New Yorker Patricia Kelly, 54, didn’t know that her husband of 25 years had HIV. The story didn’t end when he died of lymphoma in 1998, Kelly says:
“I kept going to the doctor with infections—sinus infections, strep throat, coughs—plus fatigue and weight loss. But instead of doing an HIV test he treated me like a mental case.
“Then my daughter Rebecca became a life insurance agent and asked me to be her first client. After being screened, I received a certified letter in 2003 saying I couldn’t be insured because I was HIV positive. I went from being a housewife and mother to being a widow with AIDS. And the stress of it all was helping HIV make me ill.
“The next year, I met [my boyfriend] Sean Ryan, a New York state prisoner. Knowing he’s in solitary lockdown, in inhumane conditions, is stressful too. But now meds—along with counseling, openness and love—keep my virus in check.”
* Slogan on an ACT UP shirt from the early 1990s, when HIV was still seen as affecting only men