What’s the most helpful thing anyone has said to you over your years living with HIV?

I think the most helpful or encouraging words were, “Mechelle, you are a fighter, and you can and will rise above HIV/AIDS. Don’t give up. Keep fighting.” That was 15 years ago, and I still believe it.


What is your refuge from thinking about and dealing with your health?

I actually have a few: My first refuge is God. He is the head of my life, and through him I can do all things.


My second is my family. My children are my biggest supporters.


My third is my job. I love my job. I get to help other people who have AIDS and have been abusing drugs to get their life back on track. What a blessing that is.


What one thing has most aided your survival, and how difficult is it to overcome stigma?

The one thing that has aided me is the love and support of my family and my friends. It is very important to have emotional support to be able to express how you feel—good or bad—when it comes to having AIDS, and to know it’s OK to have these feelings. But to also have people in your life who won’t let you stay stuck on a bad feeling. It does get better.


Do you think there will be a cure in your lifetime, and if so, will you benefit from it?

I pray for a cure and also to be able to benefit from it when it happens.


What advice would you give to someone newly diagnosed?

I would tell that person not to be afraid, that they are not alone. And please do not give up. Keep living. Do not let AIDS define who you are. You can live a long, healthy, happy life. And if they need help or someone to talk to, call me.