While June is widely considered as a month of celebration for the LGBTQIA+ community and its allies, for many it’s a painful reminder of the loss or disease of a loved one. Though it began spreading decades before, AIDS tore through the United States in the 1980s and 90s and continued to wreak havoc throughout the world. According to the World Health Organization, over 70 million people have been affected by AIDS, roughly half of which have died.
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I met Liz six or seven years ago at the Latino reunion in Albany, New York, she came in so happy to be there. I saw her again in one of the classes about stigma and how to educate people back home. She raised her hand to speak-she kinda took over the class speaking about becoming an advocate. She was starting to speak in some places and told us how liberated and empowered she felt. She talked about how she was here to stay and that even though she did not ask for HIV, she is fighting it all the way. Liz encouraged everybody in the room letting us know we can win this battle against everyone that tries to hurt us with their ignorance. That night I saw Liz with a group of her peers, and I thought to myself I want to be like her, have that courage and bravery to go against all odds. Sure I had disclosed my status to my family and some of my friends, but that year was the beginning of my advocacy. I came home feeling on top of the world something I had not felt in a while. I was ready to fight the world if I had to. Liz showed no matter what keep your head up high and be proud of who you are. Elizabeth was a courageous beautiful lady and an excellent hardcore advocate in my eyes, and always will be.
My fondest memory of Elizabeth was the weekend I met her in Atlanta, Georgia, when she was inducted into the 2020 Leading Ladies Society Sisterlove. Elizabeth was sick in the hospital. Somehow her love for what she did was more important than her health at the time. She more than likely signed herself out of the hospital and flew to Atlanta for the weekend. Once Elizabeth got sick before her transition I went numb in my house. Not knowing my own strength to go out and share information about HIV. Being virally suppressed, and PeP and PrEP I could hear her soft but loud voice telling me to go and not cancel. I later learned that Elizabeth would have signed herself out of the hospital to go educate people. Whether it was her story or information concerning HIV. Elizabeth was the light and the heart of this campaign. She is missed and definitely left a stamp on and in many hearts from the people she touched.
Liz was such an amazing person. So strong, so passionate, so committed to this campaign. She had lived through so much and always came out on top. Every trial, every hurdle she came across just seemed to make her even stronger. When I first heard her story, everything she had been through, it made me want to cry. The part that made me want to cry was that she was still smiling after everything, she was still happy. She was just so full of life even though she was fighting cancer, and fighting HIV,and fighting her past she never let it show. She taught me to always stand strong and to never let your past determine your future. To always love and trust even though your heart may have been broken in the past. She was a great person. I loved talking to her, she just made you feel better about life. Her happiness and laughter was infectious. Whenever I saw her I smiled. Liz will be sorely missed. I will always remember her smile, she will always live on in my memory. Liz, I love you, I miss you. May you rest in peace.
I met Elizabeth my first year on the campaign, we were shooting the butterfly commercial. I was so humbled and impressed by her! We took our first photo together. After that we realized we were members of at least three other National organizations for women living with HIV. She is my Sista for life. I will try my best to keep her legacy alive by living my truth the way she did. RIP Elizabeth
This WAS and has been very difficult. It, certainly, never gets easier.
I knew Elizabeth “Love” Fernandez…way before the HSWM Campaign. The best way I can describe Liz is to say she was a free-spirit and hard headed. She loved everyone…until you hurt someone she cared about. The lesson I learned from her is: embrace life, tackle it head on, do not ever let go, and live and let live.
If Liz were a recipe she’d be:
A pinch of salt,
A tablespoon of pepper,
A dash of sweetness,
A spoonful of good humor,
A cup of true faith,
A a gallon of heart,
And tabasco to taste,
She will be missed but I am glad she is one of our Angels, because one thing for sure and two things for certain….she will have our back.
Love you Liz (muah xoxo)
I met Liz about two years ago in New York City at our photo shoot for the HSWM campaign and we really did not have an opportunity to get to know each other well because I live in Buffalo, NY and she lived in NYC. Yet, I know for certain that I will never forget Liz. In spite of her medical struggles Liz was an inspiration to me. I will always take with me the fact that no matter what our difficulties may be, we do what we have to do to pick ourselves up, get ourselves together, and be present to speak up for those that are in their own shadows of being HIV positive. She was loud and proud about who she was and she made sure that her voice was heard. Liz will be missed dearly, and although she is no longer with us her work will continue to inspire others like myself to come out of the shadows and be heard. It is an honor to be a part of the HSWM campaign, but I am more blessed today to have met Liz and stand side by side with her in our journey.
This is my first year as a spokesmodel and I remember coming into the room with veteran spokesmodels Elizabeth was one of the first people to speak to me. She had been a sweet heart ever since to me. She was always so passionate about the work that she’s done as a spokesmodel and an ally to the LGBT community. Elizabeth was an ally, a friend and a sister. Her tenacity and resilience will live on in the work that she has done and the lives she has touched. Sleep well Liz, you will be sorely missed.