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in september 2008 my partner had a headache for three days. he's never been to the doctor before, raised on an island and never had any type of health care. i knew it was serious when i offered to take him to the ER and he agreed. Three days later, he was diagnosed with AIDS and a raging case of cryptococcal meningitis. CD4 count was 3. I went for a rapid test in the clinic attached to the hospital and never expected the answer to be that i was positive. i fell to the floor, cried like i was in a soap opera, and asked "who's going to raise my children?" The tester was so amazing, so helpful in talking me down from this reaction, telling me he'd known people living with HIV for 25 years +. i latched on to those words like a life vest those first few months.

i was paralyzed from fear and couldn't bring myself to test my little girls (they were 1 and 2 at the time). someone at AIDS Action told me it would be ok to wait a bit and it was like permission to get myself together first. i needed that and it made all the difference. my man was so sick, we had to change insurance companies, change pediatricians, and i was still at work full time...i just knew i'd be frozen if i found out bad news about my babies. i'd had a negative test during pregnancy #1 and i think i must have told the midwife she didn't need to test me for pregnancy #2, i was in a monogamous relationship! i still think my man got it from his ex wife years ago...hopefully that's true. anyway, when i was ready i got the girls tested and they are both negative (THANK GOD!).

i immediately started seeing the docs, and since my CD4 was in the "gray area" they didn't need to push me onto meds. but when i eventually started, in Nov 2009, my viral load dropped like a bad habit and my CD4 crept up to over 850! i used to feel like if i saw a drop of my blood i was disgusting, dangerous to my kids, tainted. since being on meds, i don't feel that way anymore. i know i need to take precautions, but i don't feel TAINTED and that's huge for me.

i've disclosed to more people than i expected to at first. it's getting easier as time passes, and as i can explain that i'm okay and doing well on meds. my relationship with my partner is strong, my kids are healthy, i have a supportive and loving group of family and friends. i'm blessed!