“When I talk to people, I want to leave them with three impressions: Get tested. Get educated. Be responsible,” Brown said to the crowd.

Quatisha Williams, a sophomore family and child studies major and member of the Lady Techster track and field team, attended the event with several of her teammates and said she took Brown’s story as one preaching caution.

“I saw posters around campus and talked to my teammates and decided it would be something really good for us to come to,” Williams said. “I know she helped a lot of people here tonight because you can’t always be too sure. You have to be protected. She’s a role model for how to make a difference with your life in my eyes.”

Doshondra Mashia, a junior human resources management major, said she decided to attend the program to learn more about a virus she is somewhat familiar with.

“I’m abstinent, but I still felt I needed to come because Marvelyn’s story is one that needs to be heard,” Mashia said. “I know how to protect myself and be careful already, but it was informative hearing somebody who is so young teach people that there is still a life to lead after the fact. HIV is not the end.”