HIV-Positive Mother Shares Her Story and Educates Others

We heard a lot about AIDS and HIV in the 1980's and 1990's, but don't get too complacent. Just because we seem to hear less about it these days does not mean it is no longer a problem.  According to the Center for Disease Control, approximately 50,000 people are newly diagnosed with HIV every year in the United States. The most recent statistics show nearly 1.2 million Americans are currently living with HIV, and roughly 20-percent of them don't even know they have it. Over 619,000 Americans have died since the epidemic began.

They are statistics Tracey Dannemiller, who recently spoke at Rasmussen College’s Tampa/Brandon Campus, knows all too well. Her husband died from complications of AIDS in the late 80’s. She later learned that not only she, but also her young daughter from her following marriage, were also infected. Dannemiller’s third husband, Tim Dannemiller, is also living with AIDS. He contracted HIV from sharing needles. He also lost his first wife to the disease. Tracey Dannemiller has six children. Her daughter, now in her 20’s is the only one to test positive for HIV.

Tracey and her family have spent nearly 30 years living with the stigma, fear, and ignorance associated with the virus. In order to help alleviate that pain for others, she and her husband started the organization Straight From the Heart of Florida with the goal of educating the public about HIV and AIDS.

During her presentation at Rasmussen College, Tracey Dannemiller discussed the basics of how the virus is and is not transmitted.  According to the CDC, the large majority (87%) of HIV cases are transmitted through sexual contact with someone who is already infected. Nearly two-thirds of those cases are in male homosexual relationships. Ten percent of HIV cases are transmitted through sharing needles or drug equipment and a very, very small number of cases are transmitted through blood transfusions, hemophilia and from mother to child. HIV is not transmitted through kissing, touching, saliva, air, water or mosquitoes.

The college environment often offers greater opportunity for HIV high-risk behaviors. Dannemiller encourages people not to be afraid of others with AIDS, but to be smart and be safe in their own practices. Limiting your number of sexual partners, knowing your partner’s history and having safe sex are among the best precautions you can take.

While there is still no cure for AIDS or HIV, you don’t need to look any further than Dannemiller or her family to see that with the help of modern medicine people are able to live longer, more productive lives despite the disease. At the end of her presentation, Dannemiller challenge everyone in attendance to go share what they learned with at least one more person. You are encouraged to do the same.

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Michelle Knoll is a freelance writer based out of the Twin Cities with more than 15 years experience writing for local media outlets and other various organizations. She can be reached at

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