Dominique Banks
Dominique Banks
Memphis, Tennessee
Positive since 2008

I was a young college student trying to live to the fullest. I had met a young army man my first year of college who I fell in love with. We dated for a few months when I found out I was pregnant with my first child.

During and after my pregnancy he became emotionally abusive towards me. He first became physically abusive in 2007 on Easter Sunday. I had a mild concussion and bulging disc on my lower back with nerve damage. I left him and took a break from school but shortly went back to him.

In August 2008, I was admitted to the hospital with a severe infection. They did lots of blood work. But I found out later that they ran a HIV test as well. The next day, my doctor came in the room and told me that I was HIV positive. I could not accept it. So I told him to test me again and he did. The results were the same. According to the doctors, I was lucky to still be alive.

That night, I called my son’s father and told him. He told me that I must have received it from someone else. Shortly after I got out of the hospital, he got sick and I was taking care of him while trying to take care of myself and my one and a half-year-old son. One night I forced him to go to the hospital. A few days later, he was diagnosed with HIV. I was mad at him and myself. I began to go into a depression. A week later, I went back to school. With the help of friends and family, I left him and got back on my feet.

Towards the end of 2008, I was working on trying to fix our relationship when he did the unthinkable. He stole my checks and deposited seven checks in another woman’s account. I filed a police report on him and reported the issue to my bank. Shortly afterwards, he was at my house trying to apologize when suddenly the police arrived to arrest him. I was about to let them in when they came through my door armed with guns and other weapons. Then my son’s father cut his throat in my bathroom. Luckily, my son was in daycare at the time.

When they took him to the hospital, I broke down crying on my bloody floor. I knew my family wasn’t going to help me and the only person I had to rely on was God. I prayed to him and made a promise that I would never go back with my son’s father ever again. And I kept that promise.

Shortly after that, I received an eviction notice. It seemed as though every step I made forward, I made two steps backwards. I went into a deep depression. It was so bad at the time that my family had to take custody of my two-year-old son. I moved into a dorm to finish my last semester of school.

In April 2009, I graduated with honors and a Bachelors of Arts degree in mass communication. I soon started a job as a peer advocate liaison for HIV/AIDS. I felt like I was on cloud 9 and making a life for me and my son.

But life brought a new challenge. Four months later, I lost my job and it took several years to find another. The next several jobs were low paying jobs but they kept us afloat. Thank God for my family. I moved in with my family after I graduated and stayed until March of 2013. My boyfriend at the time and I moved in a house together with my son. A few months later, he left.

That June I lost my job and several months later I found out I was pregnant with my second child plus I was in jeopardy of losing my house. My house got broken into twice while I was staying with family. Prior to that I was involved in a hit and run accident, which totaled my car. I was five months pregnant.

In February 2014, I had an 8 pound, 4 ounce baby boy. Days later I was hired at Friends for Life and purchased a used car. God works in mysterious ways. Now I am working and trying to become an HIV advocate.

What three adjectives best describe you?
I am dedicated. I don’t let anything stop me from doing what I want to do. I am a devoted mother to my two boys.

What is your greatest achievement?
Graduating from college and having my children

What is your greatest regret?
Dating the wrong men

What keeps you up at night?
Worrying about what will happen in the future

If you could change one thing about living with HIV, what would it be?
The few years of depression I went through

What is the best advice you ever received?
Don’t ever give up. HIV is not a death sentence.

What drives you to do what you do?
My children

What is your motto?
Never give up

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?
A tiger because they don’t take any mess