My Journey: It Could Happen to Anyone

As a woman living with HIV, I have been through a lot in my life. As someone who was born with the virus, I grew up taking medicine, going to numerous doctor appointments, and getting stuck with needle after needle. This was normal to me, as I never had a life before my HIV diagnosis. Being born with HIV puts you in a different category from those that acquire it later in life.

I was born in the ’80s, at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, and the virus was still so new that people didn’t really know what it was or how it was transmitted. At that time, they had no medicine to treat it, and I was not expected to live past the age of four years old. My birth mother had her own problems and so almost immediately after I was born, I was taken from her and placed in foster care. Thankfully, I was placed with a foster family that would become my forever home. Growing up, I never knew why I had to go to so many doctor appointments or why I had to take pills every day. Most of the time, I would find ways to not take my medication because it made me feel sick and I felt better without it.

My parents would set out my pills for me each day and I would flush them, throw them away, and do everything with them but take them. I ended up in the hospital for a month with stomach colitis because of the inconsistency with which I took my medication. Seeing me struggling to take the medication and my poor numbers as a result, my parents finally sat me down at the age of 12 and had the family therapist tell me my HIV-positive status. At that time, I did not really have any idea of what HIV was, so I immediately told my two best school friends. I was lucky that they never told anyone, or if they did, I never heard about it or was ever treated any differently. As I grew up and went on to high school, I started becoming aware of how negatively those living with HIV were perceived. I made the decision not to tell another living soul, and I did not. I still was not taking my medication consistently, so I had no trouble hiding that part of it. If I spent the night at a friend’s house, I would not even worry about not taking my medication. My friends would sometimes ask me why I would not donate blood when they were doing it, and I would just tell them it was because I was afraid of needles. I kept quiet about my status for the rest of middle school and all through high school.

To this day, those classmates and friends that I grew up with, still don’t know that I’m a woman living with HIV. This unique perspective is one of the many factors that have shaped me into the person and woman that I am today. I have always been motivated but became even more so after the birth of my son, who is negative. Being a single mother, while also living with HIV, has brought out a strength in me that I did not know existed. I grew up in a stable, loving environment and this is the kind of life I am motivated to give my son.

I recently graduated with my master’s degree in Business, with a focus on Healthcare Management. It was an online-only, 2-year graduate program, and in those two years, there were many times when I wanted to give up and throw in the towel. I stayed up late to work on assignments. I was exhausted, nervous and stressed, etc. But I put my nose to the grindstone and kept pushing forward because I knew, in the end, it would be worth it. I would be one step closer to achieving the goals and dreams I had planned out for my son and myself. During the two years I was in school, I still had to keep up with taking my daily medications, going to my doctor’s appointments, getting labs drawn, and working a full-time job. There were some nights I would be so busy with my son and doing schoolwork, that I would forget to take my medicine. On other nights, I simply wanted a break from swallowing pills, so I would make the conscious decision not to take them at all. During all this time, my viral load never increased beyond undetectable, but my CD4 count did drop some, which I attribute to the constant stress and exhaustion of it all.

Being a mother, single or otherwise, is definitely stressful in its own right. But, when you add school, living with HIV, making sure to eat healthily and exercise regularly, working, and so on, to it, everything becomes one big melting pot that often threatens to boil over. I have always found ways to push through the hard times because I have had no other choice. I have a little person depending solely on me to make the right decisions. I am thankful and appreciative to have the support and generosity of great friends and family, which is not something that a lot of people have. Their love, empowerment, and inspiration, it helps motivate me more to live a life that is successful, rewarding, and courageous.

– Crittlecakes

A more convenient, monthly treatment for HIV cleared a key hurdle

Once-a-month injection of antiretrovirals works just as well as a daily pill regimen, trials show

In two clinical trials, a monthly injection of antiretroviral drugs was shown to be just as effective as a daily pill regimen at controlling HIV.
SERGII PETRUK/ISTOCK /GETTY IMAGES PLUS

By Jonathan Lambert
MARCH 4, 2020 AT 5:00 PM

People living with HIV are one step closer to having a once-a-month treatment alternative to downing two or more pills a day.

There is no cure for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. But combination antiretroviral therapy, or ART, can effectively halt the replication of the virus, nearly eliminating it from the bloodstream and prolonging life expectancy (SN: 11/15/19). For the therapy to work, though, people must stick to a daily regimen of two or more pills, which experts say can be a challenge for many.

Now, the results of two phase III clinical trials suggest that a monthly shot of antiretroviral drugs works just as well as daily pills, researchers report March 4 in two studies in the New England Journal of Medicine. If approved by regulators, the therapy could be a more convenient treatment for the estimated 1.1 million people living with HIV in the United States.

