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Born With HIV, Diagnosed at 17: A Young Mom Shares Her Story

An Interview With Lolisa Gibson -- Part of the Series This Positive Life

May 1, 2011

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This Positive Life

Welcome to This Positive Life! We have with us Lolisa Gibson. When Lolisa got tested for HIV in 2004, she was certain that she was HIV negative. So when her results came back positive, she was utterly shocked. It was a lot for a 17-year-old to take in, but the more she learned about HIV, the more she didn't let her diagnosis stop her from living. Lolisa, a proud mother of a baby boy, talks to us about coping with her diagnosis, becoming an HIV educator/public speaker, and being in a mixed-status relationship with a man.

Inspiring stories of people living with HIV.

This is Olivia Ford reporting for Welcome, Lolisa, to This Positive Life.

Thank you.

You're very welcome. Can you start by describing how you found out you were HIV positive?

When I found out I was HIV positive, it was because I had been getting sick and my doctor had asked me to get tested.

How old were you at the time?

I was 17.

How long had you been getting sick for?

Before I got tested, I had two different sicknesses within two months period of time. So it started when I was 16 and moved onto when I was 17.


So when the doctor told you, what did you think and how did you feel when you first heard?

When he told me to get tested or when he told me I was positive?

Let's start with when he told you to get tested. What did you think when he told you maybe you should get an HIV test?

When he told me to get tested, I didn't think anything of it. I didn't know anything about HIV, so I just knew that I didn't have it. So it wasn't a big deal for me to get tested.

And why were you so sure that you didn't have it, at the time?

At the time, because I didn't know anything about HIV. I just knew that there was a certain look to HIV. I knew that I didn't use drugs, I didn't sleep around, so I knew that I wasn't putting myself at risk to get HIV.

So when you got the results, was anybody with you?

Yes, he actually gave me my results over the phone and my mom was on the other phone at the time.

Oh wow. Do you know why he gave you the results over the phone as opposed to in person?

That day, he had kept calling while I was at school. It was a Tuesday in January 2004. He kept calling. When I came home from school, my mom told me that the doctor had kept calling that day and wanted me to come in. But by this time, it was about 6:30 to 7:00 at night. So coming into the doctor's office this late where you have to take a bus, it would have been like a half an hour bus ride, so I just wasn't feeling it, so he called again after I got home. My mom had called me to the phone and said he was on the phone. Once I picked up the phone, he told me he had the results to the test. And he asked me if it was OK to tell me over the phone. I didn't think much of it, so I just said, "Yeah." And my mom stayed on the other phone and we both heard at the same time.

So what did you think when you first heard?

When I first heard, my mind just went blank. My whole childhood, I've been in love with Bow Wow. My only goal was just to marry him when I grew up. So when he told me, the first thing I thought was, "I'm never going to marry Bow Wow." I still didn't know what HIV was but I thought Bow Wow was never going to marry me. And I thought I was going to die right that very second.

So now how did you first start to learn about HIV? For instance, was it around that time you realized how you got HIV?

"When I left the doctor's office that day, I still didn't know anything about HIV. I just knew that now I had it. That means I had to take this medicine. But I didn't know what HIV was."

Actually, my doctor he, it was so urgent for me to come in that day, because he had set up an appointment for the following day with a specialist of a different clinic for children. So he wanted me to come in because he had already made me an appointment for the next day. So since he told us over the phone, he also told us about the appointment for the next day. So me and my mom went there. The specialist, he told us that my viral load was greater than 100,000 and that I had 115 T cells, which was really bad. He asked me about my past and things I had done. I hadn't done anything except for having sex and use condoms. He started asking my mom about her past, and most of the things, she didn't do.

He started saying, with my viral load being so high, he thought I could have had it for longer than 10 years without knowing. He was saying there was no way I could have gotten it within two years of having sex with condoms and it would be that bad. So that's when I started getting educated. When I left the doctor's office that day, I still didn't know anything about HIV. I just knew that now I had it. That means I had to take this medicine. But I didn't know what HIV was.

So now backing up a little bit, it sounds as if you had had it for a long time, so was there talk about there was a chance that you had gotten it from your mom or that you had had it basically your whole life? How was that introduced?

