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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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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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