Tag Archives: survival

Surviving with Hope

When I first found out about my situation, I was pregnant and I was on my way to work. I can tell you what I had on and everything. My doctor called and asked if I could come into the Health Department. I was already five months pregnant and I was like, “Do you really need me to come in, you can’t tell me over the phone?”

When I arrived, he brought me into his office and he had a nurse sitting next to me. She was holding my hand and she kept on saying, “I’m so sorry.” I asked what was going on. And then the doctor said, “You’ve tested positive for HIV.” At first, it was like he was talking in slow motion. I thought, “I am about to die.” That’s the first thing that came to my mind.

I stopped taking my HIV meds after I gave birth to my daughter and my son. In my eyes, I was 200 pounds. In reality, I was about 90-something pounds. So basically, I was so skinny that my doctor was getting nervous. He said I only had five years to live. “The top is five years, but the way you are going,” he said, “it is going to be less than that.” However, I didn’t think there was anything wrong with me. So, I guess, God had to give me a little reality check that something was wrong.

My first streak was shingles and I had to go through the pain. The second streak was a little sore on my forehead. I had to deal with that and sores in other places, but I still was in denial. My doctor finally said, “Enough is enough,” because I went from a size 14 to a size 4. That’s how bad I was. My doctor said, “I’m telling you this because I care and you are a sweet person.” He said if I do what I’m supposed to do, I would live as long as I want. He told me to look at my kids, that they need their Mama. He said, “Don’t you think they want you to see them graduate and go to prom? That’s what you’re supposed to be living for.”

When he said that, I started to break down crying because I couldn’t believe it was me. I’m not here to hurt anybody, why would somebody want to hurt me. My doctor said. “That’s why God doesn’t give you more than what you can bear. Now, what I want you to do is eat as much fast food as you can, take your meds, and drink Ensure.” And, by the grace of God, I’m here today.

I first recognized that my testimony was part of my purpose when my pastor, came to my house and asked if I would join him to visit a woman in the hospital. I will never forget it.

When we entered the hospital room, I was introduced to a woman with the same first name as me. She was also in the same state of denial that I had been in. She was in a wheelchair but also really skinny, so when I walked in, she looked at me and I looked at her and she was like, “You are a very pretty woman.” I said, “Well thank you. I am very glad to hear that.” Then she asked me why I was there. I said, “My pastor asked me to come to see you as we have a similar situation.” And she said she didn’t think I had the same thing as her. I asked her to tell me what she had that she didn’t think I had. She said she just found out that she was HIV positive. I asked her why she thought I didn’t have it. She was like, “No, not you, you’re too pretty for this.” So, I shared my testimony. I told her that it was not going to stop her from finding the person that she loves. I said, “As a matter of fact, I see this as not being a curse, but as a strength. God allowed you to go through this because he knew that you could handle it.” And then she looked at me and I said that “He’s going to send the right person to your life who’s going to understand your situation.” She started crying, I prayed and I sang with her.

Months later she messaged me on Facebook. She said, “Guess what? Thank you so much. I am married!” She looked stronger and pretty. The doctors had given her three weeks to live, just like they had given me five years. That’s how bad she was. But, I believe when I walked through the doors it gave her hope.

Finding the Courage to Survive

When it comes to people who are living with HIV and AIDS, stigma in the church didn’t just start in 2020. It’s been around for quite some time.

Several years ago, I was invited to speak at a church. When I arrived, no one knew I was the speaker, so I just sat in the pews next to two ladies who were talking about people living with HIV, talking in such a negative manner that it got under my skin a little bit. Somehow, I managed to hold my composure.

When it was time for me to speak, I focused on those two ladies as I talked about how I was abducted, got shot, and left for dead on the side of the road. I looked directly at those two ladies when I said that’s where I contracted the virus and because of that, I am living with HIV. I could see their jaws drop, the shock when they realized they had been sitting right beside a person living with HIV. At the end of the event, the two ladies came up and apologized for how they had spoken about us. But, even though they apologized, I had already heard the way they really felt about people living with HIV/AIDS. It’s sad to say that in churches, where everybody is supposed to be about love and God, God may not discriminate, but men and women do.

Another time, I was a visitor at a church where everyone already knew I was living with HIV. At the end of the service, when everybody gathered together to hold hands for the last prayer, I reached out my hands but no one would take them. That was a very, very bad feeling. I was shunned by people who are supposed to be serving God, supposed to love their neighbor as themselves.

There are other times that I’ve overheard people in churches talking about people who are living with the virus. I’ve heard from some of my peers how they have been treated in churches, how they have been made to feel “some kind of way” after they have told their stories. To me, claiming you are God’s children should mean loving one another and caring about your sisters and brothers no matter what, whether it be HIV/AIDS or any other type of illness.

I feel that if I walk up to someone and say, “I’m living with cancer, “I get all the support in the world. If I walk up and say, “I’m a diabetic,” I get all the support in the world. If I walk up and say, “I’ve got HIV or AIDS,” then the stigma shows on their face. A word doesn’t have to be spoken. It’s just the instant reaction that you see from a person when they know or find out you’re living with HIV or AIDS. It changes 100% the way a person reacts with you. You would think, that in 2021, people would be educated when it comes to HIV and AIDS, but they’re not.

However, I would tell the person that is living with HIV that you have to find the courage within yourself. It’s a type of bondage that holds you when you have something bottled up inside that you need to set free. Your pastor is the one you should be able to confide in to help ease that bondage. The pastor will have whatever message God has given them to give to you. So, I would tell someone living with HIV to feel free to talk to their pastor and let them know because that’s where you get your support. You need that spiritual support. But the pastor can’t help you if you’re not sharing it.

When I got the courage to step up and say that I am the face of HIV, I felt that I had to tell people, to help build up the confidence of others who are living with it. To let others know that it’s ok to walk in those shoes – they are your shoes and you shouldn’t let anybody bring you down. The virus doesn’t dictate your life. For me, it was taking my power back. Once you take ownership of it and stop allowing it to control you, you can live. You can live a productive and happy life.

Many of us are still living in the closet. The stigma shouldn’t exist at all. It should be like, “I contracted the virus. It’s not your business how, but, yeah, I’m living with it because that’s what it is. It doesn’t make us the men or women that we are. It doesn’t proclaim our spirituality. We are still the loving beings God created. We should be able to walk around with our heads up high, with a smile on our face, and say, ‘This is me!”


How Ironic-Part 2

When I was leaving New York Back in 1991 I was also planning my funeral. I wanted to spend the time I had left enjoying my son. I had been diagnosed with HIV in 1983. Now that was one of the hardest things for me to face- knowing I had to leave him orphaned. No amount of therapy could take that deep hurt from my heart.

So, I learned to cherish every moment I had.  Because back then, no one knew what the lifespan was for someone with HIV.  I would hear from doctors different things like “you could live another three to five years.” Then another doctor – I remember her telling me the magic number is now “seven years.”

It’s been thirty-two years since my diagnosis and I am still going strong. I am healthy emotionally, physically and spiritually, And, I must say I have become more sassy in my older years. Ironic to say, but I give all the credit to having the big V. Not the best way to change your life, but for me it was, that was my blessing in disguise. I am still learning of life’s endless possibilities. I no longer need to just survive – I can actually have a life.

I had the privilege to help raise my three granddaughters, which for me, there is no greater pleasure in life. I thought being a mother was, but when you are blessed with grandchildren it takes you to a whole other level.

Who knew I would be still here today so eager to make a difference in this life, this is some of what paying it forward means to me.

What are your thoughts? Let us hear from you…