May 2, 2011
HIV’s knock-your-socks-off baby girl, award-winning public speaker, positive for 27 years (her whole life).
June 5, 2011, marks 30 years since the first published accounts of what
became known as AIDS. For this anniversary, we asked 31 long-term
survivors who’ve appeared in POZ what moves and sustains them and
whether they think they’ll live to see a cure. Why 31? One for each
year, and one more for good luck.
What’s the most helpful thing anyone has said to you over your years living with HIV?
There was a woman who became HIV positive and pregnant after being raped. Once it was brought to her attention, she had considered taking her life and the life of her unborn. A few days later she saw me featured on a television program and was encouraged. She saw that if I could go on, so could she! That helped me realize I had a large responsibility to others who are living with AIDS.
What change or development in your treatment for HIV has most affected your life—for better or worse?
The overall advancements in HIV medications have made my life better. I now take only nine pills daily. When I was younger, I was on 35 to 50—or a pump I had to wear 24 hours a day because I could not take any medicines by mouth. Now with the advancements, women who are HIV positive can have children. Growing up I worried about not being able to be a mother.
What is your refuge from thinking about and dealing with your health?
I don’t think about having AIDS every day. Having AIDS really doesn’t get me down. However on days when I am not feeling so well due to life circumstances, I try to get out of the house and spend time with family and friends who uplift me and make me smile!
What has been your major economic challenge since testing positive?
Health care. I have state health care, and it can be a challenging to meet the requirements.
What one thing has most aided your survival, and how difficult is it to overcome stigma?
What aided my survival was the way I was raised, being told I was not different. I was always told that this was just something that happened to me. And when it was time to deal with different situations [that arose from my HIV], then they were dealt with. I never spend all my time thinking about the fact I have AIDS. I live my life as normally as I can.
Do you think there will be a cure in your lifetime—and if so, will you benefit from it?
I am not exactly sure. I am part of the first generation of children born with AIDS, and if they haven’t gotten it together in 27 years, I don’t know.
What advice would you give to someone newly diagnosed?
Just because you test positive doesn’t mean life is over. In 2011, HIV/AIDS doesn’t have to be a death sentence. With advancements in medications people are living longer, finding love and living life! When I was born, the doctors told my parents I wouldn’t make it past the age of 5. I am now 27. Let me be the example to say AIDS doesn’t have to mean the end of your life. It will only be that if you allow it to.
to read this article as it
appeared in the June 2011 issue.
read more of our "30 Years of AIDS" coverage.
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