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Motherhood and HIV -- the Laughter, the Fears and the Hopes of HIV-Positive Moms

March 21, 2014

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Patricia Clark on Being a Different Kind of Mother

This little girl, I had gotten to take care of her, babysit her from an infant on up. When she was 6, her dad was not able to take care of her. He'd never been able to take care of her. And she'd been passed around from family member to family member and they said, "Aunt Pat," I was Aunt Pat, "can you take care of her?" I said, "OK, if I do, I have to do it weekly."

And within two weeks, I could see that either I was going to invest in having this child and raising her -- and if I did that, I would not stay with this man because the chaos for her would not be healthy. If it had just been me, I would have probably still been there, but because it was her, I was able to disengage from him. He moved out. I started volunteering right then at the AIDS service organization, at CARES. I volunteered. Then I got a part-time job as an administrative assistant. And they kept saying, "Don't you want full time? We'd love to bring you in full time." "No, no, no. I cannot lose that disability -- that insurance." That's another fear.

As my life changed and I was healthier, my meds were going well and I had this girl, this little child that I had to plan for. Also, my mom was starting to show some signs of aging and memory loss. And I said, "I need to create something for all of us." So we started looking at houses. I accepted a full-time position. I gave up my disability. And that's where I'm at now.


How many years have you been at CARES?

I worked at CARES since, I think, '04. I've been full time for almost four years now.

And now is the little girl that you're taking care of still with you? How old would she be then?

She's 13. Let me tell you. Thirteen-year-old female, I don't know, I'm pretty sure I wasn't like that. She is -- the hormones are raging. She's all that. [Laughs.] So it's fun. Sometimes I think, "I'm too old. I'm too tired to take this on." But she has been such a joy and such -- it was good that she came because it changed my life and I'm able to do what I need to do and do it for her and for myself. It made a big difference.

Do you talk to her about HIV? I assume that you have disclosed to her.

Yeah, when she was younger she would tell people, "My mom helps people. She helps them stop smoking." I don't know where she got that from, but that is what she would tell people. And then afterwards, when she'd been in my office -- I used to do prevention -- I'd carry a bag of penis models. And I told her, "Run out to the car and get my black bag," because I had a black bag that had my planner and everything. She comes in with a penis model bag, throws it on the table and they all just go [spilling] onto the table. And she and my mom -- and my mom was horrified at all these purple and orange penises. And my daughter, she was just like, "Oh yeah, that's a penis." I explained I used it for educational purposes and I teach people how to be healthy. Healthy, I used that a lot, so maybe that's where she got the not smoking. And now she's doing very well.

Last year, I had a local news station come and interview me. I talked about HIV and living with HIV a little bit, and what I had wanted for young people to know. And apparently one of my daughter's friends saw that interview and asked her, "Does your mom have AIDS?" And she replied, "I don't know." And they said, "Well, you should know." And she goes, "No, she probably just doesn't want to worry me." And she told me about that conversation with her friend. I said, "OK, well, how do you feel about that?" She goes, "I don't know." I said, "You want to talk about it?" She said, "No."

We watched the video together and she was fine. And I figure there will be a time when she'll need to know more and want to know more, but right now she's OK with it, so I'm OK with it.

Make sure to watch or read the full interview with Patricia.

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