People Have That Stigma
My mom just hid it. I mean, I found out about her status from outsiders, my mom never sat me down and told me. I was just there to take care of her and that was that. I was young then, so I didn't know what was happening. I was in middle school at the time, sixth grade.
Then I had people asking questions like, “are you scared to live with your mom?”
I remember thinking, “are YOU scared to live with YOUR mom?”
Or they would ask, “are you scared to eat after her?”
I thought, “are YOU scared to eat after YOUR mom?”
They just didn't know better. I didn't either, but I still didn't think that. I mean, it's your mother, you know. Back then my mom was not educated about it either. I lost her at the age of 21. She died of AIDS related complications. I had just had my daughter, so it was like my first Mother's Day as a mother, and then without my own mother. It was a lot to endure.
Because of this, working in HIV care has just always been something that I've been triggered to do ever since I could work. I was a CNA and I just went up from there. I'm trying to get into a nursing school in January. I find every day is a memorable day in HIV care. I have clients who I've dealt with from when I lived in Jacksonville that I still text and talk to every now and then, because I was the one to give them their initial results. It's just like there has always been that little bond with them. I've had a 16-year-old kid sleeping with some married man and the man didn't tell them. I had a lady pregnant with twins from some guy who was having relationships with other guys, and she found it in his phone. And then, you have some people that born with HIV. I've seen people being diagnosed at all ages.
I want to educate more people. Sex is not bad. Sex is not evil. Back in Jacksonville, when I used to do a condom blast every Thursday, I would stand at a streetlight and I would just pass out condoms to the cars on the street. Some people think that's a bad thing to be doing. I don't feel like it is. We are all doing the same thing. I don't understand how it's bad, but I have people that look at it like it is. Just think: if you meet up with someone, you don't know their status, and you do not have any condoms with you, what are you going to do? That one slip up, even if it's not HIV, is all it takes.
The hardest part is just telling them their status. I don't look at it as a death sentence. I can't just look at it like it's nothing, but at the same time, it's more like your health is a job now. You know what I mean? It's just straight up maintenance. It's not a once every year type of thing anymore. It's not every six months. You need to be on it all the time. It's a real responsibility if you want to live long and take care of yourself then you just got to do that. Even the guy who gave my mom HIV, is still alive, and he's fine. My mom has been dead for near a decade, two decades, almost 20 years, and that man is fine? She wasn't taking any medicines or anything to help her. I think she just gave up. I don't know why. I wish back then I would've known what I know now about medications, I would have made sure she took her meds. I didn't know the things I know now.