Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Diagnosed in 2002
I am a retired RN. I was diagnosed in July 2002 while I was living in a battered women’s shelter in Winston-Salem, NC. The person who infected me was my boyfriend of two years. He failed to share that he had been involved with an HIV positive female prior to our relationship. Even though I’m an RN, when I started losing lots of weight, cancer came to mind, not HIV. As our relationship took deadly turns due to his uncontrolled temper, he almost beat me to death. My son came to my rescue and removed me from the violence. I entered the women’s shelter and went to see a doctor. When he suggested, "Lets do the test,” the lights went on. I knew! Though I did not become an avid advocate at this point, I did begin another long-term relationship that lasted seven years.
As that relationship started weakening, depression set in. I stopped taking my HIV meds. By May 2008, I was deathly ill. I developed trigeminal shingles (the worst of all shingles). I was also diagnosed as having AIDS. My boyfriend took great care of me, but the relationship never fully healed. He was going through some personal issues in December 2009 and he locked me out of our home. I lived in my car in 15-degree weather for 2 weeks. Then fate intervened.
I was rescued by AIDS Care Services in Winston-Salem. I lived in their transitional housing for a few months. I became a spokesperson in our support groups. I became a board member of our consumer advisory board through my infectious disease clinic. I became even more avid about speaking out. I applied and was accepted into the final AIDS Alliance Consumer Leadership Corps Training program. I also applied and was accepted as part of Treatment Action Group’s “What would you do for a Cure” advocacy campaign. This allowed me to go to Washington DC last fall and meet with my state legislators and encourage them to continue or increase funding for NIH research into HIV and Aging. I started advocating on Facebook (WandaBrendleMoss), which led to people all over the world contacting me about living with AIDS. Next, I started advocating on Twitter (@wandabrendlemos). I am a member of POZ Army and have been interviewed by the Winston-Salem Journal, The Chronicle and did an interview on Fox8 with Brent Campbell on World AIDS Day 2011.
Why do I speak so openly? Because I do not fit the picture of what people think AIDS looks like. I am a heterosexual, white female. Where I live, white women are more or less led to believe that they are not at risk, which is absolutely incorrect. The reality of HIV/AIDS is any person who is having sex, whether LGBTQ, heterosexual, married, single, regardless of race, finances, etc., is at risk. So I fight every day in hopes that no one else will ever have to say, “I am HIV positive”
What three adjectives best describe you?
Passionate, fierce, unafraid
What is your greatest achievement?
Surviving horrific domestic violence, home invasion with a gun and AIDS
What is your greatest regret?
Believing in love but so far not having found it
What keeps you up at night?
Having so much passion to fights AIDS, social injustices, but not having finances to be able to travel and let people see and hear my story
If you could change one thing about living with HIV, what would it be?
That the stigma would end. We are only going to stop this preventable disease with open, honest conversations.
What is the best advice you ever received?
What person in the HIV/AIDS community do you most admire?
What drives you to do what you do?
HIV and AIDS are preventable. I talk and share my story so that others never have to say, “I am HIV positive.” It saddens me there are so many people living with HIV but will not speak up.
What is your motto?
Just Talk. Knowledge is Power! Know your Status!
If you had to evacuate your house immediately, what is the one thing you would grab on the way out?
My meds, my teddy bear, My Dabs the AIDS Bear, pictures of family, my donated netbook. It has done wonders in my fight against AIDS for me and my peers.
If you could be any animal, what would you be? And why?
I am a Leo, so a LIONESS. Protective, strong, fearless—going places where others won’t go
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