This Black History Month, we honor the GAME CHANGERS: Everyday heroes whose actions make life better for the people around them. SEE ALL OUR GAME CHANGERS HERE
City of Residence: New York City
Why she is a local hero: After contracting HIV from a man whom she thought she was going to marry, Maria Davis decided to spread the word about the disease in her community.
Ask Davis how she contracted HIV and she’ll tell you that she “didn’t love herself enough.” A concert promoter working with the likes of Jay-Z and Lil Kim, Davis only found out she had the HIV virus when she went to get a medical workup to get life insurance for her children. Davis admits she didn’t think she could contract the disease.
“It was a disease of gay, white men or drug users,” Davis says. “I didn’t’ fit the profile of any of those things.”
Her HIV results said otherwise. After accepting the disease and her role in contracting it, Davis decided that she needed to fight back.
“This is a preventable disease,” she adds. “People need to know that.”
Now Davis is a peer counselor at the AIDS organization Harlem United. She counsels others with the disease and works to prevent other people from contracting it. Her most recent role is as the face of a new campaign from AIDS research organization AmfAR. The campaign is designed to put a face on the everyday people that advances in AIDS research will benefit.
“Just because HIV/AIDS is now considered a chronic disease doesn’t mean we can forget about it,” Davis told DNA Info. “I’m not going to let people forget about it.”
Despite having neuropathy, which makes her legs feel numb, Davis participated in her third New York City Marathon to raise money for Harlem United last fall. She walks most of the route and it takes her more than seven hours, but Davis says she wants to show people that they are empowered not only to live a fruitful life with the disease but to make the decision not to contract it.
When she’s not advocating for those with HIV/AIDS, Davis spends time raising money to help those in New York City’s homeless shelters.
“This is me,” she says. “This is what I have to do.”