Las Vegas, Nevada

Positive since 2015

I am a 21-year-old female currently serving in the armed forces. I found out I was positive February 9, 2015. I thought I was invincible, strong and driven and that the world was at my fingertips. I found out I was positive through a routine checkup. I had gone during my lunch break from work. I went into the clinic feeling confident and happy. I had no idea that my life was about to shift completely that day.

It had felt like a scene in a movie where everything slows down by 50 times, and the nurse was slowly mouthing, “Your results came back positive.” It was like reality had smacked me right in the teeth. I remember trembling and shaking so hard that it was almost impossible for the other nurse to hold down my arm to take blood for a confirmation test. Tears of pure helplessness streamed down my face. I had never felt fear like that before. I felt that God was punishing me for all my mistakes in life. I felt like I was abandoned. I had never felt truly alone like I did that day.

I remember going home, crawling into my bed and watching YouTube videos of women living with HIV. I was so inspired. I realized that there is so much stigma with HIV, mainly because it is incurable. I turned to my faith. I prayed every night asking God to help me. And He answered. At the time, I had a boyfriend who was incredibly supportive of me. I was blessed because I wasn’t kicked out of the military, and the only thing that affected my daily life was taking one pill (Triumeq) every day.

Today, I am still in the military. I’ve become more driven in my work. I don’t want HIV to become my crutch in life. I have broken up with my boyfriend who was there for me, but I am dating someone else who also accepts me for me, regardless of my diagnosis. I’m happy, and all I can do is move forward in life.

What three adjectives best describe you?

Quirky. Loving. Hardworking.

What is your greatest achievement?

Serving my country while still being HIV positive.

What is your greatest regret?

Not wearing a condom the night I believe I was infected. Seriously, if I could go back, I would smack the soul out of myself for not protecting me.

What keeps you up at night?

The fear of being alone. I don’t ever want to feel the way I did in that clinic. The loneliness of it all gives me chills.

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

A cure. Nobody asks for this diagnosis, and even if someone does get infected, I would want them to feel at ease because there is a cure—maybe one day.

What is the best advice you ever received?

Don’t ask “Why me?” Because why anyone else?

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

On YouTube, there’s a group of strong women who talk about their own story. That is such an inspiration to me, especially since I have yet to meet a woman other than myself who is HIV positive.

What drives you to do what you do?

My little brother and sister and my niece. They look up to me, and I need to be there to be a good role model for them.

What is your motto?

Move forward, even if it’s just a tiny bit. You are still that much closer to being the person you want to be.

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

Probably my medication, to be honest. Is that selfish?

If you could be any animal, what would you be? And why?

I would be a cat. They are their own boss.