Angelikah Demonikah Goes From Homeless Youth to Unlikely HIV Activist
March 13, 2014
Driven from her mother's home due to family conflicts, Angelikah Demonikah lived on the streets, where she developed a drug and alcohol addiction. She received her HIV diagnosis at only 23 years old, after she got out of rehab and was beginning a new, sober life. Initially, she did not begin HIV treatment until her body was completely detoxified, but she's now on a successful regimen.
Angelikah hopes her story can help people reimagine who they picture in their minds when they think about people living with HIV. As a star of an MTV documentary about living with HIV, she showed people that many of the assumptions about who gets HIV -- for instance, only people of color, or only gay men -- are wrong, and that the virus that can happen to anyone.
As someone who has been on the receiving end of much help and love, Angelikah has chosen to pass that support on to others by pursuing a degree in social work, becoming an activist and living life as her healthiest self.
This interview was conducted in 2012.
Let's start from the beginning. When did you find out that you were positive?
In the summer of 2008.
So, a few years ago, now. Almost four. Wow.
Did you get tested just randomly?
Well, I always would get tested, like, at least once a year. But if I had multiple partners I would get tested like every six months. It was just kind of routine for me. So it just kind of happened in a routine checkup.
When you got the results, were you shocked?
Definitely. When I got my test results back, I had just gotten out of drug and alcohol treatment. I had only been out for, like, seven days. And I had changed my phone number and all that stuff, because I was trying to stay away from certain, you know, crowds and stuff like that, and keep myself out of trouble. And so the Health Department actually came to my door to tell me.
Yeah, it was pretty intense, because I couldn't just have my clinic call me. So this woman was suddenly at my door, asking for me by my full name. And I'm like, "Who are you?" And then she told me, "Well, you're HIV positive." And I was just like, "OK." Walked up the stairs, and then I fell to the floor. I felt like I was going to die. It was probably one of the most intense moments of my life.
So the doctor didn't tell you you were positive? The Health Department actually came to your door?
Yes. The clinic couldn't get a hold of me.
Because I had changed my phone number and all that stuff; so they didn't know how to get a hold of me. And so they just reported it, like they have to. And then the Health Department came to my address.
At that point, did you go back and get a Western blot to confirm your results?
They told me to do that the next day, but I had this state of mind where, well, I know this isn't a mistake. You know what I mean? And I kind of went into a downward spiral after that. That evening I ended up relapsing on meth, which was not good. But, yeah, I kind of just like went into a really bad place after I found that out.
Can you talk to me about your meth addiction prior to your testing positive?
I'd gotten into drugs a bit when I was a teenager. But then I had like four years where I was clean, and I had a normal life and all that stuff. And then, about a year before I found out I was positive, I ended up relapsing, after a friend's suicide. I spent a good six months, eight months, something like that, high and doing stupid things.
I tried to clean up again. Then I found out I was HIV positive, and I didn't deal with that properly. I dealt with that by going into another relapse. So that wasn't very good. But, since then, I've been sober for almost three years now.
Thank you. Thank you.
For you, did the drugs fill a gap, a hole? Was there something else going on in your life that made you turn to drugs?
Well, there was a lot going on, really. I mean, from the beginning, when I was I think about 12 years old, I got kicked out of my house for the first time. My mom married this man who was no good. Luckily, they are divorced now and she has a restraining order against him, and all that great stuff, because he was just not good. But, yeah. So, when I was young, I ended up leaving home early, and I ended up getting into a lot of trouble. You know, the whole homeless youth experience. Luckily, I didn't get pimped out or anything crazy like that. The worst that happened to me is I ended up developing some drug addictions. And I've been able to come out of that.
I don't really regret anything. I see everything as a learning experience. And so me and my mom have a really good relationship now. I go to her house every other Saturday and we have family dinners. Everything's really good now.
But back then, things weren't so pretty. There was a lot going on really early on. I think I used drugs as a way to escape all the feelings that came with that.
Talk to me about what being homeless was like. You were a teenager when this was happening. Where would you sleep? Where would you go? What would you do?
I stayed with people -- houses of like punk rock kids, who would all do drugs and stuff like that. And so the environments I was putting myself in -- the only environments I really could put myself in a lot of the time -- they weren't very good for me, obviously.
At the time, I made the best of it. It was a lot of fun; I'm not going to lie. It would have been nice to have been able to live at home and have this normal, stable environment. But when you're in a situation like that, especially at that age, it's like as terrible as it is, and as much as you struggle, there's this sense of freedom that comes with it, too. And so it was really bad and it was really good at the same time. It's the only way I can really explain it.
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