“Stigma is only dispelled by shining a brighter light on it! We have to speak life and light with our words and actions. There is enough doom and gloom to impact everyone – and that is where stigma resides. But letting people know they have options, biomedical techniques for prevention, medications, possible vaccines, gathering more evidence, integrating creative research designs, etc. are all steps in the right direction. We must expect the impossible and believe in miracles!”

Yaa Simpson is an IRMA advocate from Chicago, Illinois. She is an epidemiologist for the Chicago Department of Health and a Community Epidemiologist for TACTS (The Association of Clinical Trial Services). She loves to contribute to ideas and discussion about better research in the community, specifically HIV/STI prevention trials. She is also working towards her doctoral degree and hopes to one day conduct HIV prevention trails in Chicago.

Yaa first learned of IRMA when she was invited to a presentation on microbicides several years ago. Here she was introduced to Jim Pickett and his work with IRMA. She remembers Jim saying, “We all have opinions, like we all have booties!” She now is an active member on the listserv and enjoys IRMA’s blog and educational teleconferences.

She believes rectal microbicides are an important tool to add to the prevention technology toolbox, and acknowledges that we must develop technologies to prevent HIV spreading through any avenue, including rectally.

Her advice for IRMA is to continue to be involved with people who want to see change! “Talk to those who don’t want to hear about it and strategize with those who are looking for answers. Be diligent and be patient. And if you ever feel discouraged or overwhelmed by the stigma associated with standing up for rectal microbicides, remember what Mark Twain once said: ‘Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.’”

Read more bios from Friendly Rectal Microbicide Advocates.

[If an item is not written by an IRMA member, it should not be construed that IRMA has taken a position on the article’s content, whether in support or in opposition.]