The daughter of Holocaust survivors, Tema was raised in a loving Orthodox Jewish family.
Little was known about HIV when Tema was diagnosed with the virus in 1985. Flu-like symptoms and more illness caused her to be poked and prodded by doctors for almost two years before one doctor finally tested for HIV and she came back positive. Her partner denied that he gave her the virus. She had only been with one other man – and he tested negative. She thought she was in a monogamous relationship, but later found out that he had infected a number of other women as well.
At the time Tema was infected, there wasn’t enough information available about the virus. It is because of this lack of information that Tema met with discrimination. Co-workers would avoid using the bathroom after her or eating out of the box of donuts after she took one. She armed herself with a lot of information, even bringing her doctor into the workplace to meet with co-workers. They eventually realized that Tema wasn’t going to infect them with the deadly virus.
Sharing information about the virus keeps her going. “I keep doing personal speaking because I do think that it makes a difference. Even if I reach one or two kids, or adults, for that matter…maybe they will heed my message and pass it along.”
The more you know about the virus, the less likely you are to catch it and pass it on. For more basic facts about HIV/AIDS, click here.