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Profiles of People Living Well with HIV

Aaron – St. Louis, MO. Living with HIV since 2011.
"HIV, taking my meds makes you undetectable. And that makes me unstoppable."

Aaron This is my disease. It’s in my body and I need to know everything I can to fight it. I stay informed. I talk to my doctor. I talk to my pharmacists. And I share my story through my own YouTube channel called My HIV Journey. Three years ago, when I met my partner Phil, I told him I was HIV positive in our first conversation. He said, ‘That’s OK. There are lots of ways to protect ourselves.’ Phil takes PrEP and I take my meds every day. In this relationship, HIV ends with me.

Angie – Loganville, GA. Living with HIV since 1995.
"Hear this, HIV: I’m going to take care of me so I can take care of those I love."

Angie I break into dance whenever the mood and music move me. I won’t let my HIV rob me of anything in life. I know that staying in care and on treatment helps me to be the best mother, wife, and HIV prevention educator I can be. I tell other HIV-positive women: All the fear that you have can be overcome. Every day I wash down my pills with a prayer. I’ll continue to do so until my dying day—and HIV will not be the cause of it.

Ashley – Atlanta, GA. Living with HIV since 2006.
"Hey HIV —understand this— we’re living together, but I give the orders."

Ashley Being in the military prepared me for a lot of things, but not my HIV diagnosis. I found it difficult to take medication every day. Fortunately, with the help of my doctor at the VA, taking my medicine is just another part of my morning routine. I brush my teeth, wash my face, and take my meds. By sticking to my medication, doctor visits, and support groups, I stay healthy and happy. As a support group leader, now I’m helping others to get into their own routine.

Cedric – Bryant, AR. Living with HIV since 2012.
"I’m here. I’m living. I’m happy. So take that, HIV."

Cedric After my diagnosis, it took me a while to accept the fact that being HIV-positive is not the end of the world: It’s just the beginning of a whole new way of life. The first meds I was prescribed gave me some bad side effects. But I worked with my doctors to find a new one that was better for me. Now I feel great and my viral count is undetectable. That list of things you wanted to accomplish before you were diagnosed? It’s still possible if you stay in care and work with your doctor to find the treatment that’s best for you.

Chris – Minneapolis, MN. Living with HIV since 2010.
"HIV, my life revolves around the people I love. Not around you."

Chris Diagnosed as a young college student, my first fears were of rejection and death. But, I was wrong about both. Instead of rejecting me, my grandmother immediately began to learn about the disease. She helped me see that, with HIV meds, I could live a long, healthy life. Now that I understand what it takes to live well with HIV, I take care of myself so I can spend time with the people who matter most.

Christopher – Washington, DC. Living with HIV since 1987.
"HIV, life’s a game, and with treatment, I ‘m winning it day by day."

Christopher I was only 16 years old when I discovered that I was born with HIV. My mother passed away from the disease, but until getting tested at a community health fair, I had no idea, that I too, was living with HIV. Within a few months of my diagnosis, I got on treatment to control my viral load. Since then, I’ve stayed on treatment and in good health. Getting tested saved my life and I’ve used my experience to help youth learn about HIV prevention, testing and fighting stigma. Today, I enjoy friends, family and living life to the fullest. Christopher 1, HIV 0.

Eddie – Miami, FL. Living with HIV since 1987.
"HIV, you won’t stand between me and a long healthy life."

Eddie Encouraged by the love of my HIV-negative partner, I started HIV treatment 27 years ago. I’ve seen first-hand the dramatic advancement of HIV care. When I first started treatment, I had to take 30 pills a day. Now, I just take 3 pills a day with few side effects. Initially, I started treatment to protect my partner from getting HIV. Now, I know that being healthy, taking my medication, exercising, and eating well are the reasons I have a full and productive life today.

Elizabeth – Boston, MA. Living with HIV since 2001.
"HIV, you’re part of my life, but with treatment, you’re not my entire life."

Elizabeth For a while, taking my meds was just a negative reminder that I had HIV. From time to time, I stopped treatment. I shouldn’t have. Each time, my health would suffer. With the help of a great doctor, I came to understand that consistent medication and care were essential to living well with HIV. HIV is part of my life, but so is HIV treatment. Being in care lets me be here for my kids, my grandkids, my furry best friend, and hopefully one day, my great-grandkids.

Jada – New Orleans, LA. Living with HIV since 1995.

“I’m here to tell HIV that I’m a survivor. It takes a lot more than three little letters to stop me.”

Jada video thumbnail I tested positive for HIV just one week before my 21st birthday. I was afraid, I didn’t tell anyone, and I didn’t go into treatment right away. But now I know the value of medical care and treatment. I found a doctor who I love and who’s been ultra-sensitive and helpful throughout my transition. And because of HIV treatment, my viral load is undetectable and my CD4 cell count is back to normal. I live my life to the max and I want other transgirls living with HIV to know that it only gets better!

Jamie – Atlanta, GA. Living with HIV since 2015.

“HIV, you have no power here. And if it’s between you and me, I guarantee I’ll win.”

Jamie When I was first diagnosed with HIV, I felt like I would never have a strong quality of life again. But life does not end with an HIV diagnosis. I formed a strong, honest relationship with my medical provider and together we created a plan to keep me healthy. Now, I want to encourage other transwomen living with HIV to take care of themselves by taking their medication, and taking time to do what makes them happy. There is light at the end of the tunnel, and you can live a full and amazing life as long as you stay in care and prioritize your health.

