Gwynn Oak, Maryland

Positive since 2000

I am a 54-year-old grandmother. I got married in 1997. I found out that I was HIV positive three years into my marriage. My husband stayed with me, and last June, we celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary. He is still HIV negative. I have three children and four grandchildren. I have written a children’s book called My Grandma Is HIV Positive. It’s an 18-page book that describes HIV/AIDS in a way readers of any age can understand. I have also written a memoir called And I Don’t Surrender (AIDS) to Stigma and Judgments. It’s currently being edited.

What three adjectives best describe you?

Transparent, joyful and grateful.

What is your greatest achievement?

Telling everyone at my first book signing that I was HIV positive and my husband is still HIV negative. I expected about 20 to 30 people, but about 80 showed up. It was beautiful.

What is your greatest regret?

Thinking I could change the world overnight and overcome stigma and judgment.

What keeps you up at night?

The aches and pains from fibromyalgia, lupus and osteoarthritis.

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

I would change the HIV-related stigma.

What is the best advice you ever received?

The best advice I received was to get up out of myself, push forward and live.

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

I most admire my friend Anna Fowlkes.

What drives you to do what you do?

The HIV-positive person who isn’t aware of the beautiful life they can have after their diagnosis.

What is your motto?

“I seek to create a pulse in statistically flat-lined communities and mindsets.”

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

My purse. It has my ID, medical cards, medicine and phone. Adherence is important to me.

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

I would be a dove. They represent peace.