“When I walked into the room, the first thing I noticed was that these people didn’t look like me,” says Chelsea White, recalling her first group session with other HIV-positive patients. “They looked like what I thought HIV was—people in recovery from IV drug use, street walkers, gay men. They didn’t look like me, a young, vibrant, educated woman.”
Chelsea, a 30-year-old youth program manager from North Carolina, tested positive for HIV when she was 20 years old and a senior in college. After being in a monogamous relationship through her high school and college years and testing negative multiple times throughout the relationship, Chelsea and her boyfriend both tested positive.
But that wasn’t where the news ended: Chelsea was pregnant, too. “The doctor told me he thought it was a false positive and not to worry.” When the baby was born, Chelsea was tested again. She was positive, but the baby was negative. As it turns out, her boyfriend was infected during sexual contact with another person. He then infected Chelsea.
That was 10 years ago. Today Chelsea is married to an HIV-positive man she met after she was diagnosed and they have two children together—both of whom are HIV-negative.
Because of her experience finding out at such a young age and feeling alone, Chelsea now runs an HIV/AIDS adolescent outreach program. Each week, she sits with HIV-positive teens and twenty-somethings, counseling them on their options, both medical and personal, the same tough decisions she had to make.
Chelsea herself is not currently taking any medications to treat her HIV. “I took medicine while I was pregnant each time, but I just felt like I wasn’t ready to be as compliant as I should be,” she says. “However, in the last few months I’ve decided it’s time I start looking at my medicine options.” That’s a message she stresses to her clients, too. “I encourage people to get themselves ready for the commitment, but I also stress that if they’re not ready, they’ll do more damage to their body in the long run than they would if they just wait.”
Being HIV positive is not the end of the world, but if you love yourself, take the treatment and get better. Because someone out there might need you... to tell them stories, share what you've been through and it might give them powers and hope to live their life again. Remember, getting better is your choice to make.
Story from www.indonesiaagainstaids.org
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