Angelikah Demonikah Goes From Homeless Youth to Unlikely HIV Activist
March 13, 2014
And so you're very honest with your doctor about your choices, like what you're eating, what you're doing?
Oh, yeah, definitely.
Because a lot of people are afraid to tell their doctors the truth. And it's just so important that you're honest.
My doctors can't help me the best that they can unless I'm telling them the truth about everything. That's how I've always looked at it.
After you tested positive, did you ever seek out support groups, or ASOs, for emotional and mental support? Counseling, anything like that?
No, it's not really my bag. My case manager told me about a couple when I first hooked up with her. She's one of my idols, actually. She has a kind of like dry, sarcastic outlook on life. And I kind of have that in common with her, in a way.
So she's like, "You could go to these support groups. But I'm not sure if ..." I go, "No, that's not my thing." Yeah, I'm a little bit too bitter for that kind of thing.
Do you know who you contracted HIV from?
Yes, I do.
Have you confronted this person at all?
No. I know for certain they knew they were positive beforehand, and they didn't say anything, which is, in my opinion, not the right thing to do. But I still take responsibility for my choices. And so I don't have like hatred, and anger, and blame going that way: "Oh, poor me. Why didn't this person tell me?"
You know, I don't think that was the right thing for them to do. I think that's actually a pretty crappy thing to do. But, at the same time, I take responsibility. And I don't feel any need to confront this person because they know that I am positive now. They knew they were when we hooked up. I'm sure they know. And if it didn't bother them to do it in the first place, I'm sure it wouldn't affect their conscience now.
And I just choose to live a different way than that. I've never hooked up with somebody and not told them. I've never. I would never dream of doing that. So I guess, if anything, I got from that is to not be that type of person.
What would you say to young women who are your age, or even younger, who are afraid to get tested for HIV?
The biggest piece of advice that I could give is there's never any reason to be afraid to test. There's more of a reason to be afraid to not know. Ignorance is not bliss. You should be much more afraid of not knowing your status than you should be of knowing, because then you can't take care of yourself. You can't get the medical attention that you need. You can't prevent spreading it to other people. You can't do those things unless you know your own status.
And then, on top of that, just watch out for yourself. Because -- I know from experience -- no matter how much a guy doesn't want to use a condom, or if he doesn't tell you he has something, he could have something. He could even know he has something and he's just not telling you. It can happen to anybody, really. It's not something that just happens to these certain groups of people. I don't care who you are, HIV does not discriminate. This can happen to you.
So protect yourself. And don't expect anybody else to protect you.
Yes. Because, and I'm just going to be really honest, when we look at who the face of HIV is, it's not really yours.
And so I feel like a lot of people who look like you have this misconception that "this can never happen to me." That "this is not my problem" and that "I could never possibly get HIV."
Exactly. It can't happen to them. They're not gay, they're not a sex worker, they're not a junkie, and they're not a minority. So they can't contract HIV. Well, you know what? That's a load of crap, obviously.
And like I was saying before, that's one of the reasons I am so public about it. Because I want other white girls to look in the mirror and say, "Hey, guess what? I need to go get myself tested."
I'm not surprised that there are people who believe it's not going to happen to them. Because it just may never happen to them, but that doesn't mean it's not impossible.
Exactly. It's possible to happen to anybody. And it's just as likely to happen to, I don't know, a middle-class girl from suburban America as it is to happen to anybody else ... depending on their actions, and behaviors, and choices. All it takes is one mistake. You know? That's all it really takes.
So it's all about protecting yourself as much as you possibly can, and getting tested routinely.
And what is your advice for people who are newly diagnosed?
Well, for one, I would have to give the advice that was given to me. First and foremost, do not force yourself to process it any sooner than you are ready. Do not feel like you have to accept it, and come to terms with it, overnight, because that's not going to happen. It's a process, and it takes time.
The other big piece of advice I would have to give is, just remember that this is not the end of your life. This is not the end of your world. This could actually be the beginning of your life, as it turned out to be for me. So just take care of yourself. Because your existence is appreciated. And treating yourself even worse isn't going to make things any better.
My final question then becomes: How has HIV changed you?
Oh. It's made me actually have to care. It's given me a reason to treat myself with respect and dignity. It's made me more compassionate. And it's just made me more aware of what I put into my body and how I treat myself, really, is the main thing.
Actually, I have one more question: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
In 10 years ... that's a long time for me.
I know. It's a hard question.
That is a hard question. Hopefully, I'll have my master's degree and I'll be a case manager for people living with HIV. I don't know where I want to live then. I might not live where I do now. It would be nice to get out of here someday. Hopefully, I'll still be with my charming boyfriend. And hopefully, we'll have a house and hopefully my chickens won't be dead yet and maybe I'll have a baby or two. And, yeah, I don't know. I just want a happy, calm, chill life.
Well, I'm pretty sure that's what will happen to you, then.
This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
Kellee Terrell is the former news editor for TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com. She is currently the health reporter for BET.com.
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