Diagnosed While Pregnant: My HIV Beginning

"You are HIV positive," words we all have heard. Words I never expected nor had prepared myself to cope with when I was told to come into my obstetrics/gyneocology office 2 days after having my well baby blood labs drawn.

I had no idea an HIV blood test was part of pregnant women's health screening. That January night was 14 years ago, today I am a totally different person because of my HIV diagnosis.

What got me here?

I wanted to change the world with my words since the late 90s, I fell in love with journalism and the power written words can have. In high school and college I wanted to be an opinion writer, but upon adulthood realized print and broadcast journalism jobs were a hard career field to break into and gave up on my dream.

Once I realized straight women on birth control who were not making their partners use condoms were putting themselves at risk. These women were also not being told about their risks by their OBGYNs.

Not long after my diagnosis I decided if I let self-stigma win and I shut up, I was becoming part of the problem.

Finding others like me

TheBody.com was suggested to me for HIV education from my high risk OBGYN at the University of Washington Medical Center. When I arrived, I found the website plastered with ads and to my surprise it was poetry month.

I effortlessly jotted down a poem and emailed it to their editor with a brief bio on my journalism background and how HIPPA was not going to silence me. I had already began writing a book about being diagnosed while pregnant.

Taking back my power

I feel as though doctors speak of HIPPA to newly diagnosed patients like it is a shield protecting them from physical and emotional attacks. They made it seem like it is a patient's right, and for their safety, to remain silent about being diagnosed. I, however, believe people should not take on life changing diagnoses alone.

After meeting the women from The BABES Network in Seattle, WA. I decided it was my calling to join them. I witnessed their ability to transform fear and shame into a purpose. I watched those women in awe as they took power over a diagnosis that seemed to crush others.

Within weeks of my diagnosis I was a contracted blogger - writing something like HIV for Dummies was my goal. I had no real knowledge of HIV other than watching the life and death of Pedro Zamora on the Real World ages ago, and Freddie Mercury.

I did not know of many people who had HIV. Most of the names in my HIV Google searches came up as dead gay men. This was not helpful nor inspiring for the future these doctors kept promising me I would live to see.

I'm here for you and you and you

Helping to educate newly diagnosed HIV positive women by letting them know there are many resources available, and they are not alone. Being diagnosed with a scary virus can shake one's foundation, their life plan, and self-worth. Bringing awareness that this diagnosis is not the end is important to me.

I will continue to educate others about the importance of their own sexual health, and being an advocate for themselves.

My writing brings humanity into the countless medical, financial, and emotional challenges people living with HIV face without judgment and full of empathy. Fear should not dictate HIV positive people's lives, and I have a passion for being just one voice of a survivor.

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