POZ Stories : Felisa Shelby

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January 25, 2013

Felisa Shelby

Lexington, Kentucky
Positive since 1998

I was diagnosed with HIV almost 14 years ago, two weeks after learning I was pregnant with my second child. I’ve had relatives publicly humiliate me and use my illness as a weapon against me if they were upset with me. They stood out in the street—in front of people—yelling, shouting out my status to whoever was willing to stand there and listen. I was so angry. It was awful. If I hadn't found out I was pregnant, I probably wouldn't be here today.

After my diagnosis in 1998, I tried to live as if nothing was different. My daughter was born HIV-negative (and continues to be healthy), thanks be to God. However after a while I began to lose my will to live. I had completely given up.

In the Storm Too Long: Refusing to Lose This Battle is my autobiographical account of how I emerged from depression and thoughts of suicide and learned to live with HIV. If someone out there, after hearing/reading my story, knows of anyone going through this or a similar illness that could affect a person for the rest of their life, I personally want to take them by the hand and let them know they're not alone. I’d love to share my story about my comeback and how I learned to make something positive out of something negative by readjusting my life.

I now speak publicly about this disease to encourage and inspire others. I’ve started my own foundation called Felisa’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Foundation geared towards raising awareness for this disease. My goal is to slow or better yet stop the spread of this disease.

What three adjectives best describe you?
Inspirational, motivational and determined to be an educator on HIV/AIDS  

What is your greatest achievement?
Emerging from the dark place I was living because of fear of living with HIV  

What is your greatest regret?
I wish that it hadn't taken me so long to learn to love myself and realize that I was still beautiful regardless of what I live with  

What keeps you up at night?
Trying to figure out ways to help others who may be HIV positive to understand they have nothing to be ashamed of. Life must go on.  

If you could change one thing about living with HIV, what would it be?
Take an aggressive stand on who I am. No one can live my life for me. I must live my own life.  

What is the best advice you ever received?
To hold my head up high. The last thing we need to do is sit around feeling sorry for ourselves or wait for pity from others.  

What person in the HIV/AIDS community do you most admire?
Magic Johnson  

What drives you to do what you do?
I don't want others to be lost in life as long as I was lost. 

What is your motto?
I am HIV positive, but just like everyone else I have a right to live with peace in this world.  

If you had to evacuate your house immediately, what is the one thing you would grab on the way out?

If you could be any animal, what would you be? And why?
I'd be a bird. Happy or sad, I could still maintain my spiritual song.

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