“From a patient perspective, these results are very positive,” says Elizabeth Tolley, an epidemiologist at FHI 360, a public health nonprofit based… click here to read more.

You are Invited to be a part of Let’s Talk About It

We meet monthly as peers to talk, share experiences, and just to educate each other. We strengthen our skills as we reach out to make the road easier for others. All of the LTAI women are dealing with the same issues and we talk about how to overcome barriers and obstacles in life.

We develop posters, magazines and participate in activities to share our stories, so that others can learn from our experiences. 

What can women gain from joining LTAI?
They get to know how other people relate to us, they can relate to each other and they can understand each other. 

What skills can you learn at LTAI?
We talk about our eating habits, how to best take our meds, how we can deal with life itself. We learn how to love one another and how to reach out to each other.

Can you give an example of how LTAI has been helpful for you?
I have learned how to not be so aggressive; I have a lot of anger. I have learned how to call on other people for ideas about how to handle a situation or certain resources that might help me.

I think more women need to get involved in LTAI because we get to express our feelings, we get to talk about anything and everything that we want to talk about… and it does not go any further than our group. We don’t have anyone pre-judging us because of our illness.
We can make a difference in the lives of other women!!

By  “L. H.”

8 minutes, 46 seconds: A love letter to our people

*** Content warnings: anti-Black racism, violence, pain, killing of Black people by the police, lack of accountability by the State, KKK *** 

June 2, 2020

PWN family,

We love you.

We have been rocked and our hearts are broken by the footage of George Floyd, murdered by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who held Floyd under his knee for a full 8 minutes and 46 seconds. George Floyd cried out for his mama as he was dying.

Eight. Minutes. And. Forty. Six. Seconds.

We are breathless with grief, rage, pain, and despair.

But Derek Chauvin did not act alone. Officer Thomas Lane pulled… Click here to read more.

Togetherness – Stronger Together

Yesterday I was invited to join a Zoom call with some women from a support group we all belong to. At first, I hesitated joining in.

Since the call was several hours away, I went on with my scheduled activity. We had workers rebuilding our front deck floor.  It took 10 hours with breaks, etc. By the time the workmen left, I was exhausted. I had worn down, as if I had used the hammers and nail guns myself.

While I freshened up my hair and added a little make-up, I debated about not joining the call. I felt almost like crying, I was that tired or exhausted. My husband kept coming in to interrupt me to help handle the paying and saving goodbye to the young men. I told him I was preparing for something for myself. Finally, the guys left and hubby wanted to rehash the work, etc.

By this time it was past the 6:45 scheduled connect time. Again, I debated skipping the call. No! I am doing this. aSo I quickly rushed around gathering up what I might need, my phone, my laptop, my drink, a snack, a few things I wanted to show them. Whew! I settled on my bed, rearranged my pillows, my throw, and checked to make sure nothing was showing that I didn’t want seen. Lol. Gave my laptop a fast glance to see if I could quickly figure out how to use it for the call? No, I don’t think so, too complicated for my brain now. I clicked on that link and ….it tells me I have to download an app. Wth? This seems ill-fated from the get go.

Finally loaded, click link, enter number, password, okay…..what? It says the person is not ready yet. Lol. Lol. Lol. OMG.

Finally a face pops up…..wearing this strange looking GET UP!  Oh yeah, I know that face. Lol. Now I get it… nothing unusual here. Lol. Looking fabulous even in this funny hat, mask, and necklace.  Another face pops up. OMG, I know her too but what the heck is she wearing? Then another, and another. Wow! These gals really planned and here I thought I was prepared. Lol.

I think eventually we had 9 – 10 – 11 or so women log in to the Zoom meeting. I am not the best technical person so I only saw one face at a time, except for Mama and daughter, and they kept changing. Lol. One or two were only instant glances, then gone. Technical difficulties for a few and we lost them.

After all the greetings, hellos, and laughs at the get ups we started a real gabfest. Due to some previously unknown planning, one fearless leader asked what we’ve been doing while in “lockdown”? We discussed our lives and a few difficulties we’ve had. Thankfully no one has been down with coronavirus in our support group. There have been some family, more distant, suffer and survive the virus.

We were asked what we miss most during the stay at home requirements? Some really good answers. Most say family, going out in public, our friends, our group, and shopping (A woman’s 7th or 8th sense you know? Lol). Our little male mascot made an appearance and added to our fun. A very, very smart mascot he is too. A couple gals showed a few pets and we all enjoyed them.

We discussed our fears and worries over our health, our families, and COVID-19. It seemed like our worries and fears sort of matched one another’s. Some of us are all alone at home, and some have family and loved ones that need care as well.  We discussed worries about doctor visits or not going to a doctor. We talked about our stress and what is causing it even more. We talked about many things, but the connection was what was most important! At least it was to me. (I did speak to a couple other women that were on the call and they agreed how great it was. And the connection was needed.)

