I fell very ill at one time, and the doctors had me tested for everything, including HIV (Human immunodeficiency virus). I then found out that I was diagnosed positive for HIV.
I still remember feeling so many emotions at one time. Dread and despair filled me up, and I was ashamed and disgusted. I felt fear and terror creep inside of me. I had to go through the typical stigma; people treated me like a bad person and did something, and I deserve it. People saw me as a 'w***e.'
I was forty-five years old when I was diagnosed with HIV, and it amazingly changed my life because I went on to be an advocate. I am very proud of this advocacy journey, and I will continue it until the last day of my life on earth. It has given me a purpose beyond motherhood. It was not as hard to share the news because I was very sick. The whole thing felt absurd. Everybody around me was worried about me, and since I am an open book, the phone calls began right after my diagnosis.
I had symptoms like esophageal pain, headache, rash around my mouth, swollen lymph node on my neck, phantom smells, fevers, night sweats, thrush, achy from head to toe, lethargy, nausea, weight loss, yeast infections, and sore throat. Some symptoms happened closer to my diagnosis, and some just happened here and there. As far as the cure is concerned, I do not think I will see it in my lifetime. There is no cure for it, and that is the harsh truth. There is no cure for herpes or the common cold, which are also viruses. I just do not see it happening. A vaccine to prevent HIV feels more plausible.
The only people treating me differently are the online trolls. No one says anything on my face, and I have accepted that online trolls are just a part of being online, and there's more to it. More people benefit by seeing me.
A lot of people who are suicidal get courage by looking at me, and that's worth more than all the trolls I receive. Once I recovered from HIV and pneumonia, as I felt better physically, I healed mentally.
I share my story and try to find more HIV+ women like me. I wished to help them, not wanting them to go through what I did. But, I did not know for five months. I wanted people to know what HIV was because I was pretty sure most had no idea, and I was quite right.
Since then, I have tried to educate people about HIV and help them in any way possible.