Health — 08 October 2012
Self Magazine Honors Nashville Activist

NASHVILLE, TN — Nashville resident and HIV/AIDS activist Catherine Wyatt-Morley received the celebrity treatment along with Sabrina Cohen and Tonia Farman after Self magazine named them their 2012 Women Doing Good.

In addition to a celebrity attended gala event, each woman received $10,000 to support their cause which was presented at the ceremony in New York City in September. Hoda Kotb, Co-anchor, TODAY was this year’s emcee. Two other honorees included Sabrina Cohen, On a mission to reverse paralysis and Tonia Farman: Lifting up cancer survivors. Celebrity honorees included Jessica Alba:  The Honest Company, Kerry Washington: Americans For  The Arts and Jenna Dewan Tatum:  The Gentle Barn. (See video on right column of this website re: Today Show).

“I didn’t always know I was brave, but I never gave up.”

After a routine exam in 1994, Wyatt-Morley, then 36, she tested positive for HIV. She was devastated. “I was a suburban middle-class woman with three kids, a husband and a pot-bellied pig.”

“I had a good job, I’d never cheated, shot drugs, or put myself at risk other than having sex with my husband. I felt like HIV couldn’t happen to me. I lost my job, my friends, even my church. It was a dark, humiliating time. But I realized there had to be others suffering in silence, and one night, lying in bed with my 8-year-old, I thought, ‘I can’t go out like this. I have to at least try to help others.’ That’s how W.O.M.E.N. was created.”

“My doctor had told me I had only six years to live. If I was going to die, I wanted to make a difference in the life of my children and others, and tell people about HIV. So I started doing speaking engagements and wrote a book. My wish is for every woman to be educated about this issue. Married think they’re immune to the virus. But no one is an exception to AIDS. I want to reach that woman over 50 who thinks she can have unprotected sex or the young girl whois just starting to date.”

“I know what it’s like to live on the precipice. I had a plan for my life that didn’t include any of this.”

“We help everyone we can, but we especially target African-American women. Outside of gay men, they have the greatest risk of contacting HIV and have less access to treatment. That’s partly because of economics, but in this community, there’s also a mistrust of medicine and a stigma around AIDS. My work is all about empowerment.”

“When I think about how old my kids are now – 27, 30, and 31 – I get chill bumps. I wasn’t expected to live this long. I love spending time with them. I live my life with more urgency, especially now that I have full-blown AIDS.”

“There will always be naysayers, people who tell you you’re not worthy. But when life comes against me, I tell myself, I’m successful, healthy, and wise.”

Her cause: W.O.M.E.N.

For 18 years, Wyatt-Morley’s social service agency has helped prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS through education, research and counseling, as well as offering support to those affected by the virus.

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