As an individual stricken with HIV and someone who has lost loved ones to the disease Dawna Edwards-Watson has many reasons to lose hope, but 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.
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.”
The organization that used to run out of Watson’s house in Germantown has now relocated to the Germantown Life Enrichment Center on the corner of Greene Street and West Chelten Avenue where Watson was given permanent office space this week.
Watson’s brother, Richard Murray, is also involved in activism. He is the CEO of Eat Kool, an Atlanta-based organization dedicated to childhood obesity prevention. Eat Kool supports Positive Voices by promoting it through Twitter and other social media outlets.
“She’s helped countless children, as far as lecturing on safe sex and educating them about AIDS,” said Murray.
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.
Women’s Way said Watson is one of three women who will be honored at the 36th annual Powerful Voices Awards May 9 at the Sheraton Philadelphia Downtown Hotel.