Teresa Sullivan is in a good place in her life. She’s married to a loving and supportive husband, is a devoted grandmother and great-grandmother, and has a dedication to her work as an HIV educator and community activist.
But she didn’t get to this place easily. Teresa overcame numerous personal and health care challenges to get here.
Teresa has been living with HIV for 23 years. At the time of her diagnosis, she was in an abusive relationship.
“He told me no one else would want me because of my HIV status,” said Sullivan. “At the time, I was glad that there was someone I thought would love me unconditionally even though I had HIV.”
When she tried to leave her abuser, he filed criminal charges against her that led to her incarceration. He would visit her in prison and tell her he would drop the charges if she would come back to him.
“I got involved with an intimate partner violence support group while in prison,” said Sullivan. “That helped me learn to be strong enough to say ‘no’ to him and mean it.”
When her abuser missed all of Teresa’s court dates, the charges against her were dropped.
But Teresa’s challenges didn’t end there. Seven years ago, her only child was shot and killed while trying to break up a fight in his neighborhood.
“To honor his life, I’m an advocate to end gun violence in my community here in Philadelphia,” said Sullivan.
Today, Teresa is a leading HIV educator and activist. She is Vice Chair of the board of directors for National Positive Women’s Network–USA and a senior member of the Philadelphia Affiliated chapter. She is also a graduate fellow of the Black AIDS Institute.
As an Adherence and Mobilization Navigator for NMAC’s 50+ program, Teresa trains other people living with HIV/AIDS in how to begin a dialogue about Treatment as Prevention (TasP) in their own communities.
As a community organizer for the Support Center Prison Advocacy, Teresa spearheads outreach into communities most impacted by the crisis of mass imprisonment and helps organize neighborhood level steering committees to address specific reentry needs for those returning from prison.
Currently employed by Philadelphia FIGHT, Teresa is Co/Coordinator for its signature programs TEACH Outside and Women TEACH. Both programs are five week adult treatment education and activist training course for HIV-positive persons recently released from prison and other hard to reach communities. Teresa advocates for HIV-positive persons who are being detained in the Philadelphia Prison System. Upon their release, she helps link them into the life-saving services and resources they need for a successful reintegration back into their communities.
Despite her busy life, Teresa works on her self care.
“I believe in holistic wellness, mind, body, and spirit,” said Teresa. “When it comes to my self care, I practice mediation and have a healing temple to help with my healing process in life.”
We hope that healing temple keeps Teresa healthy and happy for many years to come. And we hope that she remains a leader and advocate in the HIV movement for all of those years.