By Jamey Younger
As many of you may know, December 1st is World AIDS Day. As a member of For Colored Girls Who Lead, our tagline is Health. Wealth. Spirituality. One of our initiatives in advocating for people with HIV/AIDS. I have always wanted to share my story, but I was afraid of the backlash. Earlier this year, I lost a close family member, which reignited my need to advocate for positive people and educate everyone. This year I spoke at the Beta Phi Omega Sorority, Inc.: 2019 World AIDS Day Brunch. Now I am sharing my story with you.
In February 2007, I was raped by a neighborhood drug dealer. After the rape, I ran home and soaked in a bath and cried. The next morning, I went to Mercy Hospital, and they couldn’t do rape kit because I already bathed. They tested me for everything, and of course all the tests were negative.
In June 2007, I went to a doctor’s appointment, and I found out that I was pregnant. I was mortified and in shock. The worst part was that my family did not believe that I had been raped. Luckily, I gave birth to a healthy baby boy.
In February 2011, my life changed forever. I had shingles, which is unusual for a healthy person in their early twenties. I laid in bed for days, because I could not walk. I had severe nerve damage in my right hip and painful open wounds on my thigh. I laid in a hospital bed, and I prayed to God. I said “whatever your will is God.” I spoke over myself, saying I will walk in seven days. While I was sick, the doctors tested me for various cancers and HIV. When the doctor came in to give me my positive results, I smiled and said “I don’t know what God’s plan is, but I have a second chance at life. I’m gonna live it by every means necessary.” As soon as the doctor left, I broke down and cried.
I was hurt and angry with everyone. I just couldn’t understand why me. I wasn’t sexually active with men, and I wasn’t on drugs. What did I do to deserve this? Initially, I didn’t take my meds as prescribed. Maybe it was because of denial or anger, but I just didn’t care about myself. Basically, I took it whenever I felt like it.
After I got pregnant with my second child, I knew that I needed to make a change for my child. I didn’t want him to be born HIV positive. I started going to Total Health Care, where I met an amazing therapist and doctors. They made sure I took my medication and worked with me to stay healthy. I started to gain knowledge about HIV, and I learned how to properly take care of myself. After giving birth to a healthy son, I started to slack off again with the meds.
Throughout my life, I was in an unhealthy relationship. When I met my wife, it was a complete change. After being told that I was ugly and no one would ever want someone with HIV, I couldn’t believe that someone actually found me beautiful. It kinda gave me the extra motivation to take better care of myself. I started seeing the beauty in life.
It still amazes me how ignorant people can be about HIV. In 2019, there are people, who think people with HIV/AIDS are unhappy, angry animals who want to rape them. With all the medical knowledge, it is shocking that some people still think like that.
The stigma is why I grind so hard to continue to educate people. I got into the medical field 6 years ago, so I can help others. It is so important that we start saving our youth. This year alone, I have seen at least 25 young people newly diagnosed with HIV. The numbers for young black women with HIV is quite alarming. I plan to start a group to educate women of color, help navigate their journey, and spread the word that undetectable equals untransmittable.
For anyone dealing with a positive diagnosis, HIV is not a death sentence. It is just like any other chronic condition. I’m proud to say I’m undetectable and my CD4 helper cells are 1146. I am no longer a victim, I am a survivor.