As both an individual stricken with HIV and someone who has lost loved ones to it, Dawna Edwards-Watson has many reasons to lose hope.
Yet, she has transformed her pain into passion through her nonprofit organization Positive Voices, Inc.
Watson’s inspiration is the memory of her son’s positive attitude while he battled AIDS until the age of 15.
Through Positive Voices, she provides HIV and AIDS counseling and educational services to the public and encourages safe-sex practices by distributing free condoms.
“Philadelphia is very disease-ridden, I’ll put it that way, because it’s not just HIV. It’s also syphilis and chlamydia,” said Watson. “The 19144 zip code, which is the zip code that I’m in, is very, very highly populated with HIV-infected individuals.”
Watson used to run the organization out of her home, but relocated it to the Germantown Life Enrichment Center, on Greene St. near W. Chelten Ave., where she was given permanent office space this week.
“She’s helped countless children, as far as lecturing on safe sex and educating them about AIDS,” said Watson’s brother Richard Murray, the CEO of Eat Kool, an Atlanta-based organization dedicated to childhood-obesity prevention.
Women’s Way, a Philadelphia-based women’s advocacy organization, recently recognized Watson’s efforts by naming her the recipient of its Unsung Heroine Award, which celebrates local women who have made significant contributions to advancing women’s issues.
Watson is one of three women who will be honored at the 36th annual Powerful Voices Awards, on May 9 at the Sheraton Philadelphia Downtown Hotel.
Haley Kmetz and Taisje Claiborne are students at Temple University. Philadelphia Neighborhoods, a NewsWorks content partner, is an initiative of the Temple Multimedia Urban Reporting Lab.