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Tori Washington, DCTori

I didn't use a condom because, you know, we've all been taught to use condoms, but nobody teaches condoms and love.

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My name is Tyranny but everybody calls me Tori. I’m 32 and I live in NE Washington, D.C.

I found out I was HIV-positive on June 8, 2010, in Atlanta. I called my mother in DC and told her, and she was like, “Oh right, so you just get back here.” She called me back in ten minutes and said, “Your flight leaves Sunday at 7 a.m., and you have a doctor’s appointment on Monday.” So I moved back to D.C. five days later and went into treatment June 14. When I talk about my mother I always cry, but she is the biggest influence on me. I lived with her and she made sure that I went through every process. I just stayed on the treatment, and now my virus is undetectable.

Part of having HIV with me is having neuropathy. Sometimes I can’t walk, and it feels like I’ve just stepped on a whole slate of nails. But having medication honestly helps a lot.

I really have nothing to complain about. I mean, I’m a lot healthier than I was two years ago. And like I always tell people, I got my HIV from being in love with someone and someone saying they loved me. We were together for three years. I didn’t use a condom because, you know, we’ve all been taught to use condoms, but nobody teaches condoms and love. But what I’ve learned is even though you’re in love with someone, you still need to use condoms. Even if you’ve been together for five years, you should still go and get tested. And that was one thing I didn’t do. That’s why I found out so late.

Now I work for Us Helping Us as an HIV advocate for young adults who are recently diagnosed or who need to get back into treatment. My doctor calls me and she’ll say, “I have a newly diagnosed person who’s scared of treatment.” So I go in with them for their first meeting and help them with any kind of support services. When all this was going on, my mother said, “You know what? This is your calling.”

I do feel as though my purpose is to show people that you can live with HIV, and to help people out with it. So that’s why I always have a smile on my face—because I found my purpose and I love what I do.

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