The doctor told my mom to come in. He told my mom to get tested. He told her to bring my two younger brothers for them to get tested as well. My brothers came back negative, but my mom came back positive. So we just came to the conclusion that I was born with it because even the guy I was having sex with, he didn't have it. So it was like process of elimination, that's how I got it.

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More From This Resource Center

Magic Johnson Wants You to Know: He Isn't Cured of HIV

Living With HIV? African Americans Share Their Advice

This article was provided by TheBody.

See Also
More Personal Accounts of Women With HIV/AIDS

Reader Comments:

Comment by: Basil (Port Moresby) Wed., May. 13, 2015 at 9:20 pm UTC
How come they have sex, the condom broke but the hubby didn't get His. Can can someone explain please
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Comment by: Anonymous Wed., Apr. 29, 2015 at 5:05 pm UTC
You are truly an inspiration 💓💓💓
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Comment by: Dee Sun., Aug. 17, 2014 at 3:18 pm UTC
Your story will make me feel stronger nd stronger im impressed its not the end of the world. To all who r living wth hiv live life to the fullest.
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Comment by: naina kamal said (kenya) Fri., Dec. 6, 2013 at 6:48 am UTC
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Comment by: Nozibulelo (Queenstown South Africa) Sat., Nov. 16, 2013 at 12:24 am UTC
I like you people the way you are positive and strong
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Comment by: shirley (south africa) Wed., Sep. 25, 2013 at 4:18 am UTC
your story brings tears to my eyes because am also living with the virus and its hard everyday for me to think that when i tested i did not have the virus but all in the name of love i have it now
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Comment by: Joseph k (Isiolo county kenya) Tue., Jul. 23, 2013 at 3:57 pm UTC
I really appreciate this information .
I tested positive one month ago. I still believe I will go strong.
What can you advice me to do as I have not started to take the ARVs, although I' am confident very strong.
Please I need your advice.
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Comment by: Katia (Angola, Luanda) Fri., Jun. 21, 2013 at 12:22 pm UTC
Well done Lolisa, you are doing a very brave job taking care of you and others, I pray to God that he helps you always to keep up strong and may You and your family always grow strong in love and faith, you are a beautiful strong women, very strong! can't wait to read your book.
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Comment by: Daino (Nairobi) Sat., Jan. 5, 2013 at 3:30 am UTC
This is just simply inspiring! I have even book marked this page! Thank you Lolisa!
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Comment by: doctor Vilakazi (Gauteng) Tue., Jan. 10, 2012 at 2:47 am UTC
i am proud of Girl..keep it up...ur are my inspiration.
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Comment by: David (Ohio) Thu., Aug. 18, 2011 at 3:52 pm UTC
Your story is very encouraging. I am in a similar boat but contracted it in a blood transfer as an infant. I discovered it though years later while just starting a marriage. I would like to hear more storied of mixed status relationships. After my divorce in 2007 I have very little confidence in starting a relationship.
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Comment by: Joyce McDonald (Brooklyn, New York) Tue., Aug. 16, 2011 at 12:42 pm UTC
You are a couragous young women. Thank you for sharing your testimony with the world. May God continue to shine his light on you and through you. I would love to be able to correspond with you.
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Comment by: Tina M (Charlotte N,C) Thu., Jun. 23, 2011 at 8:34 pm UTC
I am sick to but i live with it and we can make it went we try. I find out went i were in jail in 1982 so i be for 23 year and live my life.
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Comment by: Mike (San Francisco, CA) Wed., Jun. 22, 2011 at 3:54 am UTC
She is pretty!
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Comment by: TIANNA (FLORIDA) Tue., Jun. 7, 2011 at 9:08 pm UTC
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Comment by: Anonymous Tue., Jun. 7, 2011 at 8:42 pm UTC
be strong,strong and stronger,you will be ok with God help.God been so good to me,i love him is my father.
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Comment by: Wanjiku (nairobi) Fri., Jun. 3, 2011 at 7:27 am UTC
Am very touched by your story and your courage....Keep it up gal
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Comment by: lil homie (renton,wa) Thu., May. 26, 2011 at 2:42 pm UTC
hey we are impressed with your story.... what i thought was sad was that your mom could of at least checked herself before she had you. she could of tooken so you wouldnt get hiv/aids
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