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Fátima Ptacek

Joining the fight against HIV/AIDS

Have you ever wanted to speak up for something that you care about? People who speak up to make a difference are called advocates. Advocates may work to end bullying at their school or to get healthier lunch options. Fátima Ptacek is speaking up to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and how it affects women and girls. And you can join her!

On March 10, women and girls across the country will observe National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. Fátima is helping spread the word, which means she is an outreach ambassador.

Fátima’s name might look familiar — and her voice would definitely sound familiar to you! It’s because she’s the voice of Dora in the television series Dora the Explorer. She works hard to balance her acting, her work as an advocate, and her life as a teenager. To learn more, read Fátima’s interview.

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How old are you?

I’m 13 years old.

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Besides acting, what are your interests and hobbies?

I love living life to its fullest, and there aren’t enough hours in a day for me to accomplish everything I’d like to. My schedule is busy, but if it were up to me, I would do even more!

Two of the areas where I focus most of my attention outside of my acting career are school and gymnastics. I attend an academy for intellectually gifted students, and I am very serious about academics. Education is an important foundation for everyone, regardless of what career we pursue. I’m a competitive gymnast and the gym is kind of my refuge — the place I let my hair down, sweat, and just enjoy working hard with my awesome teammates. I’m also a book addict, so in between activities, I read a lot — on the subway, in the back seat of the car, while I’m taking breaks on set.

I feel like I’m very fortunate, so I like to give back by taking part in charitable causes, especially to help kids. I work with the Screen Actors Guild Foundation BOOKPALS program to promote literacy, and sometimes I read to hospitalized children. I serve as an ambassador for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, working to eliminate pediatric AIDS, and I am Youth Ambassador for the Latino Commission on AIDS, trying to increase awareness and education within the Latino community.

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How do you balance school, work, and all of your other activities?

I have to be honest and say that my schedule can be very hectic sometimes, but I really enjoy all of the things that I’m doing and appreciate the fact that I am fortunate enough to have so many opportunities. I think that having a busy schedule is helpful because I am forced to prioritize my time, and I have learned to be very disciplined in order to accomplish the goals I set for myself. Plus, I always keep a positive attitude.

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What’s it like being the voice of Dora?

I am so honored to be the voice of Dora the Explorer, and I am so very proud to be part of this project. It is so satisfying knowing that millions of kids see Dora as a role model and I actually play a part in teaching them valuable lessons about the importance of setting and achieving goals, maintaining a positive attitude, and working together with others while at the same time exposing them to Latino culture and some Spanish language, too.

I am also working on a new animated TV show on Nickelodeon called Dora and Friends: Into the City. Dora is a little older and her adventures now take place in a city. She’s the same problem-solving, reliable friend to the viewers, but now she is working together with a group of new friends to make their community a better place. It is really an awesome project and I know that kids will love it!

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It must be pretty cool to be a celebrity ambassador. What made you want to be part of National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day?

A couple of years ago, it just struck me that I was very fortunate to have a wonderful career, family, friends, educational opportunities, and health. I realized that many others were not as fortunate. I wanted to use my voice as an actress to talk about important issues, especially issues that impact young people. I feel that a lot of advocacy involves adults talking to adults, and the young, particularly girls, are ignored.

While speaking with girls in my school, at work, and at the gym, I learned that even though I was fortunate to be raised in a family that valued open communication, many girls live in family situations where the children cannot speak freely about certain issues, especially about HIV/AIDS. So I decided that I wanted to help educate and raise awareness among girls and young women about HIV/AIDS. Being asked to serve as an ambassador for the National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is such an honor, and I hope that I will be able to use the platform to reach millions of young women and girls to help them appreciate the importance of educating themselves about HIV/AIDS.

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What other kinds of HIV/AIDS advocacy work have you done?

For the past year, I have been serving as an ambassador for both the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, which focuses on the tragedy of HIV being passed from mother to child during childbirth (which is now almost completely preventable with proper treatment), and the Latino Commission on AIDS, which focuses on the impact HIV/AIDS has on the Latino community in the United States. My hope is that people will educate themselves and join the effort. To accomplish this, I speak about HIV/AIDS at events, during interviews with the media, and in regular posts on my social media.

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Why do you think it’s important to speak up for issues you care about?

I feel that we have a moral obligation to stand up and speak about important issues, such as HIV/AIDS, because people’s lives depend on their ability to access information that can help protect them. We need to understand that young people have to be part of the conversation, as well. As a teenager, I feel that I have an advantage in trying to reach younger audiences to share this valuable message. I also believe firmly that there should be an emphasis on HIV/AIDS education in our schools. Society depends on people standing up for what’s right and spreading the word on important issues so that solutions are found.

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What advice would you give to other girls who want to speak up to make a difference?

The first thing I say to girls is that you’re never too young to stand up and advocate for a cause. What’s important is that you do research to make sure you know as much as you can about the issue so that you can speak intelligently about the cause and why you’re an advocate. You can’t rely on passion alone; you need facts. Knowledge gives you the power to be confident and successful in advocacy.

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What’s been the most rewarding thing you’ve done as an HIV/AIDS advocate?

I have experienced a lot of satisfaction as an advocate. I truly enjoy all aspects of advocacy, from meeting people involved in advocacy, people working with HIV/AIDS patients, and people living with the virus themselves. It’s hard to choose any one particular moment, but several extremely rewarding experiences come to mind. It is rewarding every time I am thanked by a girl who tells me she’s scared to talk about HIV/AIDS because the subject is taboo in her home.

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What do you think the future holds for you?

Well, I have several goals that I am completely committed to achieving: continued success in my academic pursuits, continued success in my acting career, and using my success in both of these to increase my ability to bring about positive changes in the world — advocating for causes to make the world a better place.

Content last reviewed March 01, 2014
Page last updated March 07, 2014

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women's Health.