Waheedah Shabazz-El, 56 years of age, is an African American Muslim Woman and retired postal worker who was diagnosed with AIDS in 2003. Shabazz-El is a founding member of the US Positive Women's Network (a membership body founded in 2008 of, by, and for women living with HIV in the US, working to develop healthy policies that affect the quality of life of women who are living with HIV/AIDS). She is currently employed by Philadelphia Fight as an HIV Counselor/Tester and Prison Reentry specialist. Shabazz-El is also national organizer/trainer for Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project, CHAMP.
As a member of ACT UP Philadelphia, Waheedah serves as organizer, spokesperson and treasurer. She was very instrumental in coordinating a "Condoms in Jails" campaign in 2006 that resulted in the signing of an updated condom policy in Philadelphia County Jails that gained inmates greater access to condoms and having condoms added as commissary items. She is a graduate of Project TEACH, and a member of the PRHCN (Prison Re-Entry Health-Care Network) both based in Philadelphia. She is an editor for a widely circulated Prison Health Newsletter and features a "Dear Waheedah" column where she corresponds directly with incarcerated individuals who may have questions about HIV or Re-Entry options.
In the area of research, Shabazz-El is Vice-Chair of the Community Advisory Board for Univ. of Penn's Center for AIDS Research (CFAR). Shabazz-El has been the sole community representative on a protocol team of expert scientist and researchers who have developed an NIH-approved US based HIV prevention study entitled ISIS, targeting women at risk through the HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN064). She is a member of CHAMP's PRAWG (Prevention Research Advocacy Working Group).
In addition, Waheedah is a member of Women of Color United Against Violence and HIV (WOCU) whose charge is to promote reproductive justice and identify the intersections of domestic violence and increase in HIV infections. She serves on the Ryan White Positive Committee for Philadelphia's Office of HIV Planning. Shabazz-El is a member of the National Association of People with AIDS (NAPWA) and board member of the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania. Recently widowed, Shabazz-El continues to be a beacon of hope for many who struggle with the reality of living with HIV/AIDS. She resides in the Overbrook section of Philadelphia, and has the full support of a loving family that consists of her three adult children and four teen grandchildren.
Why Waheedah wants to be a part of A Girl Like Me: Mainly because I know how alone I felt when I was first diagnosed. Not only did I feel alone but I felt violated, vulnerable and powerless. Today I have taken control of my HIV and my destiny through the power I gained from other survivors. Now I live the life and carry the message that you need not surrender your lives to HIV. Now my life is full because I have learned the power of being a part of the solution and I learned that from a girl like me.