I’m not sure how much time was planned for the Zoom call but as I was one of the last to sign off,  I’d say 3 hours at least. Lol. (I am a bit of a talker.) And only ended due to a family call and needing to end our talk.

I really, really, really enjoyed this connection with “My Friend’s,” my support group, my sisters, and our little mascot “E”. The bond is strong with these women and I don’t know if anyone else can understand it, unless you have a similar bond with a special group of women or men.

For anyone sitting at home and feeling alone, feeling disconnected or afraid of COVID-19 or some other fear– “Reach Out.” Sound the alarm. If you only talk to “One” person you may feel less alone. You may feel happier. You may feel more loved or just love inside. It’s not an instant fix but it could lift your spirits a little and that sounds a whole lot better to me. I know I felt happy after the call and the “Connection” with my sisters. We are not connected by blood but by our hearts and spirits. ❤️

P.S. When someone I know, even if only on Facebook, loses a loved one, I will send them a link to a song. My go to is Michael Jackson’s “You Are Not Alone”.  It always makes me cry. I cry for every loss, every hurt, every sadness I or anyone else feels. I’m a softy on the inside of this old hard lizard skin.

From HIV/ AIDS to COVID-19

This pandemic brings me back 37 plus years to the dark days of HIV. As a woman living with HIV little was known back then, as little is known about the coronavirus, except we all know how we can stay safe from contracting this deadly virus! The scientists are making great strides on a vaccine.

We must all do our part by keeping safe and educating as many people as possible.
So, sisters, let’s do this ! We are all in this together and much better equipped with knowledge.
“Again, stay in and educate”

Read more…

IRS Launches New Way For People To Get Coronavirus Rebates

Arthur Delaney
HuffPost April 10, 2020

The Internal Revenue Service unveiled a new website Friday where people who don’t normally file tax returns can enter bank account information so they can receive coronavirus payments.

The new site is on IRS.gov. There’s a big blue button that says “Non Filers: Enter Payment Info Here.”

Since Congress passed a law calling for cash payments to most households in the U.S., people with low incomes… Click here to keep reading.

Interim Guidance for COVID-19 and Persons with HIV

Last Updated: March 20, 2020; Last Reviewed: March 20, 2020

This interim guidance reviews special considerations for persons with HIV and their health care providers in the United States regarding COVID-19. Information and data on COVID-19 are rapidly evolving. This guidance includes general information to consider. Clinicians should refer to updated sources for more specific recommendations regarding COVID-19.

Click here to continue reading.

Priming the Pump

Many times I’m one of the first to speak up. I don’t feel I do that because I know more than others. I do it because so many hesitate to speak up. So maybe I speak up 1. To fill the gap. 2. To get the ball rolling. 3. To prime the pump.

I mean if you pour a little water in the top of the pump, then try pumping you get plenty of water. Right? My analogy of the pump comes from my childhood when my grandparents only had a well and an outhouse.

We had to pull up buckets of water and then they moved up to a house which actually had a pump in the kitchen. (Still without indoor plumbing for a bath tub or a toilet.) When the pump wouldn’t bring up any water we had to prime the pump with a cup of water. You had to make sure to have that cup of water or we had to go outside and pull up a bucket of water. It didn’t seem too long without pumping before it would need primed again.

I thought about many times at a meeting of several to many people I am the first one to raise my hand and speak up. It’s not because “I know more” I feel it’s because “I’m priming the pump”. I speak up and something I said makes another person think of something to add or in another direction. My words can get the ball rolling, the ice breaker, or maybe overcome someone else’s fear of speaking first. I have many ideas, and not always a favorite, or maybe something someone else is thinking or their experience. I’m not afraid of disagreeing with the main speaker but I try to be polite whether I agree or disagree.

You don’t have to be a good speaker to speak up. It’s your thoughts, your feelings, or your own experiences.

We all come from different walks of life. We all have our own stories and experiences. Don’t think “no one” wants to hear your ideas or thoughts on any subject. Great minds think alike? Great minds also disagree but great things come from people with many ideas and experiences when they merge them together.

So be that “Primer” and Prime The Pump. What’s the worst thing that could happen? You wouldn’t get water. I don’t think that would ever happen as so many people have plenty to say, they just couldn’t find the words until “You” spoke up!

One of my favorite things that I say is “Speak Up And Speak Out”. And that can apply to advocacy or everyday life.

Don’t be afraid of being different, of being laughed at, and never be afraid of being wrong.

There is no wrong words but there’re many things never being said. So “Prime That Pump”. You never know what comes up could be Liquid Gold!