Tampa, Florida - At 13 years old, Chelsie Fennie of Tampa says her life changed forever. It happened during a sleepover with one of her female friends. Her friend's older brother kept making sexual advances, she says, and wouldn't accept no for an answer. Fennie says he pretended to be around her age but she learned later he was in his 20's.
Fennie says, "He liked me and I didn't like him and I guess he just decided to force himself upon me." He raped her that night, she adds.
She didn't get pregnant during the attack. Instead, she became infected with HIV. HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It's the virus that causes AIDS.
It was two years later though when her doctor told her the news. "I felt numb. I didn't know how to feel really. The first thing I saw was my Mom break down and cry." Fennie says that's when it hit her. This was serious.
On World AIDS Day, Fennie is sharing her story with others. While she couldn't prevent her infection she wants others to know they can protect themselves and prevent the spread of the disease by getting tested.
She says, "I learned to forgive. I don't look at HIV as a curse. I look at it as a blessing because now I can stand up and be a role model for younger people who are going through what I'm going through or are going through what I have been through."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1.1 million people are living with HIV in the United States. Of those, as many as 1 in 5 people are unaware of their HIV infection.
There are several places across the Tampa Bay area that are offering free HIV testing like at Tampa-Hillsborough Action Plan located at 712 West Ross Avenue in Tampa. Demetrick Brown says taking the test is easy. "You get the results back in 20 minutes. It's very, very simple just a little prick of the finger."
Fennie meanwhile was recently married, has a five year old son and is heading back to school in January.
World AIDS Day Events Scheduled in Hillsborough County -
8:00 a.m. - 4 p.m. - Tampa Tampa- Hillsborough Action Plan (THAP) will conduct free HIV tests at 712 West Ross Avenue. The tests are free and confidential. THAP has several testing locations. Call (813) 226-2141 for more information.
Friday December 3rd
7 a.m. - 3 p.m. - Tampa - The Hillsborough County Health Department will host its 6th Annual World AIDS Day event at the Hillsborough County Health Department, located at 1105 E. Kennedy Blvd., Tampa, on Friday, December 3rd, from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
In recognition of World AIDS Day, the Hillsborough County Health Department will be offering FREE HIV, and STD testing and confidential counseling as well as educational classes that will be offered throughout the day.
World AIDS Day Events Scheduled in Polk County
Wednesday, December 1st:
9:00 a.m. Lakeland - Friends-Together and Florida Southern College will kick off their annual World AIDS Day at the school's Nina B. Hollis Wellness Center Gym in Lakeland. Over 250 HIV facts and statistic posters will be placed around the three mile walk of Lake Hollingsworth. Volunteers will offer free confidential HIV/AIDS counseling, testing and education services until 3 p.m.
9:00 am to 3:30 p.m. Winter Haven - The Polk County Health Department and the Florence Villa Community Development Center of Winter Haven will host a free HIV Rapid Testing event at 111 Ave R NE in Winter Haven.
5:30 p.m. Lake Alfred -New Life Praise Worship Ministry and the City of Lake Alfred will sponsor a Candle Light Vigil at Twin Lakes Park in Lake Alfred. The Polk County Health Department will also be on hand to provide free HIV testing.
World AIDS Day Events Scheduled in Hernando County
9:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. Spring Hill - Bene International School of Beauty which is located at 1486 Pinehurst Drive in Spring Hill will donate proceeds from all haircuts, styles and blow dry services provided between 9:00am and 2:00pm to Hairdressers Against Aids, the L'Oreal Foundation that works to raise awareness about the HIV/AIDS virus.
Hernando County Health Department representatives will be on site to offer free, painless HIV testing and information.
For more information on Bene International School of Beauty or to donate, contact Elani Mossor 352-263-2744. For more information on HIV testing, contact Laura Dunn at 352-540-6824 or La Shaundra Ellison 352-540-6873.
World AIDS Day Events Scheduled in St. Petersburg
Noon to 4 p.m. - St. Petersburg - The Pinellas HIV/AIDS Community Prevention Planning Partnership will provide free health screenings and flu vaccines from noon to 4 p.m. at Williams Park, 350 2nd Ave. N., St. Petersburg. Free HIV testing will also be available at the five Pinellas County Health Department centers.
There are many resources available for HIV-infected residents of Pinellas County, including case management, medical care, prescription medications, support groups and more. For more information, call the HIV/AIDS program,
(727) 824-6900, extension 11453.
Tammie Fields, 10 News