El Paso, Texas

Positive since 2014

I found out I was HIV positive in January 2014. I was engaged to my future husband at the time. I was sick with pneumonia and didn’t think anything of it because I’d been getting pneumonia since I was a kid. But we got the call from the doctor, and my world changed.

My husband and I married four months later. That was almost four years ago. He is still negative, and I take my HIV medication every day. After my diagnosis, my husband initially figured he had it too, but luckily, he didn’t. He became worried about my mental state while I acted like nothing was wrong. In fact, aside from taking my meds every day, on a subconscious level, I was in complete denial about having HIV.

At first, only my husband knew about my status. I told family members that I had a problem with my liver, which was why I was taking medication and going for checkups. I was still acting like I didn’t have HIV. It took a long time before I started telling my family.

I recently went on sabbatical, teaching in Thailand for five months. Living alone and away from my family has actually given me a newfound respect for my life and myself. I always thought that by acknowledging my HIV status to myself, I would somehow be embracing it.

Before I came to Thailand, I spent my time not taking care of myself. Although I took my one-a-day pill regularly, I wasn’t eating right or getting any exercise. I was simply existing. I know part of the reason is the fact that I just didn’t care. Well, I can honestly say that having traveled halfway around the world to teach in a foreign country has made me a better person. I am eating healthier and exercising more, and I honestly feel rejuvenated.

When I was first diagnosed, I saw HIV as a death sentence. I thought, Great! I’m slowly going to waste away. But I know that doesn’t have to be the case as long as I take care of myself. I started reading more about living with HIV. I created an account on POZ.com and follow POZ on Twitter to stay up to date because I am a part of the HIV community. I am no longer ashamed of having HIV.

What three adjectives best describe you?

Compassionate, considerate and honest.

What is your greatest achievement?

I have a BA in psychology and an MA in teaching. My greatest achievement is that I found my passion for teaching.

What is your greatest regret?

That I spent too many years dwelling on the past.

What keeps you up at night?

I sometimes worry that I won’t live long enough to see my beautiful niece, who is only 5 years old, grow up.

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

I’d like people to know that they don’t need to live in fear of contracting the disease from a relative. My reason for not wanting to tell my family was because of the stigma that comes with having HIV.

What is the best advice you ever received?

Taking chances are a part of life; if you don’t take chances, how can you expect anything to happen?

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

Ana Wallace.

What drives you to do what you do?

I spent 10 years going from job to job and was never happy until I decided to pursue teaching. Educating our youth is my one and only goal now.

What is your motto?

HIV is not a death sentence. You can go on and have a full life. It’s not the end of the world.

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

My husband.

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

A dog because I love them. I have nine. Dogs truly are a man’s best friend. They all have unconditional love.