Meet a Health Hero: Christina Kallas-Saritsoglou
» You can vote for Christina here September 29th through October 5th. Mark your calendar!
Name: Christina Kallas-Saritsoglou
Role: Co-founder of Philly Aids Thrift, where she recently opened an in-store HIV testing lab.
Who or what motivates you to be healthy?
I am motivated to be healthy by the incredible community of people living with HIV among whom I have worked for over 20 years. Observing the resilience and power of these men and women and the health challenges they have overcome, I have been able to face my own health with courage and conviction.
Describe a health or fitness related turning point in your life.
I was diagnosed with lupus and immediately was faced with the challenge of setting up medical appointments, educating myself, family and friends about the disease, and working to overcome my own fears. Lupus has offered me some clarity, however, and I have learned to focus on the good things in life that good health provides.
What “policy” would you institute to make Greater Philadelphia a healthier region?
I choose a policy that would have most impact on the poor and underserved populations of Philadelphia, since I would argue that health disparities impact these populations the most. Through working in the HIV field, I know that providing affordable and safe housing for people has remarkable impacts on health outcomes. Affordable housing relieves stress, frees up financial resources for healthy food and health care itself, improves mental health, reduces exposure to infectious diseases, and leads to other positive health outcomes.
What is the most important part of your health and fitness regimen?
Through working with people living with HIV for so many years, I have noticed those who thrive. And one thing I’ve noticed among many thriving long-term survivors was a powerful sense of community. Having a strong network around me, whether it be my friends or my faith community, encourages me to take care of my health, be it through exercise, nutrition, better sleep, seeing a new medical specialist, etc. Having this community has been invaluable as I have dealt with my health challenges over the past few years.
What is your number one piece of health-related advice?
Get the health care you deserve! Make sure your doctors, dentists, nurses and specialists all treat you with respect and connect you to the resources you need. Good health care is a right, and it makes all the difference to have a health care provider who will go the extra mile to help you understand your situation and get you the resources you need. Many people that my organization serves, including people living with HIV/AIDS and LGBTQ people, continue to fear stigma from health care providers. It’s important to advocate for marginalized communities so that they can receive sensitive, high-quality care. One of my hopes in establishing a new in-store HIV testing center is that we can normalize HIV care and make prevention and testing a basic, accepted health service for the whole community.
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