My Life as a HIV+ African American Woman

I would like to share a very small chapter of my life with you today. I was born and raised in Jacksonville, Florida in 1970. I graduated from William M. Raines High School in 1987 and later studied computers. After graduating from Jones College on the Dean's List, I started my career working at the State Attorney's Office for 12 years. I then resigned to start my own child care business.

I ran this business successfully for five years with my mother and chose to close down the business after finding out that I was HIV positive. I have been living with HIV for 17 years and consider myself a long term survivor. Over the years my HIV developed into full blown AIDS simply because I refused to acknowledge I had it.

In 2004, I became very ill with PCP (PNEUMONIA) and the doctors told me it was the type that people with AIDS catch. I said NO! I was still in denial and the doctors told me that I would be back soon because the PCP would come back and I told the doctor when it comes back I will see you. Stupid thing to say at the time but it felt good to me. So four months later, I became very sic again with PCP. I finally said to myself, enough is enough. I guess the doctor knew what he was talking about and I needed to listen. I let them do everything they needed to do and then some so this would not happen again. That is when my HIV test came back and they began to give me antiretroviral drugs to get my health back. My CD4 count at that time was 14 and my viral load was almost 1 million copies.

When they explained to me where my levels should be, I almost lost it. I could not believe I had let myself go through so much trauma when all I had to do the first time 16 years ago was to take the medications and get on with my life. But no, my thought on this topic was if I do have it, I am just going to die from it because I am not going to take any medications.

For years, I had associated this disease with being a gay man's disease or an IV drug user disease and that is so far from the truth. IT IS A HETEROSEXUAL DISEASE. It is the same as with any sexually transmitted disease. I stand before you now and tell you my viral load is undetectable and my CD4 count is in the high 600s. I am truly on my way. On my way where? Nobody knows until God takes me there.

I am first of all a very happily married woman and have been married for 10 years. My husband and I have been together a total of 11 years. I have a handsome and very intelligent 17 year old who I believe is the most special child in the world. I can not wait to see the wonderful things God is going to do with that child.

The other good news is that both my husband and my son have both been tested and they are both HIV negative. I am so thankful God kept them safe. I will tell you that I have learned to keep my attitude positive and thankful I don't like like what this virus has put me through over the years.

There is so much I can say but I will leave you with this. Know your status! You can play your part in helping to stop the spread of this horrible disease.

I thank God for my story because without it, I could not stand here today to tell you about it. It was uniquely created and designed for me. Just like God made only one TORRENCIA. I have HIV. It doesn't have me.

Through this wonderful foundation Daddy Dab has started my desire and goal in life is now to educate other women and men that they don't have to fall into the same hole that I did. This disease is spreading through the female population and minorities on a national level at an alarming rate. I plan to do this by teaching and educating people to learn about their status and prevention. The biggest reward is to have the opportunity to save one life. Hopefully many lives with my inspiring story.