‘Fusion’ speaker comes to Kent

Ali White

Kimberlin Dennis had no idea when she walked into her obstetrician’s office, as she had for the past 11 years, she would experience her second occurrence of discrimination for being HIV-positive.

She was sitting in the lobby with three other women, waiting, when she heard one of the nurses making a big commotion about “one of the charts of one of the patients.”

“I thought maybe she was talking about the patient coming out of the office, but when I saw a big, smiling pregnant lady walk out of the office with her happy husband, I knew it wasn’t them,” Dennis said. “Then when I was waiting for my doctor in the examination room, I heard the nurse come up to him and start telling him how I was HIV-positive and how he couldn’t treat me.”

Though Dennis said she was upset by the incident, she remained quiet and didn’t say anything to anyone until later that day when she met with her pastor.

“He told me to call that doctor’s office the next day and tell him what happened, and that’s just what I did,” Dennis said. “He was apologetic and had me talk to his supervisor, who then asked me if I wanted to have the nurse fired. I said no because everyone out there needs a job and even though it upset me, I didn’t want anyone to get fired.”

When her next scheduled appointment rolled around four months later, Dennis was amazed to see an entirely new staff at her doctor’s office. She was informed the new staff had been put through HIV/AIDS awareness classes before starting their new jobs. This is not always the case when someone with HIV or AIDS is discriminated against, and Dennis said she continued to experience this throughout her life.

“This is a very diverse university, and we need to be aware of what’s going on so we are able to respect and appreciate those around us,” said Stacey Sharp, freshman nursing major.

Dennis, a Cleveland woman featured in the most recent edition of Fusion and featured guest speaker last night, is an African-American, heterosexual, HIV-positive woman. She contracted HIV from her husband, who passed away 11 years ago with AIDS after he received it from a high school girlfriend, who used intravenous drugs.

Dennis is the founder of the Ministry of Hope, a non-profit organization dedicated “to help educate, inspire and encourage as many people to get tested as possible.”

“If I save one person from contracting this disease, my job is done,” Dennis said. “My purpose with the Ministry is the two P’s — prevention and protection.”

Fusion visual editor Marie Ho, senior sociology and photojournalism major, said she thought the story was great because when most people think of AIDS, they automatically assume it’s men dealing with it.

“(Fusion) deals with minority and sexual issues, and we wanted to get at the truth from more than one prospective,” Ho said. “Fusion is about trying to introduce more than one prospective.”

Contact College of Communication and Information reporter Ali White at [email protected].