Westside Gazette (Fort Lauderdale) (03.08.12) - Tuesday,
"I had always been a carefree, happy, spiritual, and truthful
person. But after I got HIV from my boyfriend 11 years ago, I
stopped feeling like myself. I was doing well physically, my
CD-4 count was above 1,100 (and rising), and my viral load was
"But my emotional load was at 0, and I felt spiritually sick.
I had spent 10 years watching what I said and hiding my
medications, doctor's appointments, HIV magazines, and
anything else that might raise suspicion from family and
" ... I was a prisoner of my own fear and shame, and after 10
years I decided that enough was enough. I had done nothing to
be ashamed of, and the contribution I could make to ending
this epidemic was more important than the guilt I felt. ...
"On National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day in 2011, I
publicly disclosed my HIV status in the Philadelphia Daily
News newspaper. ... I received all kinds of responses: the
good, the bad, and the ugly. Some people were shocked because
I was older, a teacher, mother, wife, upstanding member of my
community - and HIV-positive. ... I didn't fit the ill-
perceived stereotype of someone who contracts HIV. But the
shock factor worked, because many family members and friends
asked me to go with them to get tested.
"That day of my public disclosure was also the day I broke
free. A heavy load lifted off my spirit, and 10 years of
numbness, shame, guilt, and fear seemed to just melt away. It
doesn't matter anymore what people say or think about me. What
matters most to me is that I feel good about myself, and I'm
standing in my personal truth.
"I realize that disclosure may not be best for every HIV-
positive person; it's a personal choice, but a necessary one
for me. I feel free and light, as if I can finally spread my
wings and soar. Yes, I believe I can fly; I believe I can
touch the sky."
The author, a retired teacher, is writing her memoir.