It was 1991, still early in the AIDS epidemic, when Denise was diagnosed with HIV. At the time, there was so much fear, stigma and discrimination surrounding the disease. Despite this, Denise’s story is one of resilience. Her work in HIV advocacy is an inspiration and the impact she made spanning over 30 years can still be felt today. “I’m Venezuelan, and in the Latino community, we don’t really talk about HIV. Talking about sex and condoms was taboo, even now,” said Denise.
After being diagnosed, Denise decided early on that she would get HIV treatment. Shortly after joining a support group and receiving mental health counseling, she discovered the power in speaking her truth. She found her purpose empowering others about HIV. In the 1990s, she became the first Latina to regularly appear before the public and talk about her HIV in South Florida! “I love connecting with people, educating the community about HIV and protecting their health. I wanted to help others and show people living with HIV there is nothing to be ashamed of," said Denise.
One of her most rewarding moments in HIV advocacy was establishing Union Pozitiva, Inc. in 1997 as one of the three founding members. Union Pozitiva, Inc is a Miami-based organization dedicated to HIV prevention and outreach. They helped send HIV medication and educational pamphlets to doctors in university hospitals in Venezuela, Chile, Mexico and other countries to help their clients.
Denise also helped established A.M.I.G.A.S. with the Broward County Health Department incorporated in 2020, a support group for Hispanic women. "We have to continue to educate the people. Learn how HIV is transmitted so you can protect yourself. Get tested for HIV, it’s better to know," said Denise.
Now at 71 years old, she is currently retired living in Spain, continuing to educate about HIV on social media and sharing motivational HIV stories. She is enjoying life and time spent with her children and grandchildren.
For #LatinoAIDSAwareness this month, we celebrate Denise Pinkus who has dedicated much of her life to empowering people about HIV, uplifting women, and serving her community fiercely as an educator, activist, and former Broward House Care Guide.