Susan Rodriguez, President and Founding Director of Sisterhood Mobilized for AIDS/HIV Research & Treatment (SMART), a group that has done a great deal of work with women in El Barrio/East Harlem, has been given the 2010 Community Health Leaders Award by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. This award is given out annually individuals nationwide who have done exemplary work to improve the health and well-being of under-served communities.
Susan Rodriguez brings deep personal experience to the work she does to educate women on HIV/AIDS. In the mid-1990s, Susan was found to be HIV positive, after learning about her husband’s infection with AIDS. Her husband subsequently passed away and one of her children was also diagnosed with HIV, which she had acquired perinatally.
Soon after her diagnosis, Susan realized that women’s needs for education about HIV/AIDS were simply not being met, particularly in communities of color, and thus founded SMART in 1998 in El Barrio/East Harlem. The SMART University program provides treatment, health and prevention education for women living with and affected by HIV/AIDS in a safe and supportive environment. Click here for more information on this holistic and innovative program.
“Susan is a symbol of courage for HIV positive women and to anyone facing adversity. Susan has stepped up, at considerable personal risk, to be a spokesperson for HIV positive women. I am inspired by her courage, commitment and willingness to share her personal journey in hopes of empowering other women to take charge of their health and lives.” — Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito
Today, over 80% of women diagnosed with HIV/AIDS are black and Latina, and HIV stands among the leading causes of death for women of color between 25 and 44 years old.
Melissa has been proud to provide discretionary funding to SMART during her time at the City Council. We congratulate Susan on this wonderful honor!