June 13, 2014
Syracuse, New York
Positive since 1985
I was born with HIV in 1985. I have a brother who was also born positive. I've been living with HIV for almost 30 years and am still going. My father is also still alive and living well with HIV. I love my father dearly.
At first HIV greatly affected my loved ones and me. My mother passed away in June 1990. My grandmother took custody of my brother and me. A year later, my grandmother passed away of cirrhosis of the liver so I wasn’t able to get to know my grandma better. I never met my grandparents on my father’s side, but as long I got to know my father I'm fine with that. Then in 1992, my mother's sister died of AIDS.
I had tough times growing up as the oddball of all the kids. I was hospitalized month after month with pneumonia, bronchitis, ear infections and other common illnesses. This took a toll on me and at the age of 16, I almost died of AIDS. I remember as if it was yesterday. My viral load was at almost 500,000 and my CD4 count was 53. I thank god to be alive. He gave me another chance because I was ready to go on to another realm.
As a child and teenager living with HIV, I dealt with bullying and hatred and I was mistreated. Now I’m 28 years old with a degree in criminal justice. I have two incredible, healthy children that are HIV negative. My spouse is also HIV negative and we've been together for eight years. I feel like a million bucks and am healthy as I can be. If I can change my world, you can too. Never stop the wheel from spinning. Keep that wheel moving forward.
What three adjectives best describe you?
Very kind, comedic and intelligent
What is your greatest achievement?
Graduating from college and keeping my life on track
What is your greatest regret?
Not being there for my aunt as much as she needed me. She was the one who took care of me through thick and thin.
What keeps you up at night?
If you could change one thing about living with HIV, what would it be?
Taking less medicine. Hopefully they can combine as many different antiretroviral medicines in one pill that I'm not resistant to
What is the best advice you ever received?
Life is what you make it. It is up to you to change it for the better.
What person in the HIV/AIDS community do you most admire?
I admire my nurses and doctors who told me that I could survive and have a normal life. I admire my old caseworkers at ACR Health who helped my aunt and me achieve my goals. I admire my aunt for everything.
What drives you to do what you do?
My children drive me to get better and to keep going and to not give up.
What is your motto?
My motto is to become the best that I can be as a mother and a role model.
If you had to evacuate your house immediately, what is the one thing you would grab on the way out?
My children, spouse, my dog, pictures and our identification info
If you could be any animal, what would you be? And why?
I would be a Penguin. Penguins are intelligent and heartwarming birds. They are willing to help each other—from sharing food to taking care of another penguin in need—even parentless penguins.
Search: Damaris Velazquez, Syracuse, New York
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