East Point, Georgia
Positive since 2016
Havoc Into Victory: What HIV means to me!
On November 28, 2016, I received a phone call that would alter my life forever. I had recently consented to an HIV test and also to have the chromosomes of my unborn child checked. I was almost five months pregnant. In my heart, I instinctively knew my child was fine. However, I didn’t feel the same with regard to my own fate.
I was asked to come in as soon as possible to discuss my lab results. I begged the nurse to give me the results over the phone. She let me know that I needed to come in for an appointment. My heart dropped.
I arrived at the clinic with my two youngest children. As I sat in the waiting area, everything seemed to move in slow motion. A barrage of thoughts swirled through my head. My nerves were all over the place. Finally, I heard my name called, and I immediately snapped back into reality. The walk down the hallway to the office felt as though I was walking to the electric chair. The nurse walked in and said, “Ms. Thomas, I’m not going to beat around the bush. Your HIV test came back positive.”
In that moment, my heart dropped again. I felt numb all over. Her words were final. There was no going back. I remember thinking, I have to be anywhere but here—if only I could rewind the hands of time. I recall the feeling of sheer shock move to pure rage and anger. I began screaming, “This is not real. I’m going to kill him.”
A caseworker immediately rushed to comfort and calm me, while another nurse removed my children from the room. I could faintly hear the wails and screams of my children crying for their mommy. I knew right then that I must gather myself for their sake.
The nurse asked me if I’d like to call my children’s father. I nodded yes. After what in my mind felt like eternity, I heard his voice. With tears in my eyes, I charged in with, “Why, why, why, would you do this to me?” He wanted to know what I was referring to. I screamed into the phone, “I’m HIV positive, damn it! Why?”
I was met with silence on the other end. An answer wasn’t going to come. I started ranting again that I was going to kill him. One of the caseworkers on staff asked to speak to him. As I handed her the phone, I was filled with many emotions: betrayal, loneliness, loss, confusion and anger, and I felt damaged.
I needed the comfort of my babies. I reassured the staff that I would behave. My children needed me. They had to be my focus now. I had to do everything I could to ensure that I would be the parent to raise them.
I was scared. I was scared of what others would think about me, how they would feel about me. I felt ashamed and unworthy. Nevertheless, I knew I had to shift my focus because my three babies needed me and my unborn child needed me. I couldn’t allow them to see me torn and broken. I had to be strong. Right then, I knew my life would be different. I began to feel a spirit of peace overtake me.
The next day, I began [antiretroviral] treatment. In the beginning of January 2017, I developed pneumonia and was hospitalized. Through God’s grace, I fought it off and was able to leave the hospital. As my due date drew near, my viral load and CD4 numbers began to improve. On April 10, I delivered a beautiful healthy HIV-negative son. Shortly after he was born, my baby developed acidic blood. He had lost a lot of essential minerals and electrolytes after completing his six-week regimen of AZT. As time passed, my son began to get better and stronger. Watching him fight encouraged me to fight just as hard.
Slowly but surely, I began to put my life back together. I had to release the poison that had built within the walls of my heart. Bitterness was eating me up inside. I had to release the new me. I knew I had to live in my truth: This is my life and I’m taking charge. I won’t allow this to overtake me.
I wanted to make sure I could help others, so I created the Live In Your Truth foundation. Today, I am focused on building my foundation so I can pass it on to my children one day and they can proudly call it their own. I truly believe my children will be greatly impacted from having parents who are HIV positive. I want my children to be proud of me. I want them to understand that they can be whatever they desire in life. I want my children to have a solid foundation to stand on and be able to extend the love they were raised on to others. It is my hope that they live in their truth and that it helps make life a little easier.
This thing called HIV may win the battle with my human flesh one day, but with my love, spirit and legacy, we will win the war! I have turned my Havoc Into a Victory (HIV)! This is what HIV means to me! Live in your truth (LIYT)!
What three adjectives best describe you?
Unique, LIYT, determined.
What is your greatest achievement?
Taking control of this virus and not letting it take control of me!
What is your greatest regret?
Not being aware of my self-worth and my responsibility for my health.
What keeps you up at night?
Unsure if I’m still going to have my fairy-tale happy ending!
If you could change one thing about living with HIV, what would it be?
I’d change the stigma around HIV, so people wouldn’t look at people living with the virus any differently than those who are HIV negative.
What is the best advice you ever received?
I’m an asset and nobody’s liability!
What person in the HIV/AIDS community do you most admire?
What drives you to do what you do?
My children and my determination to show the world I’m no different from anyone else!
What is your motto?
We all have havoc in our lives so learn to turn your H-avoc I-nto V-ictory and stay LIYT (Live In Your Truth)!
If you had to evacuate your house immediately, what is the one thing you would grab on the way out?
If you could be any animal, what would you be? And why?
A butterfly because they are so free-spirited. They don’t belong to anyone and they just fly around bringing joy to those they come across.