This Is Who I Am!
I remember the day as if it was yesterday. I was incarcerated for using drugs, and then found out in jail that I was pregnant and HIV positive. I didn’t know how to feel or what to think. I was in a place all alone with a baby inside me, and I didn’t know anything about HIV. I wanted to die but, I didn’t.
When I got out of jail, I didn’t have support from anyone, including my family. But I was able to get cleaned up and started taking care of myself for my baby. When my daughter was born, she was thankfully HIV negative.
Since then and for the past 12 years, I have struggled with disclosing my HIV status. I have experienced stigma with my family, where they would serve me food from paper plates. When my mother sees me feeding my kid with my spoon, she would say, “Don’t do that! Here, use a different spoon.” My fear has been not knowing how people will react, and I’ve been walking around with that fear.
To protect myself, I used to not talk about anything personal. It wasn’t until I started working on my mental health and getting the support from a therapist that I began to realize that I was going down the same path I had always gone down. I want to get to the point where I can be an open book so that I can feel free! I want to be able to talk about my HIV status even if it means some people may react negatively or, may not want to sit next to me.
I recently opened up at one of my group meetings and told them about my HIV status. I was terrified because I was in a room full of people, and I didn’t know how they were going to react. It wasn’t as bad as I made it out to be. I decided that I want to be the one to tell people my status and nobody’s going to take that away from me. I went through the worst already, so I plan to come out to the world and proudly say, “This is who I am!”.
My goal now is working on sharing my status with the kids in my family because, I want them to hear it from me so that they understand that living with HIV doesn’t mean I will die. I want them to take me as an example and educate them on the do’s and don’ts when it comes to sexual health. My dream is to work on something I call, “The Stigma Project.” It will be a video series to educate people about what it’s like living with HIV. A lot of people don’t understand what we go through, how some people react towards us, and how it affects us.