As part of a collaboration with our longtime partner organization Christie's Place, The Well Project will be sharing stories from their book "Healing Hope: A woven tapestry of strength and solace" as blog entries on our A Girl Like Me platform. The views and opinions expressed in this project are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of The Well Project.
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I was diagnosed back in 1993. I was angry for a very long time. Depending on what is going on in my life, sometimes I am still angry. How I found out was when a doctor 'screwed up' because I was with a man for three years and he did not disclose his status. I had taken this man to the hospital because he was having some problems. His mouth was swollen, and he was coughing up stuff so I took him to the hospital because he could barely breathe. They took him to get chest X-Rays and he was gone for a while. The doctor took me into his office and disclosed what doctors are not supposed to disclose since it is up to the patient to do so.
The doctor had told me his AIDS diagnosis maybe because he thought we were married. I never asked for his diagnosis. Crazy, right? I was just grateful in a way that doctor still had told me because he came in the room and told me, "We are going to put him back in the hospital." In addition, I said, "What? Back in the hospital?" The doctor says, "Due to his AIDS diagnosis, he has PCP pneumonia." I was just sitting there in that office with the doctor going on and on about his diagnosis. In that moment I was thinking to myself, breathe and do not react. Three years of my life with this man and no condoms. "I am screwed, I am totally screwed," I thought to myself.
I have a ten-year-old son who has learning disabilities and all I could think was, I am going to die. All I could think was, did he know? He had to have known because they had records of him. All these things were going through my head, like a runaway train, it is all hitting me at one time. I decided to tell the doctor that I would leave and come back after he was settled because I had to go pick up my son because all I wanted to do was get the hell out of there.
After leaving, I just sat in my car and just cried because I knew that after three years of unprotected sex, I was screwed. All I was thinking was about my kid, not so much about me, but about my kid. Who was going to take care of him? Who was going to make sure he was okay? My son needed extra help because we didn't know if he was going to be able to live on his own because of his several disabilities, and the only one that was there for him was me. I went home and called my doctor to be tested.
When I went in to get my results, my doctor said she no longer could treat me, and the reason was that she did not know enough about the disease. I am just glad she was honest about it, but when you are going through all of this, abandonment is the last thing you want to deal with. The last thing I wanted to hear from my doctor was I can't fix you. She referred me to a place where they could help me get on the right track and show me what my options were.
I had not talked to the guy for two days and finally decided to go back to the hospital. I was sitting right next to his bed and told him, "You knew this... Why would you do that to me?" and he says, "Well somebody gave it to me a long time ago, so who cares?" When he said that, I actually thought of going to prison because I really did want to hurt him so bad. I'm laughing about it now but back then the only thing I could think about was to kill him right there in the hospital, because I thought to myself, what if I do? We are both going to die anyway.
Thinking of his explanation to me made me angrier. He did not say I'm sorry; no, nothing. I asked him again why he had not told me this whole time, we could have made it work, we could have protected each other, and anything else that came along. I wouldn't have left him. All he said to me was whatever he did was because he had to do it, the same thing happened to him. I told him, "What about my son?" He looked at me and just shrugged his shoulders.
After that hospital visit, I packed up my things, grabbed my kid, and left. It was kind of like a survival mode because I could not believe someone could betray me like that. Trying to explain to my ten-year-old that he may have to live with grandma was not easy. It was hard; very hard. My whole focus for the years was my kid. I have to stay strong for my kid. Now, I've seen him graduate. I've seen him get married. I've seen him get divorced. After my diagnosis, I never pictured my life coming out this way and still being here.
I went through a few boyfriends. I went through those phases of 'Don't touch me because I'm dirty,' because of what was done to me. I would never, ever do that to someone else, but I got lucky and I thank the Lord for the husband I have right now. We have been together for 19 years. He is younger than I am by ten years, he knew about my diagnosis, about everything. He dated me, married me, and is still with me. It's like someone was looking down on me when they placed him into my life.
I'm so happy we have come a long way with treatments and medications for HIV/AIDS. There is still stigma around the disease. What else can we do but to educate people? I'm just glad I'm here sitting down, sharing my story, because back then when you were diagnosed, they'd give you five years max to live.
The last thing I want to say to my peers is that there is strength and support in all of this. You do not have to do it by yourself. You can have a normal life. It is hard at first but just keep walking to be where you want to go. Keep fighting. Take it one step at a time. Can't do it by yourself? Seek help. It doesn't make you weak at all. It's not an easy process but you'll get there.