For years, I wanted to be a part of the HIV community and always had visions of being an advocate. I used to sit and have conversations with my sister Yolanda about it and she used to say to me, "Just do it! What’s stopping you?" I knew what was stopping me: for a long time I was in an abusive relationship, my husband was a substance abuser, sleeping with other women down the street, and I was taking care of three children.
I knew I was stressed, depressed, tired, and wanted a different life. But, I checked out from what was going on. I was 225 pounds, had high cholesterol, and slept almost all day until my children came home from school. This wasn’t living life or anything like being happy. But my children helped me to smile just by having them around.
Taking a big step towards HIV advocacy
After my divorce and my sister passing away, I decided it was time to do what I knew I was put here to do, which was advocating. I went to my first conference and that’s when I felt the love from so many others that were living with the same condition I was living with. I never thought it would become such a huge part of my life. But, I guess when it’s your purpose, that’s what happens: being a part of a community that I never had until 14 years later of living with HIV.
A positive impact on my life
I was a different me, and I knew this was the space I was supposed to be in: being a change maker, lifting others up, motivating, and inspiring others on where I came from and where I am now. I was hurting for people who allowed STIGMA to steer them into fear.
Conflict in the HIV community
I felt like I found a whole new family within the HIV community and I loved it. I saw that what I was doing was changing so many lives. But a couple of years later, I didn’t feel the same about the love I felt in the people who embraced me when I started. We all have different issues we were fighting for, and I started to see anger and evilness in people. There was a separation among groups that weren’t agreeing to disagree.
The need for more togetherness
I have always been a peacemaker, but this was a situation I could not resolve. I never thought I would see so many people living with HIV not come together for whatever HIV cause it was. It’s shameful and hurtful to see and hear the debates and no one listening. Why is it this way and why is everyone looking to be on top? When it comes to HIV, there is no top: there should only be togetherness and support with everyone linking together to make a difference and a change in all areas of HIV.
Love one another, work to create change together not apart. How can we fix this broken society of HIV if we can't help one another, support one another, and agree to disagree?
At what age were you diagnosed with HIV?