So, are you open about your status?
Yes and no.
Could you please explain a bit?
Depends on the circumstance. My policies is don’t ask don’t tell unless it’s necessary.
In that case what name would you like to use for its publication?
You can use my middle name Amanda.
What’s your age? And when did you got infected?
I’m 27, I was diagnosed at 15.
How did you find out, and what was your first reaction?
I cried then, I went crazy. I wanted to kill my boyfriend, then I got depressed and over eat because I thought I was going soon get skinny and die.
What things changed because of HIV?
Some things change for the better because I took my goal more seriously, because I thought I didn’t have much time left and there’s so much I wanted to do. But also I had a lot of setback in terms of finding work and studying because of doctor’s appointments and when meds I was getting sick all the time. And I often neglect myself because it’s hard enough trying to prove yourself as a woman. Much less a woman living with HIV. Even though everyone around doesn’t know, I often feel like I have to make up for having HIV.
Have you faced any stigma and/or discrimination? Can you share a specific experience?
Most of the stigma and discrimination I experienced I was a bystander when people were saying thing about those “aids people” or those “sick people” not knowing I’m one of them. Some people in the social services department view “us” as just sitting around waiting for handouts. The most hurtful is when you get close to someone and you tell them and they run from you, or stop speaking to you, or bathe in Clorox because you touched. Or even worse, you’re in a relationship and your significant other wants you to do things to them sexually (eg. oral sex) but they don’t want to because of “your condition”. I’ve had people saying, medical professionals included, “why would you want to punish yourself and an innocent child by having a baby”. Then the family members who fuss too much, and then those who don’t care at all, and it seem they trying to kill you faster.
How would you describe yourself?
I’m hardworking person, a student, a business woman, a sister, a daughter, a mom, even though I’ve never given birth. I’m kind loving sharing but at times very guarded and withdrawn because life changes when people know.
How are you engage in the HIV response?
I’ve been in too many support group meetings. I’ve often volunteer at the food bank giving out hampers or hosting at the Christmas parties for people living with HIV. I did massage this year for women living with HIV, and there health care providers free of cost for Valentine’s Day. And visit other women whom I know they’re positive, if they become hospitalized and offer an encouraging word or just stay and keep them accompanied. When I’m working at the hospital I trying my best to get assigned to the patients who are like men make sure they have an extra special day and give them information on how best to talk with their doctors and who to take care of themselves when they come out.
What do you dream of?
I want to have my own preventative healthcare center where people living with HIV get special preference. I dream of one day getting married and having the kids I wanted before this happened. I also dream of the day when the fear associated with HIV is like diabetics it something you don’t want to have because of the end results, but if you do, so what. Deal with it, and move on. I believe that the HIV response should be more focused on living with it and the stigma and discrimination; suicides, violence depression, substance abuse and loneliness.
What would you say about your sexuality?
When I was first diagnosed it went away. For almost a year I felt dirty, like some had raped me again, but this time I gave them permission. But I came back stronger than ever, but I keep it under wraps because regular relationships get complicated after sex. Discontent relationships are even worse. And almost all of the guys I met who are positive, are either gay, bisexual, way older than me, or have serious issues (eg. unemployed, uneducated, no ambitions, crazy jealous and abusive).
How do you see HIV in your country?
I see it as a hustle. For some people some people try to get what they can get in the name of helping us poor people. But the bigger heads aren’t concerned about the individual, once condoms and medicine are selling. Who cares about the physical and emotional torment and ostracism we received because we were diagnosed with something. Funny enough in my country our population is very sexually active, but they pretend like there not, until there’s a problem.