So now had you been taking HIV meds since you were diagnosed or did you sort of wait?
Yeah, I was taking meds since I was diagnosed. Because when I found out, my viral was so high and my T cells were so low, I had to get on medication right away. I've been taking medication since I found out and during pregnancy had to take the medicine. It was harder during the pregnancy because one of the pills that I had to take would just not stay down. I'm talking about Norvir (ritonavir). The gel cap, every time I just went to hold it, I would just throw up. It was terrible. But we got through it.
That's good. Are you still taking the same regimen that you were when you pregnant and did you change at all when you were pregnant?
I changed it after I had the baby.
OK, gotcha. Do you want to share which meds you're on now? If you'd rather not, you don't have to.
I don't think that matters to someone who's not positive.
Well, most of the people who are going to be watching this and who come to our site are positive. So often times, people are like, "Oh, I wonder what meds she's taking?" Sometimes people don't want to share because they're like, A, "It's personal," and B, they're like, "I don't want somebody to think that she looks good and she's taking this and so let me go to take this." And of course everybody knows you got to take what's right for you, but if you'd rather not you don't have to.
The new Norvir, it comes in a tablet, so it's not the gel cap anymore.
I hear you. So now how do you access your meds? Do you have private insurance? Are you on ADAP? Do you have Medicaid?
I have Medicaid.
And it covers everything? That's another question that's always good to have an answer to because folks are out there because especially if they're just diagnosed, saying, "How am I going to this? What are the different ways that I can access my treatment and my care?" So thank you for sharing that.
I remember one time in Delaware, they cut my Medicaid off because they said I made too much money. And that was crazy. I can't pay for that medicine. I don't care how much money I make. But my social worker, she worked her magic and she got it back on.
Oh that's good. So now do you have one doctor now or do you see different doctors?
I have one doctor.
Do you feel like you have a good relationship with your doctor?
Yeah, I have a good relationship with him. I've been seeing him since I moved to New York. But actually, I'm about to be 25, so I have to change doctors.
You see like a youth doctor?
Yeah. So I'll be changing from him soon, in like a couple months.
Now back to your mom, is she still pretty not so open about being HIV positive? Or has she gotten a little more comfortable watching you and the way that you live your life? How's that changed?
She's comfortable now. She'll see us going to the photo shoots, maybe even involved. There's been photo shoots that me, Daryl and the baby have been in together. And if I'm going to try out for a photo shoot, she's like, "I want to come. Can I try out to?" She wants to travel now. She wants to do all the stuff that I do too. So she's grown a lot.
I hear that. So now question, with all of the speaking that you do and interviews and things like that, that are specifically around living with HIV, do you ever get tired of talking about HIV and thinking about it and your also living with it?
No, I can never get tired of HIV because I think if there were someone that looked like me when I first found out that I had it, my life would have changed. No one was there for me to say, "You know, this is OK. I have HIV too and I'm OK with it." I had to figure all this stuff out by myself. If there were good websites I could go to, to see people, I couldn't do any of that in 2004. I just didn't know where to go, but no one told me where to go either. Google became my best friend. I just typed in whatever I was looking for and whatever popped up, that's just what I would look at.
So I think I'd never get tired because it wasn't there when I found out and it wasn't there before I found out either, because no one came to our school to talk about HIV. No one showed us a video at school. No one in my house even talked about it. We had family members that had it and we still didn't talk about it. So I could never get tired until HIV is over. Then I'll get tired and I'll start helping children. I want to work with children that are going through child abuse.
Oh wow, that would be amazing. And again, it seems like you would be very well fitted to that kind of work too.
I always want to help people.
Yeah, I can tell. So I have a couple more questions. How do you having HIV has changed you, rather, knowing you have HIV has changed you and your life?
It changed me a lot because I became more responsible and just learned about responsibility a lot sooner than I probably would have learned about it otherwise. When I look at my friends that I grew up with from 12 years old and up, they all became teen parents. They all dropped out of school. They just didn't have a focused life and some of them still don't have a focused life. But me, I feel if I didn't have to deal with HIV, I probably would have went down the same path as them. I never had to work in a fast food restaurant or anything like that. Every job that I ever had was always in an office, behind my desk doing something, from age 18 and up. So I feel like if I didn't know about HIV, I just wouldn't care so much about being successful. And it wasn't me to be successful for me, I'm just doing this to be successful so that other people won't have to go through the same thing that I had to go through when I first found out.