Back in 2008, when I was sixteen, I was having stomach problems. I went to the hospital and the doctor said I had a cyst on my ovary and he was going to remove it. When he did the surgery, he found an infection in my womb, so he ran more tests. After a week of being there, some doctor came and told me, “Oh, you’re HIV-positive,” and walked out the door. I didn’t even know I was being tested for HIV.

I was heartbroken. It was about to be my senior year, I was playing varsity basketball. I decided to be home-schooled instead of finishing and going to prom and doing all the fun stuff you do in senior year. I missed my senior year, but I’ll get over it.

I got HIV through unprotected sex with my ex-boyfriend. I told him, “If I have it, I believe you do, because you’re the one I lost my virginity to.” And he’s like, “Don’t talk to me anymore.” I was trying to make sure we were both on medicine, that we were both OK. But he doesn’t want to come to terms with it. It bothers me still.

The house where I stay, everyone there is HIV-positive. At first, I didn’t want to talk to anybody. But then I had a horrible break-up and the people I live with were very supportive. They’re like my aunties and big sisters.

I got a tattoo of the word Love where the L is an HIV ribbon. I got it because I think I’m still lovable, even having HIV. I still go out to parties. I put my freak ’em dress on. People think that people with HIV are dirty. I remember telling this boy and he was like, “What! You can’t have HIV. You don’t even look sick.” I don’t have to look sick to have HIV. I’m straight, I had sex, I got HIV. It can happen to anybody.

A few of my coworkers at Home Depot know that I’m HIV-positive, and they’ve all been supportive. But it’s not like you just go up and say, “Oh, you know, I’m HIV-positive,” and keep walking. After doing this photography project, I want to go out and make people more aware of HIV. We’re not different. We’re not this weird group of people. We’re just like you.