Jennifer – Asheville, NC. Living with HIV since 1997.
"HIV: This is not the end. It’s just the start of a new way of life."

Jennifer When I learned I had HIV, the doctors told me I had just 6 weeks to live. As a transgender woman, it was hard to find a doctor who understood my needs; but, I kept looking and finally found someone. Now, 17 years later, I take just one pill a day—with very few side effects. I also run my own organization called TransHealth Coordinators that helps healthcare providers learn how to care for the unique needs of transgender people. Staying healthy leaves me with plenty of energy to pursue my other passions, too, like painting, gardening, and operating a mountain guest house.

Katrina – Decatur, GA. Living with HIV since 2007.
"HIV, you may have tried to take my life, but with treatment I took it back."

Katrina One month. That was all it took after starting meds until my HIV was undetectable. I’m a living example that getting into care, listening to your doctor, and staying committed to treatment are key to living well with HIV. Treatment gave me back my life. Now, I spend my time taking care of my family and doing all the things I’ve always enjoyed.

L’Orangelis – San Juan, PR. Living with HIV since 1988.
"You know what, HIV? There are many things I still want to accomplish and you are not going to stop me."

L'Orangelis I was born with HIV so I don’t know what a life without HIV is like. There was a period of time where I did not take medicine, but I decided to get back on treatment and seek medical care. I am motivated now to stay healthy because there are so many things I still want to accomplish. I have a whole life to look forward to and an opportunity to be a role model for other young people.

Malina – Bronx, NY. Living with HIV since 2010.
"By managing you, HIV, I can devote all my time and energy to my son."

Malina The moment I received my HIV diagnosis, negative thoughts rushed through my mind. Have I passed it on to my infant son? Will I live to raise him? Can I have more children? Like many people, I didn’t know a lot about HIV. But with time, the right doctor, the right medicine, and a strong support group, I discovered that I could live a full life. I’m on treatment, my son is HIV-negative, and we’re both healthy and living well with the love of our family and friends.

Quoc – Nashville, TN. Living with HIV since 2002.
"Now that I’ve learned how to manage living with HIV, my life knows no bounds."

Quoc When I found out I was HIV-positive, the news sent me into a spiral of shame and self-destruction. I hit rock bottom. I thought I would die from my drug addiction before I died from my HIV. I knew then that I had to take control of my life and get into treatment. After getting clean, I worked with my doctor to find the best treatment for my HIV. I’ve made taking care of myself and my HIV a top priority. Now, I’m at a point where I can help others get in care, stay on treatment, and learn to live a long, healthy life.

Reggie – Atlanta, GA. Living with HIV since 1985.
"I fought for my country. Now I’m bringing the fight to my HIV."

Reggie As a military guy, I know how to follow orders. So when my doctor told me to start and stay in treatment, I listened. Now my treatment regimen is part of my life. That means I take my pills, I keep my medical appointments, I stay connected to support groups and I keep up with the latest education. Treatment works for me, and now I show other veterans who are HIV-positive how it can work for them.

Sharmain – Memphis, TN. Born with HIV in 1990.
"I may have gotten you, HIV. But you will never, ever get the best of me."

Sharmain I was diagnosed with HIV when I was just 4 months old. I do everything in my power to take good care of my health and keep from passing the virus on to my baby. The best chance of my son being born without HIV is for me to take my medicine every day. He’s my motivation. Being in care and staying on treatment means my baby has a 99% chance of being born HIV-free.

Sharon – Bangor, ME. Living with HIV since 2003.
"HIV, you didn’t take my voice. You gave me my voice."

Sharon As a member of the Penobscot Nation, I put a face on HIV and give it a voice in my community. I started taking HIV meds 2 weeks after I was diagnosed. Since then, my doctor and I have become a great team. It’s made all the difference. My viral load is undetectable and I feel good. Now, as an HIV educator and public speaker, I encourage others to get in care and on treatment as soon as possible. I’m living proof that it works.

Vernial – Washington, DC. Living with HIV since 1987.
"HIV, you didn’t take my hope, and you won’t take my life."

Vernial Throughout my 32 years of heroin addiction, HIV treatment wasn’t a real priority. But after getting clean in rehab, I found hope and have been on HIV treatment ever since. Now that I’m living a healthy life, I have the strength and passion to help others as an HIV testing counselor. I’ve been where they are. So when newly diagnosed people see what treatment has done for me, it’s the hope they need at a critical time. Now, as a musician and Sunday school teacher, I’m able to reach out to my community and share the benefits of my experience.

Whitney – Baton Rouge, LA. Living with HIV since 2010.

“Get out of my way, HIV. I am strong, and I am here to stay!”

Whitney profile image My HIV diagnosis was a shock, but I found a strong support group that helped me find my way. They introduced me to the perfect clinic where I have one doctor who specializes in HIV and one who specializes in caring for transgender women and men. Everybody is very friendly – from the front desk to the doctors – and they make me feel safe and comfortable. My message to other transwomen living with HIV is to find friends and providers who will support and uplift you, take your meds, maintain a healthy lifestyle, and keep doing the things you love.

Yuri – Miami, FL. Living with HIV.
"Think you can slow me down, HIV? Not in this lifetime."

Yuri I refuse to let HIV get in the way of my busy schedule. I even have a cell phone app that reminds me to take my HIV meds. When I’m not working, I keep busy with boot camp, swimming, weight-lifting, meditation, traveling and—oh yeah—karaoke. I know that the more control I have over my HIV, the less power I give to the virus. I take control by taking my HIV medication every day.