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HIV-Positive Mother Shares Her Story & Educates Others

Tracey DannemillerHaving an extramarital affair can cause a host of issues, but for Tracey Dannemiller, the results were tragic. She contracted HIV and passed it onto her daughter at birth. 

But Dannemiller is not one to feel sorry for herself.

Since contracting HIV, she and her family have been very open with it. Dannemiller is the founder of Straight from the Heart of Florida, Inc., an organization that educates and promotes HIV/AIDS awareness in hopes of alleviating the stigma, fear and ignorance associated with the virus.

Rasmussen College Tampa/Brandon campus hosts Dannemiller’s HIV/AIDS Awareness presentation every quarter for new medical assistant and nursing students. The presentation is also open to the public.

“HIV and AIDS is an epidemic, and people don’t realize how fast this disease is populating,” said Lauren Ramirez, medical assistant coordinator at the Tampa/Brandon campus.

Approximately 50,000 people are newly diagnosed with HIV every year in the United States, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). The most recent statistics show more than 1.2 million Americans age 13 and older are living with HIV and about 15 percent of them don’t know they have it. Additionally, over 648,000 people in the United States have died since the epidemic began.

During the event, Dannemiller shares a personal account of how one bad decision—her affair—completely changed her life. She also shares how her life has been impacted by HIV and AIDS. Dannemiller lost her second husband to AIDS in the late ‘80s, and her daughter Lesley—now in her 20s—also has AIDS. Dannemiller’s fourth husband, Tim, is living with AIDS and lost his first wife to the disease. Tracey has six children in all.

Together, Tracey, Lesley and Tim use a 3-hour interactive presentation to educate the public on a variety of information, including the basics of transmitting the disease. They discuss how adults can be guilty of making bad choices—extramarital affairs, drinking excessively, experimenting with drugs, etc.— and how even sharing earrings, tweezers or nail clippers with someone that has HIV or AIDS can be dangerous. 

“It’s very hands-on, emotional and educational,” Ramirez said. “I want my students to learn that not every disease is textbook, and how to protect themselves from patients. They also need to understand one bad choice can lead to change of a lifetime.”

Dannemiller encourages people not to fear those with AIDS, but to be smart and safe in their own practices. She recommends limiting your number of sexual partners, knowing your partner’s history and having protected sex as the best precautions.

While there is still no cure for HIV or AIDS, Dannemiller and her family are proof that modern medicine helps to extend the life among those infected.

Ramirez has offered this presentation to her students and the public for the past three years and plans to continue at the start of every quarter. Each student who attends the presentation receives a certification of attendance, which they can add to their resume and will help them stand out among other job seekers.  In addition, this presentation, combined with other HIV/AIDS training, provides students with four hours of HIV/AIDS certification through the state of Florida—which students need for their basic X-ray tech exam.

To schedule a presentation with Tracey Dannemiller, email traceyd@tcrn.org or call 863-602-4462. To learn more about what’s going on at your campuses, check out the News Beat Blog.

Jennifer Pfeffer

Jennifer is a Content Marketing Specialist at Collegis Education who researches and writes articles on behalf of Rasmussen College. She is passionate about learning and higher education and enjoys writing engaging content to help current and future students on their path to a rewarding education.

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