May 17, 2013
Los Angeles, CA
Diagnosed in 2000
I was diagnosed with HIV in 2000 at the age of 15—four months before my 16th birthday. I initially refused HIV treatment because I thought I would die anyway. Instead I turned to drugs so in case I did die, people would think I died of a drug overdose.
I lived for 10 years in silence about being positive. I was afraid of how my family and friends would treat me if they knew. I used drugs to numb the pain I was feeling. I spent 10 years without treatment and became a strung out heroin and crack cocaine addict. I spent time in and out of jail and I was homeless.
Suddenly I got tired of the way I was living and I prayed to God to help me. One night while I was out getting some crack cocaine the police stopped me and I got arrested. As crazy as it may seem I knew it meant my prayers had been answered. I was accepted into a drug treatment program where I learned the tools to overcome my addiction and stopped living in denial. I took charge of my health and got my life back.
Today I am almost four years sober and I have an undetectable viral load. My story has touched so many people’s lives, which has ultimately helped me get through some tough times of my own. I strongly encourage women and men to get tested because it's really important to know your status and your partner’s status as well.
What three adjectives best describe you?
I'm passionate, determined and kind.
What is your greatest achievement?
My greatest achievement is overcoming drug addiction and being free from all shame and guilt.
What is your greatest regret?
My greatest regret is that it took me so long to tell my mom and my best friend that I was positive. They were disappointed because they wanted to be by my side through it all.
What keeps you up at night?
Some things still bother me especially the fact that I can’t take back a lot of the hurtful things I have done to my family and others.
If you could change one thing about living with HIV, what would it be?
I wouldn’t change anything about living with HIV. This experience has made me who I am today and I am free.
What is the best advice you ever received?
Don't ever be ashamed of who I am or what people say about me
What person in the HIV/AIDS community do you most admire?
I admire my mentor the most—she is a positive role model and she shows me how to be the best advocate I can be.
What drives you to do what you do?
The main thing that drives me to do what I do is the mistakes I made in my life and my past addiction. I would not wish for any of that to happen to anyone.
What is your motto?
My personal motto is that I don't live with HIV, HIV lives with me.
If you had to evacuate your house immediately, what is the one thing you would grab on the way out?
I would take my medicine.
If you could be any animal, what would you be? And why?
I would be a pit bull. They have a bad reputation but they are actually very loyal and loving just like me.
Search: Robin Barkins, Los Angeles, California
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