What has been your major economic challenge since testing positive?
I am very concerned about how the government responds to pre-existing illness and insurance coverage. Our current system is a set-up to fail. I know from personal experience that a college degree and career are useless when you cannot purchase health insurance. Too many people who are infected are forced to live below the poverty level in order to have affordable treatment options through government programs. Certainly there is a more acceptable solution to this dilemma that will allow HIV-positive people to receive treatment and contribute to the economy.

What one thing has most aided your survival, and how difficult is it to overcome stigma?
I contribute my longevity to God, who has placed wonderful people in my circle who love me—HIV and all. I have a saying that I always go to in my life, and it works for everything: “I don’t have time or T-cells to waste.” This keeps me grounded and helps me decide very quickly if something or someone is worth the hassle.

What advice would you give to someone newly diagnosed?
“Accept, learn and do. Accept that you are infected and love yourself anyway. Learn everything that you can about HIV. Do what you can to live healthy, be happy and contribute to the struggle against HIV. I decided that HIV was going to live with me and that I was going to respect the fact that I am HIV positive. But HIV does not mean that I cannot enjoy a fulfilled and happy life!”