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Women Making a Difference: Executive aims to change what HIV looks like in Houston

HOUSTON – With three little letters, Tiffany Quinton’s world turned upside down.

It was 1995, she had a nine-month-old baby, and Quinton had recently been given an STD screening after learning a partner was diagnosed with HIV.

"I get results saying I'm HIV positive. And the lady that gave me my results had never given positive results before, and told me I was getting ready to die,” Quinton said.

Immediately, she panicked.

"I screamed and I cried. Because now I'm here with a nine-month-old baby and I don't know if I'm gonna live today or tomorrow to get through this."

But Quinton made a decision that would change the course of her and her son’s lives; she decided to become her own advocate, learning everything she could about the virus and seek treatment.

A social worker would eventually lead Quinton to AIDS Foundation Houston, an organization she said might be able to help Quinton with some of her expenses.

But the group would offer Quinton much more than financial support. It would eventually become like a second family to Quinton, where she met AFH Chief Executive Officer Kelly Young—an ambitious woman who had spent the bulk of her career working for non-profits.

"I have a goal--to really change what HIV looks like in Houston,” Young said.

Young has been the chief executive officer of AFH for the past five years, where she has worked toward her mission of reaching a point where there are no new HIV infections in the city of Houston—a lofty goal, but one Young thinks her organization can help achieve.

"I am willing to work myself out of a job, if we literally change the way HIV is seen in our community,” Young said.

AFH estimates there were 1,200 Houston/Harris County residents newly diagnosed with HIV in 2014.

Young’s organization helps provide a wide ranges of services to those who have been infected with HIV, including housing assistance, employment services, and guidance to seeking medical care.

AFH also works on preventing the spread of HIV by encouraging people to get tested for the disease and educating the community on how they can stay safe.

Young and Quinton have formed a special bond over the years. Quinton turned to AFH for a college scholarship for her son, who is currently studying chemistry. Quinton also works as a counselor at Camp Hope, the first camp for HIV-positive children in the state of Texas. 

"AIDS Foundation is my heart,” Quinton said. “Kelly and them are my family."

Young knows she is fighting a difficult battle against a complex and often misunderstood disease.

"Stigma, discrimination and homophobia is our biggest problem. And if we could get past that, we could get past this disease,” Young said.

But her overall mission is simple in comparison.

"You could just care about everyone because they're humans--not because they're sick or they're healthy."

AIDS Foundation Houston offers free walk-in HIV testing. To learn how to get tested visit the “Testing” section of their website.

To learn more about AFH, go to their website.