I Needed A Change
I had just moved to Florida from Maryland in 2003. I flew up to Maryland for my son’s birthday and got tested then because my family and my doctor, who’s a family friend, recommended it. I was heavily into addiction, and I was very skinny at the time. The doctor recommended that I get tested because he said, “You haven’t been tested in a while. I know you are interacting with the behavior of using drugs and stuff.” He tested me, and it took three days to get the results back then. It wasn’t rapid testing.
They called me and said that my results came back positive for HIV. I thought I was going to die. I didn’t know much about it back in 2003. Computers weren’t that big at that time, so I went to the library and researched it to understand what it was all about. I learned that you can actually live with it and that I can manage it through the doctors.
I went to the health department, and they linked me to everything I needed to do and know. I was oblivious. I had no clue how to take care of it, what to do, anything. I’ve always taken the medication, whatever I needed to take. I went from 3 pills a day down to 1 pill a day throughout the years. I was always good at that, even in addiction. I was always good with the doctor’s appointments and the medications. I did not fall slack.
Before I found out my status, I had been sharing needles and having unprotected sex for a couple of years. I was using protection for the most part, but I'm sure there were times when I was under the influence that I didn't, you know. My drugs of choice were opiates, benzos, and crack cocaine. I would share needles, and I’d clean it out thinking it was ok. I haven’t used needles in many years now. I had to go through detox and get clean because I couldn't be on it forever. I needed to stop because it was tearing my body apart.
As for my health today, I’m undetectable. I have one partner, and that is my son's father. He’s been my only partner for over 6 years now. He’s negative and gets tested regularly. I gave birth to my son being positive, and my son is negative too. It’s a blessing that I didn’t pass it on to him, so that’s one accomplishment that I’m proud of.
My family and I motivated me to change my behaviors. I’m getting up there in age, and I just needed to stop everything I was doing. I was just a different person. I couldn’t live like that anymore. I needed a change. HIV is not a death sentence. You can live with it. It’s ok to get tested because it’s better to know so you can treat it if you are positive, rather than not.