Abdullah is the founder and president of Reaching All HIV Positive Muslims in America (RAHMA), Washington, D.C.
My inspiration was a Muslim man living with AIDS. I met him when I was working in a hospital part time while I was in school. He was a patient there, and he really opened my eyes to the isolation and stigma he faced in the Muslim community and how he didn't feel welcome there.
It made me realize that we don't even talk about sex in our community, let alone HIV or AIDS. It inspired me to go back to my school and raise awareness. And then, I learned my 19-year-old friend was HIV positive. This made it personal for me, and it made me want to continue doing the work.
When I got into the work, I worked at a local AIDS nonprofit called AIDS Project New Haven. The director there, Christopher Cole, was a mentor for me. He was really "there" and guided me in my path to working in HIV and AIDS.
Just giving you time and helping you answer any questions that you may have is very important for someone who doesn't know much about any new field. Christopher's letting me come to his organization, volunteer there, and meet people and learn from them was very helpful for me when I started working in the HIV and AIDS field.
Image credit: Olivia G. Ford.