I am a daughter, niece, sister, cousin and mom. I will be 36 years old this birthday. Three days before I will celebrate my 8 year poziversary.

My diagnosis was a surprise, since I had tested negative for HIV only the year before while in what I thought to be a monogamous relationship. I hold myself accountable for making the decision to stop using condoms. After returning from an international vacation he was hospitalized. I now know he had known his diagnosis. He was in denial, thus he chose not to disclose and had also made the decision to not be on treatment. Once diagnosed I never had the denial that he did. The relationship became toxic and had to end.

I quickly realized that life does not stop with HIV. I educated myself, my three pre-teen daughters (at the time) and the rest of my family and friends about HIV. Moments are always teachable moments.

Thanks to early diagnosis, I am healthy today. I had a baby girl 4.5 years ago -- my fourth daughter -- who is HIV negative. I am still an oncology receptionist. I have chosen to speak out about my HIV status in order to dispel stigma and encourage other women to protect themselves and get tested for HIV. I have volunteered on a committee with my state health department and enjoy working with incarcerated women on a volunteer project to help empower and educate, as well as help lead Transformation retreats for men and women living with HIV.

Why Melissa wants to be part of A Girl Like Me: I think it is important for me to blog for A Girl Like Me, because I like what The Well Project is doing and I think it is imperative for women all over to be HIV empowered!

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