I was infected with HIV in 1985 from my fiancé who use to shoot dope as a teen in New York. What a gift he gave me. I spent the next few years in a drunken, coked out haze of parties and hangovers. I made a conscious choice; if I was dying (that is what I believed at the time), I was going to go out with a bang. And what a bang I made.
I thought I was the only women in the world who was positive. Luckily, the HIV+ gay guys welcomed me into their support groups and advocacy efforts. Thank you guys, you are loved and missed. In the early 90’s, I was involved in various fundraisers, ACT up marches, and other volunteer experiences. I learned so much about pain, love, and loss.
I remember one of my duties at an AIDS Service Organization (ASO) was to read the obituaries and see if any of the clients had passed away. Yes, morbid, but necessary at the time. It was like looking at your own mortality square in the face.
My partying, if you want to call it that, started to get the best of me. It wasn’t fun anymore, it became an obsession and I didn’t know how to stop. My life spiralled out of control; I was a mess. Lost my job, my health insurance, and my home . . .not a pretty sight.
Needless to say, my T-cells plummeted, my health deteriorated, and my will to live was non-existent. I was waiting to die, planned my funeral, gave most of my belongings away (which wasn’t much since I had lost most of it) and I waited for death.
Well, to my surprise, death never came; new medications did. And an ASO gave me housing and helped me get my life back together. With every new day, my health improved; I started to have hope, a new outlook on life. I decided I wanted to go to college and that is exactly what I did.
I spent the past 10 years in school. I earned my AA at a community college, transferred to a University and earned a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW), then a Master of Social Work (MSW), and I just graduated with a Master of Public Health (MPH). Now I have a bunch of initials after my name and I am actually thinking of returning to get a PhD; I am a glutton for punishment.
Well, my first blog, how exciting. A little glimpse into my life and what a wonderful crazy life it has been. Today, I am excited about every day . . .what’s next . . . who will I meet . . . what will I learn . . . who can I inspire . . .how can I get involved and how can I help?
Vickie on why she wants to be a part of A Girl Like Me: I believe it is important that women around the world find a voice, find others who they can identify with, and find hope. I am not alone and neither are you!
More about Vickie: Vickie is a 44-year-old woman who was infected with HIV in 1985. She currently lives in Florida but was raised in a military family and has lived in many countries throughout the world. She recently graduated with Masters Degree in Clinical Social Work and a Masters Degree in Public Health from the University of South Florida.
Over the past twenty years, Vickie has participated in fund raising and volunteer activities with various AIDS Service Organizations in her area. In 2005, she helped create and co-facilitate the "Sisters in Spirit," a support group for women infected/affected with HIV/AIDS.