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Grace - HIV taught me to live a full life

Woman on a beach looking at the sky and smiling
Photos are used for illustrative purposes. They do not imply health status or behaviour.

At age 61, I found out I was HIV positive. I was shocked to the core as I had even been celibate for many years. For a long time I rehashed whom I dated when I was younger, who could have transferred it to me. And then I decided enough! I had always been a very smart and tough girl and despite reeling under secondary infections (meningitis), a viral load of almost 800,000 and CD4 of 18, I stood up, took charge of my life and proved everyone wrong. I may have HIV, but it hasn't got me. Where I live, it is unknown and unheard of and the doctors and I had to study together. I was an enigma and I intend to be a beacon of hope for others.

Yes, there are days when the ARV's kick my butt, when I feel sorry for myself and just want to avoid people and lie in my bed. They are few and far between. I firmly believe that what happens between your ears is more important than what happens to the rest of your body.

I had aged overnight and the osteoporosis is unpleasant. But I had also learnt to eat well and be kind to myself. I still work full time as an editor of a health publication and a newspaper which I started and now had grown into a large enterprise.

I have told my children and a few very good friends. HIV is not a death sentence, it actually taught me to live a full life and returning the love I receive. And this strange body I inhabit with its quirks and aches and pains, it is but a vehicle for my spirit and with that spirit I can do the impossible. And it does not matter who gave me the virus. God has a way of making karma happen, it’s not my place to hate.

To everyone out there, let us see this not as a horrible thing which happened to us but as another stepping stone to our ultimate goal of leaving a legacy and making a difference.

As Grace found, there are lots of things you can do to look after your physical and mental health when living with HIV. Thanks to effective treatment, people with HIV live long and healthy lives. To find out more about growing older with HIV visit our page.

Personal Stories Disclaimer: These personal stories have been submitted to us anonymously by individuals who use our site. Some of the stories have been edited for clarity purposes. Some names have been changed to protect identities.

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Photo credit: ©iStock.com/kate_sept2004

Last updated: 15 April 2020