You can call me Dee. I am 50 years old an have a 13 year old adopted son. I was diagnosed in Atlanta on November 1, 1996. I was having severe fatigue and just knew I needed to be tested for HIV. I have a substance abuse problem and while I never used a dirty needle (I am an RN), I was in recovery and having unprotected sex with recovering drug addicts in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. The medical field was just catching up to HIV in FL, and we still thought it was only gay men and Haitians at that time. We were so uninformed…
When I got my test results I don't even remember what the man said to me or driving home. My whole life had changed in seconds. My boyfriend was a real jerk about the whole thing and tried to tell me I didn't have the virus. I told my ex-husband, who was negative, thank God. He told me to come back to Ft. Lauderdale and he would hook me up with insurance, acupuncture and herbs and help me get better. I owe my life to him and I didn't deserve it because I had left him for my jerk boyfriend.
My parents were hesitant. They were supportive but wanted me to move back with them to St. Louis to cut down on expenses as they were supporting me. But they let me move to Ft. Lauderdale and people came out of the woodwork to help me. I found myself connected to a lot of amazing people. I began to physically heal and started on a spiritual journey to find myself. I was very lucky, many new meds came out that year and soon my t cells were in the 300′s not 84. There was no viral load test at this time. After 10 years of searching, I came to know Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. Life got good. I adopted my son through the foster care system when he was 5.
I began taking prescription drugs for back pain. My using got quickly out of hand. I lost my job due to my addiction and decided to move back to St.Louis to be close to my family, which has been a very big adjustment for us. It's cold here! I have managed to find health care but not the kind I got in FL. I am isolated, only my adult family members and two other people know I am HIV positive, after all this is Southern Missouri. I have great respect for those who are standing up and putting a face to this disease. After 18 years, I am not able to do this. The prescription drug abuse took me to the edge and I went back to Narcotics Anonymous. I have been clean for 8 months. I go to meetings but have not disclosed my HIV status. My son doesn't know but he has other emotional issues from trauma from his first 5 years, and then my fall off into active addiction which made all his memories come back, so I don't feel I can tell him just yet. But I do have faith in God and that gives me hope. I see his actions in my daily life. My life is so much easier when I let Him be in control. Today my viral load is undetectable and my t-cells are 1000, praise God.
Why Dee wants to be a part of A Girl Like Me: I want to blog for A Girl Like Me because I am isolated and need to connect with others who know what I am going through. I also want to address HIV and substance abuse as I know it affects many of us. I hope my experience may help someone else escape the disease of addiction and learn to live with HIV. Someone told me "it's not a death sentence, but it is a life sentence."