Las Vegas, Nevada
Positive since 1996
I was diagnosed HIV positive in 1996, almost a year and a half after giving birth to and breast-feeding my baby girl, who thankfully did not acquire HIV. In 1996, hospitals were not yet offering all pregnant women an HIV test, only pregnant women who asked or lived a “risky lifestyle.” And heterosexual women were not considered a risk group yet.
I am not here to blame my ex-husband for not disclosing his status to me. I am here to tell anyone listening that an individual’s sexual health is his or her responsibility. And while it is morally right to disclose an STD, and legally my ex-husband could have been charged with a crime, I always answer those who told me I should blame him the same way. I had the choice to ask him to get tested for an STD first and I didn’t. I knew he was sexually active with women before me. I was educated about STDs—not very well educated but educated enough to know they exist and affect everyone having sex.
He didn’t rape me. I chose to have sex with him. So whose fault is that? How do you blame someone for your own choice to have sex with them? Those feelings of right or wrong are feelings we as individuals project onto others. It is time for a new age to dawn in which individuals take responsibility for the choices they make about sex.
What three adjectives best describe you?
Caring. Outspoken. Passionate.
What is your greatest achievement?
I lived for decades alone with my diagnosis, having no other positive people to talk to. Helping others early in their diagnosis in the hope that they never feel alone helps me.
What is your greatest regret?
Not trusting everyone I met with the truth about me. I lost a lot of chances for great friendships because others hurt me before them and damaged my trust. Now, I start each friendship with a clean slate.
What keeps you up at night?
Many people living with HIV suffer from depression and sleep much of their time away. What I hope is that humans will begin to understand that they can’t make laws based on any religion.
If you could change one thing about living with HIV, what would it be?
I would change how people are educated about HIV. I would try to make it something people want to learn to protect themselves instead of making them fear it so much many refuse to even learn.
What is the best advice you ever received?
See things with your mind and your heart before you judge it with your eyes.
What person in the HIV/AIDS community do you most admire?
I admire those who are pushing the community forward as a whole. I admire those who see everyone as an equal because HIV is not only affecting one group. It affects all humans.
What drives you to do what you do?
Being forced to live silently because of fear of those around me drives me to educate and bring awareness; with understanding comes acceptance, and with acceptance we see the end of fear-based hate.
What is your motto?
The only risky behavior for acquiring HIV is being human and alive. If you don’t believe me, ask someone born with HIV or someone who acquired it through a blood transfusion or a routine trip to the doctor’s.
If you had to evacuate your house immediately, what is the one thing you would grab on the way out?
If you could be any animal, what would you be? And why?
This little finch I met while camping and hiking at the Joshua Tree National Park in Indian Cove, California. I love the desert, and who wouldn’t love to be a bird flying around the Mojave Desert all year?