When I look at the younger ladies around me today, they remind me so much of myself at that age. That is not a good thing. I thought I had it hard and that nobody understood me. I thought everyone was trying to hold me back from happiness. At 17 years old, I moved out on my own. I thought I’d found love in a man twice my age. What I found was attention and it was all the wrong attention. I fell into drugs and alcohol starting at the age of 15. I even became a cutter and had thoughts of ending my life. I met the man that changed my life forever when I was a senior in high school. I, as well as the whole town, knew his HIV status.

My mother had been in and out of my life for years. When we reconnected, I was 16. I forgave her and never brought up the bad things she did in the past. We grew close, and one day she told me she had HIV. I was broken. I called myself “going out with her.” Meaning if she had to die this way so would I. I had been using protection with this man for months and one night after he informed me that he didn’t have any condoms I still made the decision to have unprotected intercourse. I continued to do so for the next 6 months. My HIV test in February, 2011, came back negative, and I stopped seeing him in March.

I moved on and went through numerous relationships. In September, 2011, I took another test, and I was diagnosed with HIV. By that time, I regretted the whole situation. I had matured a little more and it hurt to tell those other men that I may have risked their lives. I was young and very uneducated about HIV. I made a decision that will affect me for the rest of my life. Now I have two beautiful daughters who were both born HIV negative. The worst thing is that I wake up every day, and wonder what will happen to my kids if I was to die.

I’m in a position in life right now where I’m living poor. At the moment, my lights are off, I have no way to get back and forth to the doctor, I haven’t been on meds since I gave birth to my daughter in march 2016, and it’s hard to find work where I live.

I would like to help people realize that HIV and AIDS is nothing to joke about. This is something we have to live with and think about every day. There are so many myths and misjudgments that we have to deal with every day. I’ve had a friend who was scared to even use my bathroom when I was on my cycle. I want to help others so that they not only avoid being in my situation, but to also understand what I go through.

Most people don’t believe me when I open up and tell them I have HIV. They say, “you don’t look like you have it.” HIV has no certain look. “Oh I’m sorry for you.” Don’t be sorry; be smarter than I was.

The first time I told my little sister about my situation she thought HIV was bumps. She would get mad at me and yell, “that’s why you have HIV.” Her mother would never say anything to her so I had to deal with it. I knew she didn’t understand because she was only 6 years old when I was diagnosed. Now she is 11 and doesn’t seem to care to be around me. We never speak of HIV when she is here. I want to help educate her knowing that soon she will be having her own thoughts and questions about sex. I just don’t know how yet.

 

Michaela S. lives in southeastern Missouri and dedicates her time to her two daughters.

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Information and Resources from HIVE

Are you a woman living with HIV? Check out The Well Project for fantastic resources! Interested in policy and advocacy work? Join Positive Women’s Network. Looking for information on how you can have a baby? Check out HIVE’s HIV+ Women page.

Missouri-based HIV support organizations:

AIDS Drug Assistance Programs:
Phone: 573-751-6439
E-mail: info@health.mo.gov
Website: http://adap.directory/missouri

Project ARK
St. Louis, MO
Phone: 314-535-7275
Website: http://projectark.wustl.edu/