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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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Who's Johnny now? Just for our viewers.

Johnny, he lives in New York. He works for an organization called Housing Works. At the time, he was on the planning committee for the Youth Action Institute. But after each year at the Youth Action Institute, we have conference calls, the people who stay on the conference calls all year long, we kind of gain really good bonds with each other. Once they found out that I was moving to New York, of course they offered any help that they could to me. So once I got to New York, Johnny, he invited me to his job, they were having a party. And this week, my mom and my brother had just come to visit me and I just moved into my apartment. They came and they cleaned the apartment and set everything up. But as soon as they left, I got a bad, a real bad cold, I think I caught it from my mom.


Anyway, that whole week, I was at work, just sweating and cold and just a mess. But I didn't have anyone to come save me. I just went into work anyway, so I wouldn't have to be by myself. That Friday, Johnny, he told me to come to his job for this party. It was an all-white party and I was like, "No," I'm just starting to feel better. I want to stay in the house. But he begged me to come, so I just got out of bed, went and got dressed and came to the party. Also, the party was a dressing contest, but I wasn't really worried about winning the contest. I was just like, "OK, I'll just get out of the house for a while."

So I got on a dress and went to the party. He was working, so of course he was like back and forth. But I was just sitting down and the organization that he works at, there's a lot of older people there, like people that were on drugs that are trying to get off, not necessarily anyone I would hang with on a regular basis. So I just sat in the corner, probably just drank some lemon juice and watched everybody. I noticed this boy come in and he was like perfect. Everybody else just disappeared when I saw him. He had on all white and he just looked like an angel.

I told Johnny, "Who is that?" He was like, "I don't know. Go talk to him." I was like, "No, I'm not going to talk to him." I wasn't bold enough without any friends next to me. I wasn't going to talk to him, so I just sat there for like hours just staring him down. Eventually, when the party was almost over, I had stood up and some older guy that I knew that like lived at the organization, he was a client there, I knew him from visiting the organization off and on, he tried to dance with me. And the guy that I was staring at, he just reached his hand out of nowhere, like, "Here, dance with him." So I just started dancing with him. We danced for the rest of the night. He was there because of his cousin, who worked there as well.

So they asked, like, "If you think you're best dressed," to walk down. We looked at each other and we just did it, just to be spontaneous, but to our surprise, we both won best dressed. Everybody just started saying stuff, like, "Who is she? Where is she coming from? She looks a mess. How did she win?" But the only thing we won was a $15 gift card for Target. So it wasn't that serious, but whatever, we won. So after that, we just talked and talked and we never stopped talking after that.

But I told him the next day after the party. He came to my house because I had to wash clothes. I had to wash since I moved to New York, so once I moved to my apartment, he came to help me do laundry and we just built a relationship. But I told him from that day that I had HIV.

And how did he react to that?

To my surprise, he was OK with that. He was just like, "OK, so what's next?" But he was already educated about it. He has family members that also have HIV, so he knew a lot about it already.

Right, and his cousin worked at Housing Works.


OK, that's good. And you're still together.

Yeah, we're still together now. We have a son who's 18 months now. So they're both HIV negative.

Beautiful. What's your son's name?

His name is Daryl.

Aw, Junior. That's beautiful. Now was there a lot of discussion before you decided to become parents? Was it kind of a surprise? How did you handle the sort of medical piece around it?

"I was never worried about the baby having HIV because of the technology that I know is out there. But I was like, 'How am I going to tell my child that I have HIV?'"

I never really wanted kids. That was even before the HIV. I just didn't want kids. But once I started traveling a lot with the HIV stuff, I just didn't think I had time. I thought maybe when I was like 27 or something, I would have a kid. But Daryl, he had different plans. He wanted to have kids. And actually, in December or October of 2008, I went to England for a tour across the UK for two months, so when I came back, we met again. Since that night, he just never left. So I didn't want kids, but we were having sex and the condom actually broke several times in one night. So I think that's the night I got pregnant.

And once we found out I was pregnant, I still didn't want kids as much, but he did. So I was just like, "How am I going to tell?" I was never worried about the baby having HIV because of the technology that I know is out there. But I was like, "How am I going to tell my child that I have HIV?" He was like, "Well, you'll just tell him the same way you tell everyone else." So I was like, "OK." And my mom, when I told her I was pregnant, we found out in January, by February, she had already left everything she owned and moved to New York. So it was set from there.

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See Also
More Personal Accounts of Women With HIV/AIDS


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