‘I’m a living witness’: Playwright aims to end stigma, spread hope for those living with HIV

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As we continue to honor and remember those who lost their lives to the HIV and AIDS epidemic, a performance of “The Hidden Truth” is taking place Saturday at 6 p.m. at Florida State College at Jacksonville’s Kent Campus.

The play was written by a local woman, and it highlights the reality of living with HIV.

Sharonda Lynn was just a teenager when her cousin died from complications of HIV. She misses him to this day.

“He was thinking that nobody understood his story. Nobody understood what he was going through. Then, once I was diagnosed, I understood completely what he was going through,” Lynn said.

Lynn said she was 19 years old when she got the devastating news that she, too, was HIV positive. But she’s not alone.

Roughly 1.2 million people in the U.S. live with HIV. And about 13% don’t know they have it and need testing.

With her diagnosis, Lynn became inspired.

Her play “The Hidden Truth” not only spreads awareness, but it also aims to end the stigma of having HIV and to let those who are positive know life still moves forward.

“I’m a living witness,” she said. “You can still have children. I had two after the diagnosis, and they’re both negative. And so you are able to live an unapologetic, undetectable lifestyle.”

Through Tuesday, the AIDS Memorial Quilt is on display inside Jacksonville City Hall. Its squares contain the names of those who died from the disease.

Through her work, Lynn’s goal is to increase hope.

“We are living and striving with HIV. HIV needs to be talked about in every and any household,” she said. “Our youth, our senior citizens, they’re in the top 10 now. Our families know that HIV is still out here no matter what, but you can live after the diagnosis.”

About the Author:

Ashley Harding joined the Channel 4 news team in March 2013 and reports every weekday for The Morning Show.