Diagnosed in 1983 with what we now know is HIV, Eva was told she had six months to live – a common message in the 1980s. That was over twenty years ago.
It was in the beginning of 1983 that Eva noticed severely swollen glands in her neck. She saw several doctors while going through a battery of tests for such illnesses as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. When all of her labs came back inconclusive, Eva’s husband was called in to see a physician, hoping to bring some clarity to her mysterious symptoms. Soon after, Eva and her husband were both told they had GRID (Gay Related Immune Disorder).
In a short while, Eva’s husband grew increasingly sick and was hospitalized. Assuming his illness could be airborne, clinicians entered his room wearing robes, masks, and a look of fear. Eva watched as her husband was treated as though he had the plague. She felt panicked, isolated, and hopeless- not just for her husband, but for herself.
Initially, Eva relied on doctors for support. She was wary of disclosing her illness, even to those closest to her. After twenty years, Eva is now much more vocal about her HIV status. She is a volunteer for a local AIDS Service Organization, a peer support group leader, and workshop facilitator who helps other HIV+ women learn how to manage their disease. Eva firmly believes she always get more out of volunteering than she puts in: “giving back to the community makes me whole!”
Predictably, Eva’s support network has grown and changed through the years. Losing her husband four years after their joint diagnosis, Eva’s network of support shifted and is now firmly anchored by her family and her family of friends – friends who Eva chooses wisely and carefully. She is a woman who knows how she wants to spend her time and knows how not to put up with negative people. Now the student, rather than the teacher, Eva has learned how to live in the moment, learned how to shed the frivolous things in life and concentrate on what is lasting: spirituality, health, and emotional wellbeing.
To a woman newly diagnosed with HIV, Eva would say “there’s still joy left, even though you may not be able to see it. People say that you’re terminal, but we’re all terminal!” Whether you’re a sister, mother, aunt, teacher, wife, friend, or a combination of them all: there is life after HIV. “I may have HIV, but I’m a lot of different people. I have a lot of different lives.”
The women featured in our profiles are real HIV+ women and people working in the arena of HIV care. The Well Project respects and safeguards our profilee’s confidentiality – we will never reveal last names, addresses or places of employment. We may even provide an alias so that our profilee’s first names remain private. If you have any questions or comments about our profiles, please contact us.