Krista Martel Believes in Sisterhood for All (POZ)

Submitted on Feb 14, 2023

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Krista Martel.

©Bill Wadman

February 13, 2023 – POZ.
by Charles Sanchez

Krista Martel is the executive director of The Well Project, which educates and empowers women living with or vulnerable to HIV. This year, she marks her 10th anniversary as leader of the organization, which is over two decades old.

Krista is a native of the Chicago area. In 1994, as she was preparing to move to New York City after college, her sister Ellen, then age 32, was diagnosed with HIV. "She had under 100 T cells, so they estimated that she'd had it for eight to 10 years," says Martel. "This was pre–combination therapy. She was on monotherapy, [Retrovir], for a while, then they added [Videx] and [Zerit]."

Ellen was wasting away. Loved ones would ask whether she had cancer or an eating disorder. "My activism jumped in there," says Krista, "I was like, If she had cancer, we wouldn't be afraid. Why do we have to hide this from people?"

Krista advocated for Ellen not only to counter HIV stigma but also to alleviate the shame her sister felt for having had condomless sex. "I didn't think she should feel guilty about that," says Krista. Ellen also became an advocate. She participated in clinical trials, volunteered, educated the public and joined the HIV Coalition.

Krista moved to New York, where she waitressed, bartended and worked at flea markets until she interviewed for a receptionist position at a medical education company. "I interviewed with the president of the company, and she said they specialized in HIV education. I told her about my sister and that I was interested in the work." Continue reading on POZ...

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