A lot of times people give me more sympathy than they give someone who has contracted HIV through drug use or sexual activities, because I was born HIV-positive. They say it’s not my fault and I didn’t ask for it. But who asks for HIV? The only difference between me and other HIV-positive people is that I don’t know life without it.
When I was seven years old, my sister told me I was positive. I ran into the kitchen crying, and asked my mom why she hadn’t told me I was going to die. My mom said that as long as I saw her getting herself together every day, taking care of me and my three siblings, I didn’t have to worry about dying. Because she had AIDS, and AIDS is worse than HIV.
I had a brother, Raymond, who was born premature. My mom found out her status when she was pregnant with him. Raymond was born in September of 1990 and died February 14, 1991. That was my first funeral. I remember seeing this little baby in a tiny shoebox-sized casket. He was really small. He’d fit in the palm of your hand. It’s a reminder that life is not something we were promised.
My mom’s boyfriend, Grant, was positive as well. I saw him go from this energetic person who would dance with me, to being really sick. He was the second person who died with HIV in my home. Within that same year that he died, I lost quite a few people. His funeral was two days after my best friend’s funeral.
I look at all the friends I’ve lost—so many people—as feathers added to my wings. When someone else passes away, I’m like, “Okay, God, you just wanted me to have another feather to help me fly. You’re trying to get me closer to you.”
Losing so many people, losing hope for life, I remember my mother and how she told me as long as she was still here, I didn’t have anything to worry about. I still look at my mom and see her working two jobs and taking care of me, at 26, and my older sister and my older brother and my little brother. It gives me strength to see my mom living with AIDS for as long as I’ve been living with HIV. And she’s still going on.