When I found out I was HIV-positive, I had just re-entered the United States after a trip to Nigeria, and I was having some pregnancy-related complications. When the doctor told me, I broke down and started crying. I was scared. I felt like I knew absolutely nothing about the illness, and on top of that I was looking at, “Wow, I’m pregnant.” I was already in my second trimester.
My husband is negative, and we use condoms every time so that he stays that way. At the time I found out, he was living in Nigeria. I didn’t tell him I was HIV-positive. He comes from Ghana, where, if the community finds out that you have HIV, you could be ostracized. For him, coming to terms with the fact that his wife is HIV-positive is a big deal. It’s been a journey.
I know I got it sexually, from the man I had been engaged to before my husband. There was nothing that said, “Oh this guy may be sick.” Nothing. But I started experiencing allergies, repeat sinus infections, a fungal yeast infection under my breasts that would not go away, and a swelling of the lymph nodes behind my ears. I was running back and forth to the community health clinic. No one thought to ask me to get tested for HIV.
If you say you’re in a monogamous relationship, they don’t think to ask you to get tested. But guess what? I may be in a monogamous relationship with my partner, but that doesn’t mean my partner is in a monogamous relationship with me.
My son saved my life. The doctor explained to me that with intervention there was less than a 2% chance of passing the virus on to my baby. Moreover, if I had not gotten pregnant with him at the time I did, I wouldn’t have been tested. He put me on track.
Now I’m in school for my master’s in counseling. I’m the first person in my family to earn an undergraduate degree. I still shake my head like, “I’m in school for my master’s. Wow!” I’ve gone to Washington to speak with legislators, I speak to classrooms, I’ve joined community outreach efforts. None of this was in my life before HIV.
And my HIV-negative son has been there pushing me the whole time. He’s happy, he’s vibrant, he’s very energetic. He lets me know that there’s hope.