POZ Stories : Theresa Kenney

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September 20, 2013

Theresa Kenney

Theresa Kenney
Theresa Kenney
Northbend, Ohio
Positive since 1997  

I was infected with HIV though unprotected sex on February 14, 1997 and diagnosed that April. I will remember that day forever. I stood in my best friend’s kitchen crying so hard but I could not tell her what was wrong. When she reached out to hug me, I cried, “Don't touch me, I have AIDS.”

My first appointment was with Dr. Judith Feinberg and I am here today because of her. When I cried like a baby, she hugged me tight and said, “Sweetie, you will not die of AIDS.”

Sixteen years later, I am now with a wonderful man who is not HIV positive. Not that it would matter. I am also the grandmother of three grandchildren who bring me much laughter, love and happiness. I have had many ups and downs over the past sixteen years and have overcome many dark days.

But over the years, there is still one thing that has not changed, and that is stigma. I believe there are many women who were infected by the same man in the same city and state as me. I often wonder where these women are and if they know they slept with someone who had HIV—even if it was only once. After all, it only took one time for me.

I want my story to reach women everywhere to encourage them to get tested—it can save your life. For those that are already positive, remember you are not alone and HIV is no longer a death sentence.

My journey to find mothers, daughters, sisters and grandmothers just like me will continue. I believe by putting a face to HIV will help promote more testing. We need awareness to change stigma and help stop the spread of HIV.

What three adjectives best describe you?
Curious, determined and energetic

What is your greatest achievement?
When I shared my story of living with HIV with a room full of students. There were many questions but they thanked me for sharing my story. They didn't know white women got HIV.

What is your greatest regret?
Not telling my daughter I was positive for eight years

What keeps you up at night?
Thinking about changes that could be made but are not

If you could change one thing about living with HIV, what would it be?

What is the best advice you ever received?
To live my life because I was not going to die of AIDS

What person in the HIV/AIDS community do you most admire?
Dr. Judith Feinberg

What drives you to do what you do?
The sense of knowing—as a white women living with HIV—I am not alone. The need to help in the fight to stop the spread of HIV and to find other mothers, daughters, sisters and grandmothers just like me living with HIV.

What is your motto?
Everything happens for a reason

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

If you could be any animal, what would you be? And why?
A maltipoo. Ours is treated like the son we never had and thinks we are the best things in the world. He doesn't even mind that I have HIV!

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