Ridgewood, New Jersey
Positive since 1981

I was diagnosed in 1981 with what was then known as GRID. Today, I am going on 32 years being HIV positive. In past decades, I led a very toxic lifestyle with weekend alcohol and cocaine use. I also smoked cigarettes. Why I am above ground even baffles me. Today, I have an undetectable viral load and am holding steady at about 1000 CD4 cells. I also have hepatitis B and C.

In the past, I tried many different types of treatment. In 1995, I went to Italy for “hyperthermia”—my body was heated to 100 degrees. I have drunk my own urine and tried heavy homeopathic and alternative therapies plus took mega-doses of supplements.

Then I got on the HIV meds cocktail in 1998. Now I am happy and healthy, but have recently started to lose some weight. I have always been tiny—never weighed more than 110 pounds at 5’2"—but now I am about 98 pounds and am going to start drinking whey protein shakes.

I was married to an HIV-negative man for 20 years and we recently amicably divorced for non-HIV reasons and are still best friends. I have a great family that is very close—and somewhat nuts—and we all laugh through life in general and are very real. I believe it takes a blend of certain positive ingredients and attitude to stay healthy, and I know I have been blessed. I am living proof you can live long-term with HIV and hepatitis, among other things. Hope this gives hope to any people who are newly diagnosed with HIV.

What three adjectives best describe you?
Pro-active, positive thinker, accepting

What is your greatest achievement?
Truly living kindness my entire life. My “rubber meets the pavement” attitude and never being a hypocrite or living any facades

What is your greatest regret?
Picking up alcohol and cocaine. I am an addict who puts effort into abstinence. I regret picking up that first drink decades ago.

What keeps you up at night?
Fear of letting others down and also of getting sick and taking loved ones “hostage.” Wondering what life is all about in general and worrying about others

If you could change one thing about living with HIV, what would it be?
Knowing I indirectly gave it to myself. The concerns HIV puts on my family and loved ones. Also that it took away my career choices way back when

What is the best advice you ever received?
Dwell on wellness—not on sickness. Forgive myself and take responsibility for my choices and accept that it “all went the way it was supposed to go.”

What drives you to do what you do?
I have no clue!

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

If you could be any animal, what would you be? And why?
Any animal because all animals are “pure”