Venita's Kilimanjaro Project - When I climb we all climb!
One. Venita's Story 
During the first week of March, I received a call from Shana Ross, owner of Shana Ross Fitness. Shana asked me if I was willing to be a part of a group of 7 women that would train together and climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in September 2011.
Shana had 2 goals for the climb. First, to train and lead a group of women who had overcome major life and health challenges to climb Kilimanjaro. Second, she planned to write a book about the women and the climb called, We Choose to ClimbI  was so touched to be included, I immediately said yes.    
The idea for the climb came from a client of Shana’s that was recovering from ovarian cancer.  Shana’s client wanted Shana to train her so that she could climb Kilimanjaro. Shana was so inspired by the tenacity and courage of her client that she got the idea of putting a group of women together who had overcome similar adversities to climb with her client. 
 Shana believed that our stories and the climb would inspire others to believe that they could overcome similar adversities in their own lives.  I wanted to be a part of something physically challenging and  transformational.
Shana then asked me the million-dollar question, “Venita, are you willing to go public about your HIV?”  Again without hesitation, I said yes.  A little over 3 years prior to this phone call, I had become one of Shana's clients when I sought help with some health issues I was having.  At the time, I was also trying to come to terms with finding out that I was HIV positive. For some reason, I intuitively knew it was time.  
On April 2, 2003, my life changed when I was diagnosed with HIV.  I was a 44 year old African American woman. I had been a teenage mother and a recovering alcoholic and addict for 18 years. I survived growing up in the turmoil of an alcoholic home, poor and on welfare and eventually becoming a high school dropout.  I went back to school at night while I worked full time raising my daughter as a single parent and went on to complete law school at the age of 37. 
I thought I had experienced and overcome every obstacle imagined.  But HIV changed my life.  The day I was diagnosed, it was like someone turned off the lights and my world went black.  I went into a severe depression that I still deal with today.  I was consumed with shame, guilt, remorse and self-pity. Everyone said fight Venita, you have always been a fighter.  But I was tired of fighting.  HIV had been the final blow. 
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