My first HIV test was during my first prenatal appointment. The doctor gave me the run-down of all the tests they were going to do and asked, rather casually, if I’d like to throw in an HIV test for good measure.
“Sure,” I said, just as casually. Inside I was kicking myself. Why had I never had an HIV test before? I’d been sexually active for many years prior, yet getting tested for STDs was something I figured I didn’t have to worry about since I was in monogamous relationships.
A few days later, the tests came back negative. I promised myself that from that moment on, I’d do better at protecting my health and advocating for what I need to be healthy. Since then I’ve have stayed on top of my testing and have been more proactive about every area of my health. This is why I am so thrilled to partner with the CDC on its #StopHIVTogether campaign. They’re committed to raising awareness about HIV and its impact on the lives of more than one million Americans living with the virus.
During this campaign I met two incredible women, Michelle and Masonia, who shared their stories as mothers and activists living with HIV. When I tell you I was inspired by their resilience…there really are no words. They are incredibly strong women who decided to use their experience to help others. Both work to educate and support the newly diagnosed and help them on the path to acceptance. This campaign is about giving women a chance to see that you do not have to give up on your dream of becoming a mother if you are living with HIV. In these videos, Michelle and Masonia talk about the lengths they went through to protect their children, the stigma they endured, the strengths they drew upon when they found out about their diagnoses.
Michelle is the definition of a survivor. The mother of two found out that she was HIV positive when her daughter was an infant. She soon learned that her daughter was HIV positive as well. Now, 23 years later, they are both active in the community, counselling people through their diagnosis and helping them make adjustments as a person living with HIV. Michelle talked of the stigma her daughter faced at school, such as having a teacher surround her daughter with garbage bags for fear of somehow spreading the disease during the school day. (No words.) Hear from Michelle and her daughter in this quick 2-minute video:
Masonia was diagnosed back in 2010 when she was just 23 years old. She found out she was HIV positive and pregnant with her daughter all in a two week span, after years of being tested faithfully. Hear from Masonia on how she managed her pregnancy and her new diagnosis and what advice she has to anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation:
People living with HIV are more than just numbers on a prevention poster. They are mothers, fathers, employees, friends, teachers, etc. They are strong members of our communities and while we work on HIV/AIDS prevention, we need to focus on support and encouragement for those living with the disease.
This post is made possible by support from the Let’s Stop HIV Together campaign. All opinions are my own.