Three Stories of Personal Survival and Growth From People Living With HIV
July 30, 2012
A Nameless Woman Tells Us How She Did Time for Having Sex With HIV
This contributor asked not to be identified. That's always OK with us, and it's especially OK here -- considering what she's been through, we're impressed and grateful that she would tell her story at all. Read all about it, folks: this really happened, this is what happens when the law pursues HIV-positive people into their bedrooms ... And it shows how easily disempowered women become nameless and faceless -- this contributor still doesn't want to name herself -- and how ultimately homophobic HIV criminalization laws fail to prevent transmission of HIV but are wonderfully effective at victimizing black women.
We present her story exactly as she wrote it for us. Where you see whole words in capitals -- that's how she wrote it. She's angry.
Why did this happen to me? I was a mother, daughter, and I thought I was someone's girlfriend. In January 2002, I was picked up from my job, placed in a squad car and transported to the local police department where I was served and charged with Exposing someone to HIV. The police questioned me for hours asking me if I had told my boyfriend that I was HIV positive. Yes, why wouldn't I, we had just had a baby together, HE took me to most of my doctor appointments, which I might add had to be in another town because the town that I was living in said that they could not give me any prenatal care because I had told them that I was HIV positive and they considered me to be "High-Risk." If I had not told my boyfriend that I was HIV positive, how could my mother and grandmother have known. . . oh, I didn't tell you; my boyfriend was the first to tell my mother and my grandmother of my status. After being questioned for hours, I was released on bond. It never occurred to me to get a real lawyer to help me figure out this mess that I was going through. As a result, I got a public defender and he put me through the ringer. Every month I had to go to court to roll call, until one day my public defender called me and said that we were going to court.
So in April 2003, myself, my mom, my public defender were in court, and, unknown to me, sitting in the back of the court room was my baby's father. I was sentenced to 10 years, suspended to 3 with 2 years probation. How the h*ll did I get into this mess? As I sat in the jail cell, my whole life, everything that I had worked so hard for, was crumbling down right before my feet. There was a big write up in the local paper about me saying that I had exposed someone to HIV without their knowledge. How could that be? My son's father was much older than I was, but at the same time, he had the common sense of a twelve-year-old. There was no way that my son's father, the man who initially told my parents about my HIV status, the man who came with me to my doctor appointments, the man who was there when I was in labor with our child, and the man who had come WITH me to many of our son's Infectious Disease appointments -- where, I might add, he himself had asked the doctor plenty of questions about our son's status. . . which, I thank God, is HIV-negative. I was hurt, I was torn, and most of all, I had other children at home. What was I supposed to do? While incarcerated, my son's father was still taking me through the ringer. He went to the local court house and asked for custody of our three-year-old son. At the court hearing, the judge granted my son's father temporary custody because he said that there was no way that I was getting out of jail today or tomorrow and that my son needed to be with his father.
Once I was shipped to the State Correctional Facility, my nightmare had yet to end. When you first enter the Correctional Institute, you have to tell ALL of the officers what your charge was. Yet another blow because one of my classmates worked at the institute. Once being placed in a cell for 23 hours, after a month of being medically cleared, I was placed on a building that ONLY housed HIV/AIDS inmates. If that wasn't enough, EVERYONE in the prison knew you were HIV positive just because of the building that you stayed on. Maybe I could have gotten an early release, but due to the laws of the State Correctional Facility, persons with HIV/AIDS cannot get work release therefore, their time is not mandated like everyone else's. Persons with HIV/AIDS cannot work in the cafeteria, cannot work on the outside of the "fence", cannot be granted work release.
There are all kinds of stories about how good people with HIV/AIDS are treated in prison, but I'll be the first to say, that is a lie; I lived that nightmare, I've gone to the infirmary only to have a so-called HIV/AIDS doctor not want to touch me, I've been through the nightmares of having people on my building get sick but not receive any medical attention until it was approved by a person of higher authority. I had to live through the nightmares of some of the correctional officers saying things like "y'all just nasty", or wiping off or spraying down their desk anytime a HIV/AIDS inmate came into the office just to get a Tylenol.
To God who made me, I can honestly say that I would not trade this experience for anything because it has taught me so much of just how ignorant, mean hearted and cruel people can be against persons who are HIV positive. So, I must give thanks to my son's father, who knew all too well that he was informed of my HIV status before we EVER slept together. I want to thank him for lying and I want to thank him for wanting to see me fall. In the end, God knows all and sees all.
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This article was provided by National Association of People With AIDS. It is a part of the publication Positive Voice.
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