You may not be familiar with her name, but Marvelyn Brown is one of the most important people in the fight against HIV/AIDS. And at 26, she’s also one of the youngest.

When she was just 19, Tennessee native Marvelyn Brown fell in love with the perfect man. However, instead of being her Prince Charming, he turned out to be just a frog. As a result of their relationship she contracted HIV and has since dedicated her life to raising awareness for the preventable disease.

Through her organization, Marvelous Connections, Brown serves as a consultant to other HIV/AIDS organizations. In 2008 her memoir, The Naked Truth: Young, Beautiful and (HIV) Positive, Brown chronicled her journey living with the disease. She has been featured in news outlets such as MTV, The Huffington Post, and The Oprah Winfrey Show. And recently, Fast Company named her one of the members of the “Change Generation” which highlights members of “a young generation of change-seekers.”

In an interview with Fast Company Brown admitted her diagnosis was the inspiration behind starting Marvelous Connections.

“After I was told I had contracted the preventable disease, HIV, at 19 years old and feeling like enough was not being done to prevent it from happening to others, and me–I wanted to make a difference.”

Through her organization, Brown has turned a negative situation into a positive outlet to help others.

“With Marvelous Connections I want to dispel the myths associated with HIV, through reducing stigma, tackling HIV infection rates, raising HIV awareness and HIV education and empower men, women and children to gain control of their sex lives. I do all of that with no sugar coating, I offer an honest and relatable approach,” Brown said in the interview.

Despite people, especially African-Americans, still being infected with HIV at high rates, with change-agents like Marvelyn Brown on the case, perhaps we will finally put an end to individuals contracting this preventable disease.

Check out Marvelyn Brown discussing her journey from All-American teen to HIV Activist.

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