Kent, Ohio

Positive since 2004

I was diagnosed in October 2004. I was infected by my partner, who didn’t disclose his status to me until 18 months into our relationship. I found out he was positive when he was put in the hospital for a waterborne infection.

After I was diagnosed, I was put on a drug regimen that made me extremely ill. I have been on pretty much every drug out there. I am finally on a good one. My numbers have gone from 5 CD4 cells to 350 in three years, and I’ve been undetectable for over a year.

My partner passed away in September 2006. Since he died, I have tried to date negative men—with horrible results—so I have stayed single for the last four years. I also have been in counseling for about five months now.

I struggle quite a lot with my disease, but somehow I still find that one thing to keep me going. I have learned some hard lessons in the last 15 years since my diagnosis. The biggest one is that I have to forgive myself as well as forgive my partner for infecting me, dying and leaving me alone.

What three adjectives best describe you?

Strong, determined, loyal.

What is your greatest achievement?

My two greatest achievements are my son and my daughter. They are 28 and 23 and live with me. I raised them alone, and, although it was tough, we managed to make it.

What is your greatest regret?

One of my regrets is that I didn’t finish my higher education. My biggest regret is that I didn’t take care of my partner better so he had longer to live.

What keeps you up at night?

Constantly worrying about my finances and lack of them. I’ve been fighting disability for over 10 years and still no end in sight. My current application is five years old and on its second federal appeal.

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

I wish I wasn’t so tired all the time. I wish I could do what I used to do.

What is the best advice you ever received?

Not to be so hard on yourself, and if you can’t do something that day, tomorrow is another day that you can achieve what you set out to do.

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

Larry Kramer is the one I most admire. He wasn’t afraid to yell from wherever he had to and force people to pay attention that people were dying while they did nothing.

What drives you to do what you do?

My children keep me going every day. They remind me that even though they are adults now, I still matter and have a place in their lives.

What is your motto?

Take it day by day, minute by minute if you have to. You don’t have anyone to answer to except yourself. If you are too hard on yourself, you are putting too much pain and drama on your head.

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

My purse. It is large enough that I can cram a whole bunch of stuff in it.

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

I have always loved dolphins. They get to be in the ocean, which I envy, and they always seem like they are playing and don’t have a care in the world.