Teen hopes to break down stereotypes about HIV and AIDS

BARNWELL COUNTY, SC ( WIS) - For 18 years, Dayshal Dicks has lived with an incurable disease. Most days she says it doesn't bother her, until people remind her she's different.

"Oh, 'You're HIV Positive you gone die today or tomorrow," Dicks says she hears people say.  "It's just stupidity."

Ignorance didn't become an issue until she turned 13.

"As a teenager it can be hard," she says. "As if I asked to be HIV Positive."

Dicks is one of 162 kids in South Carolina with HIV, according to the State Department of Health and Environmental Control.

She inherited it from her mother, who died last year from the disease.

But it's in rural Barnwell County where Dick's grandmother, Wilahemina, a farmer, took care of them both.  It was challenging time in the early 90's because of limited treatment options in her small community.

"I had to travel to Columbia because they didn't know how to take care of children with HIV," says Wilahemenia Dicks.

Twenty years later, there's been little progress.

It's an issue that's now the center of an independent filmmakers ongoing documentary, called Public Health Private Pain. For five years, cameras have chronicled Dick's challenges of treating her HIV, putting a spotlight an issue she hopes will make a difference.

"We didn't ask for this," she said. "We need the money, medication and the doctors."

And end the stigma around a disease she's determined to beat.

"I have HIV," she says.  "But HIV doesn't have me."

DHEC estimates 15,000 South Carolinians live with HIV and AIDS.  If you would like to know where you can get tested for HIV, click here.

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