Chelsea: I was a college student when my boyfriend and I tested positive in 2003. The first thing that came to mind was I couldn’t have kids. But I had only two or three days to stress out. I went back to the doctor, and I learned I was five weeks pregnant.
Diana: I’d thought everything you thought—that I couldn’t ever get married or have kids. But I’ve been married, and I have two children: One’s 4, the other 1½ months. They’re negative, and I’m pregnant with my third. I call them my miracle babies. I was diagnosed at 17; I thought I’d contracted it when I was raped two months earlier. But at 21, I learned I was infected at birth from my mother, who died when I was 5. It was devastating, but when I realized I’d had HIV my whole life, I started seeing things differently. I thought, “If I’ve lived all this time, maybe I could live a lot longer.”
Chelsea: I know how you feel. I’ve never been married, but every time I’d get upset about being positive, I’d think about my son in my stomach. He’s 2½ now, and he’s also negative. When they told me I was pregnant, I assumed I’d have to abort. Then I talked to my doctor, and I decided to keep my child since mother-child transmission rates are so small when you take an active role in your treatment while pregnant.
Diana: When I tell people I have kids and am pregnant again, they sometimes ask why I chose to have children or why I speak out about my status. My kids are some of the healthiest kids you’ll ever see, because I take care of them. I speak out because I want my children to be proud of me. I want them to walk out and say, “That’s my mommy on that World AIDS Day poster.”
Chelsea: But what if other parents are teaching their kids hate? Do you ever worry about other kids making your children feel bad because you’re open about your status?
Diana: I think about that every day. I’m making sure my children are never in my situation and that people, young and old, realize I’m just one person out of millions who have HIV. I started doing speaking engagements when I was five months pregnant. I do worry that some kids might say mean things. But if they do, I want my kids to be confident—like, “Yes, my mom does have HIV. Now, do you know what that means?”
Chelsea: I’m also very open about my status. I work at an AIDS service organization in Charlotte, and I started a young women’s HIV support group. I chose to speak out about being positive for the same reasons that you did. I want people to get tested because early diagnosis is key. I also want them to know that people with HIV are human. When I tell you that I’m HIV positive, don’t kick dirt in my face. And if it has to be hard for me so that I can make it easy for other people, I just hope my son doesn’t get hurt in the process.
Diana: My oldest son hears the word HIV all the time. I’m waiting for the day when he asks me what it means. And I’ll tell him. I don’t want him to have a complex about it. A lot of people say that I shouldn’t talk about it because it’s going to affect him. But that adds to the stigma, and I’m so tired of it. Now I’m able to tell people that yes, I’m HIV positive; yes, my children are negative; yes, you can have children too; and yes, you can have a love life. Yes, you can be a whole person. You’re just like anyone else.