She was HIV positive.
As a nurse, she was more aware than most about what this meant. At the time, people with her diagnosis only lived two or three years.
Today, she gets out of bed and keeps “trucking along,” she said.
Her smile, charm and kindness still shined through as Steadman, 57, walked the room at the Silver Legacy Resort on Wednesday during an event to commemorate World AIDS Day, sponsored by Northern Nevada Hopes (NNHopes), an organization that provides HIV services to 14 counties in the state.
“I don’t feel good every day,” she said. “I’m fatigued a lot. I have good and bad days.”
Steadman said she was rather promiscuous in the first 36 years of her life, and she is surprised she didn’t get sick earlier, she said. After a relationship with a careless injection drug user, she decided to have herself tested.
“It’s God’s way of saying, ‘You’ve got to make a change in your life,’ ” she said.
Now, she spends much of her time teaching the younger generation about prevention.
“I speak to the young people and tell them my story so they hear it. It puts a face to the disease,” she said.
“The World AIDS Day is meant to recognize the people still in the fight of HIV as well as the people who have passed away,” said Sharon Chamberlain, executive director of NNHopes. “It’s also to remember that HIV is still here and that the stigma surrounding HIV is still here in our country.”
People are living much longer, thanks to the development of newer medications to fight the disease and prolong and improve the lives of those with HIV, Chamberlain said.
“But we will diagnose an HIV positive person every three to four weeks,” she said.
To reach NNHopes, call 348-2893. The organization’s complex is located at 467 Ralston St. at the corner of Fifth Street.
Anyone seeking help can get HIV prevention assistance, medical services, find a pharmacy and meet others with the same condition at the NNHopes Reno complex, Chamberlain said.
“If you need help or medical care, we’re here for that,” she said.
Patty Elzy, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, was giving out informational brochures and items at her booth.
“We support our neighbors at NNHopes,” she said. “We have a long way to go with making sure people are healthy and protected and know about HIV.”
Danny Azenon of Nevada Hispanic Services provides a program to Hispanic services called “Voces” — or “Voices” if translated into English. His team advocates to Hispanics, providing them with AIDS prevention information in a culturally sensitive way. The program is a branch of the Nevada Health Department and will be discontinued at the end of the month, unless additional funding is found, he said.
“The response has been very well,” he said. Mostly, Azenon visits businesses or other places where migrant workers might be to educate them on the proper use of condoms.
“Hopefully we can get somebody else to hop up so we can help the Hispanic community,” he said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 1.2 million people in the U.S. are living with HIV and 1 in 5 are unaware of their infection. By race, African Americans face the most severe HIV burden.