LEADING WOMEN’S SOCIETY
The Leading Women's Society (LWS) is comprised of outstanding women from across the country that have lived with HIV for 20 years or more while serving as change agents and advocates in their local communities. The members of LWS are chosen because of their commitment to raising awareness using their own experience to champion accessible HIV testing, prevention education, linkage to care, and more women-centered research. Each year, SisterLove honors 20 women who have lived with HIV for at least 20 years at our signature event known simply as 2020. The honorees then become members of the LWS Society which today proudly consists of a membership of over 200 women from all different walks of life who have a deep rooted desire to eradicate HIV. LWS leaders represent a myriad of professions including HIV Prevention Specialists, Executive Directors, Artists, Ministers, Counselors, Spokespeople, Homemakers, and active advocates on Capitol Hill.
INTRODUCING OUR 2020 HONOREES
Dottie Dowdell has over 20 years of experience in the field of human services. She is the President of Creative Training and Development Incorporated, a company committed to building stronger organizations and communities by providing tailored training and development programs. Dottie also serves as a coach for New Jersey’s Behavioral Health Integration Project. There she assists in the development of integrated behavioral and HIV primary health care services to improve patient outcomes.
Additionally, Dottie’s many accomplishments include helping to draft NJ’s first Statewide Coordinated Statement of Need (2006), conducting a needs assessment on the increased rate of HIV infection among women of color in Trenton, in collaboration with the Health Incentive Program for Women, and the development of two national training programs, Building Leaders of Color (BLOC) and Growing Leadership Opportunities for Women (GLOW), for the National Minority AIDS Council and the Health Resource Services Administration.
Ruby Garner was born in Memphis Tennessee. She was raised by her grandmother, Frankie, who is responsible for the person she is today. Mrs. Frankie taught Ruby how to be humble, how to love God as well as others. Ruby eventually moved to Harlem N.Y.C, in her teens, growing up under the watchful eyes of aunts and uncles.
However, nothing Ruby learned prepared her for her HIV+ diagnosis. She never thought she needed to be tested until she discovered her husband had sex with both men and women. At first, Ruby considered suicide but chose to live instead.
In time, she found a community of people just like her. They offered support, showed her how to live “positive-ly” and how to share her story to encourage testing and treatment. Today, Ruby is a certified peer health education coordinator who supports others the way she was supported as they get tested, get PrEP, stay in care, and take their meds as prescribed.
Gena has advocated for youth in Miami Florida since 2001. Today she is a peer educator/patient Advocate for the Ryan White Part D program. Gena is also the staff liaison for NIH- sponsored University of Miami Department of Pediatrics Research Community Advisory Board within the, ambassador for NMAC, and a facilitator and trainer with Growing Leadership Opportunities for Women. Her most recent accomplishments include completing NMAC’s Building Leaders of Color program which seeks to engage PLWH in leadership opportunities, and joining the Positive Women’s Network INC. as Director of Youth Services.
Gena started “Real Talk with Gena Grant” in August 2019 which focuses on sexual health conversations and education around key health issues impacting low income and underserved communities, including women, youth, and transwomen and men. Gena is also an active board member of Positive People Network INC. a social organization that provides social support services for people infected or affected by HIV/AIDS our motto is “There is life after the diagnosis.”
Sheila was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1961. In 1995, at the age of 34, she was diagnosed HIV positive. It wasn’t easy to for her, but she prevailed in her struggle. Today, Sheila is affiliated with Williams Associations. She helps out with testing, educating the community and sharing her story to encourage others that there is life after an HIV diagnosis.
In her spare time Sheila enjoys spending time with her adopted niece and nephew. She also enjoys writing children stories.
LeSherri James was born in 1982, in Chicago, Illinois. In 2000, her life changed drastically when, at 18 years old and in college, she found she was living with HIV. Two years later LeSherri became pregnant with her first child. From that moment on she wanted to be healthy for her child and herself. So, she attended any HIV training she was invited to