Paige Rawl is making a name for herself. The 18-year-old HIV/AIDS advocate was recently announced a finalist for Seventeen magazine’s “Pretty Amazing” contest.
“I definitely feel really honored,” Rawl said. “I was so shocked when I heard that I had been nominated.”
The winner of the contest will be revealed on the cover of the magazine in September. Additionally, the winner will receive a $20,000 scholarship from Neutrogena.
Rawl said she learned of her nomination over a Skype chat with the editor-in-chief of the magazine.
“It feels good knowing that my story will be out there,” she said.
Rawl is involved with the philanthropy event IU Dance Marathon here in Bloomington. Rawl is a Riley kid and has been treated there.
“I’ve been a patient since I was three years old,” she said. “They told me about IUDM, and I’ve been sharing my story with them there.”
Rawl’s story dates back to 2008, when she first began speaking on behalf of HIV/AIDS. When Rawl was two years old, her mother tested positive for HIV. Though she appeared to be healthy, Rawl’s mother had her tested as well, and she too tested positive.
Her father passed away in 2001 of an AIDS-related illness. To this day, neither she nor her mother knows how her father contracted the disease.
In middle school, Rawl was bullied by her peers because of her illness. Eventually, Rawl had to leave the school and was home-schooled her eighth grade year.
She enrolled in public high school and during her freshman year she was named Freshman Class President.
Rawl graduated from Herron High School in downtown Indianapolis this year.
“HIV doesn’t define who she is,” said her mother, Sandy Rawl, 53. “She has so much courage and strength for her age.”
While in middle school, Rawl began getting in contact with the HIV community, and began speaking on behalf of HIV/AIDS advocacy in 2008.
Rawl will be attending Ball State in the fall. She plans on majoring in molecular biology, and wants to work as an HIV medicine researcher.
“I definitely know that I’m going to be out there still sharing my story,” Rawl said about whether she planned on continuing to speak while in college.
The results for the “Pretty Amazing” contest will be announced around Aug. 1.
“I’m really proud of her and excited for her,” her mother said. “She’s come so far and inspired so many others.”