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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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So wow, that's a pretty public way to be your first time coming out as positive. How did your mom react?

I was happy. I got home and I called my mom and she was like, "That's stupid. Why did you do that? You shouldn't have done that." I was like, "OK, Mom, you're messing up my moment because I'm happy right now and you're ruining my moment." So I just hung up on her. And I just went on about living my life.


Sounds like it because you continue to be very public about your HIV status. What inspires you to keep on doing interviews like this basically and continuing to be public about your status?

Well, after my mom said that was stupid, that was in December, so around like a year later, I decided that's when I wanted to go tell my family. This was right either before Christmas or after Christmas in 2008. I told -- this was 2007 -- maybe it was that same year, I don't remember. But anyway, I just started with my family, I told like a few of my close cousins and my sister, because my sister didn't even know. My sister, she was 14 years older than me. So she was over, staying the weekend, and I told her. They cried. They were upset because I didn't tell them. But in the long run, they didn't treat me any different.

So afterwards, I decided to move to New York, just to get more involved. In Delaware, there's a limit to how far you can go. There's the stigma that's still there and I've done everything, I've worked every job that I could with HIV. That was when I was more feeling like I was limited. In an office all day, you can only reach so many people, but going out speaking, you can reach more people. So I felt that was what I wanted to do.

Wow, now did you come to New York for a specific job or thing or organization? Or did you just come and say, "Hey, New York, here I am"?

I came because I was in a relationship with someone. And I came to be closer to them, but once I got here, the relationship kind of went out of control as soon as I got here. But I had the choice to either go back home or stay here, so I just said, "Well, I know God didn't make me leave everything that I knew just to come here just to go back, so I just decided to stay here."

What kinds of work and what kinds of different activities and speaking and things have you done since you've here in New York?

I moved here in 2008, in May, and when I first got here, I did a little thing for POZ Focus and I did something else for POZ. And I did something for The FADER magazine. I've been doing condom stuff since I've been here. I've been in a PSA for MTV. So I've been doing a lot of stuff.

Cool. So now going back a little to the disclosure piece. Now that you're open about your status, how do you decide with people in your personal life whether to tell them or not?

"My friends, they all know. Anyone else, they're just strangers. It's easier to tell a stranger than it is to tell someone you're close to."

Well, everyone in my personal life already knows. When I met Daryl, who's my fiancé now, I told him the second day that I met him, just to get it out of the way. I told him. As far as everyone else in my family, they pretty much already know. My friends, they all know. Anyone else, they're just strangers. It's easier to tell a stranger than it is to tell someone you're close to.

That's a good point. Do you find that when you meet new people, you do tell them upfront because they are strangers?

Actually, I don't really meet new people. Since I've been in New York, I just stay in the house and it's terrible. I don't have any friends here, so I'm just in the house all the time. If I leave, I'm going to my mom's house, because when I got pregnant, my mom, she moved to New York too. So if I go out, it's either to my mom's house or to the doctor's. I'm in the house unless I'm going out of town to speak. I don't get out enough. So hopefully, when it gets warmer, I'll get out more.

Yeah, I hear you. And you got a little baby too.

Got to get out with him. My mom has him in her lap though.

Does she live nearby? She lives near here?

She lives like 20 minutes by car, probably 45 minutes by train. She lives in East New York.

Gotcha. But you haven't gotten involved in any volunteering or anything like that because sometimes that's a good way to --

When I first got here, I was working at the New York City AIDS Housing Network. I worked for them for a while until I got pregnant. And then I just wanted to be a lazy person, stay home and be pregnant. So I stopped working. Then after I had the baby, that's when I realized I don't want to limit myself to an office, so I realized I'm not doing that anymore. So that's when I started speaking fulltime.

Wow. So now tell me about your relationship. When did you and Daryl meet and tell me a little bit about how you decided to become parents as well.

Me and Daryl met in, I moved here in May, we met in July 2008. We actually met at a party. One of my friends that I know from the first Youth Action Institute that I went to -- that was a big part too, when I first found out, to go back a little bit. My social worker in Delaware, she told me about the Youth Action Institute, she told me to apply. And I applied for that and I actually got accepted to go. And I went to Chicago and that was actually the first time I was around a lot of people with HIV, a lot of people that were my age, younger and older and doing a lot of great things from different places. And I was like, "Wow, these people aren't even scared. They're just talking about it." And that took me to another place, just to see people that were talking about and comfortable talking about it. It changed my life. I actually met people that I gained lifelong relationships with. And Johnny was one of them.

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This article was provided by TheBody.

See Also
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