Southern HIV/AIDS Awareness Day
Founded by the Southern AIDS Coalition, Southern HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is celebrated every year on Aug. 20. This day calls attention to the disproportionate number of people living in the South with AIDS. We all need to work together to overcome barriers to HIV prevention, care and treatment.
Nina Sublette, PhD, FNP, AACRN, SANE-P (She/Her)
Assistant Professor/Nurse Practitioner
University of Tennessee Health Science Center
Years as an ANAC member: 28
Midsouth Chapter member
Policy and Advocacy Committee member
Former HANCB board member

What does Southern HIV/AIDS Awareness Day mean to you?
I have lived in the South my entire life. The South is steeped in history, tradition and strong conservative ideals that are difficult to change.

I have worked with women living with HIV since 1994. Even though HIV has changed so much since the early 1990s, the shame and stigma related to HIV remain strong in the South. Fear related to HIV disclosure impacts my patients daily. Secrets can be hard to keep for many reasons and the inability to disclose one’s HIV status perpetuates the cycle of shame. I see patients that are newly diagnosed every week and I think, “how does this continue to happen?” The routes of HIV transmission are not a secret, yet so many pregnant women are shocked with they receive an HIV diagnosis. I tell each and every patient that they are no different from any other pregnant woman at that OB clinic: they have all had exposure to sperm. But they feel like the modern version of Hester Prynne. They feel like they are walking around with a big “H” on their forehead. They have heard people talk, they know how their family members feel about HIV. They feel afraid and ashamed, and those feelings are perpetuated by the influence of southern morals and beliefs.

My hope is that Southern HIV/AIDS Awareness Day will help stop the cycle of shame. I think that the majority of adults in the United States have had sex. They could also have HIV. Yet, people do not connect the dots in the South. HIV remains “something that happens to other people.” The truth is - HIV could affect anyone. It does not matter who they are married to, or where they live, or what kind of education they have. If you have sex- period- you could have HIV. For some reason, that is hard to accept in the South.

What’s your favorite aspect of ANAC membership?
I love the comradery that I feel at the ANAC conference. I feel like I am reunited with lifelong friends. I can be me. And we all have a similar passion. It is magical.

Do you have a mentor or mentors who have been instrumental to your career and, if so, whom and how?
Oh my goodness, I have so many! Carole Treston has been a huge influence on my life. I met Carole when we worked with pediatric HIV clinical trials in the early 1990s. We reconnected through ANAC and she encouraged me to be involved in healthcare policy and advocacy. I felt like I was the last person that should work with policy issues, but she inspired me to embrace my own experiences and stand up for the things that mattered to me. My physician colleagues have also inspired me throughout my career - Patricia Flynn, Katherine Knapp, John Purvis, Edwin Thorpe, Luis Gomez and Danielle Tate have not only been leaders in their fields, but also steadfast stewards in their mission.

What words of wisdom might you pass on to those entering the field?
Follow your heart. Trust your gut. Care about people, even when no one else has time for them. Surround yourself with good people. Learn something new every single day, You have so much to offer. Stand tall. Be grounded. Know that your voice matters. You can do so many things that you would have never thought you were qualified to do. Breathe. Know who you are and be proud.