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HIV/AIDS Resource Center for Women
Michelle Lopez Alora Gale Precious Jackson Nina Martinez Gracia Violeta Ross Quiroga Loreen Willenberg  
Michelle Alora Precious Nina Gracia Loreen  

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

March 21, 2014

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Patricia Nalls on Disclosing to Her Young Children and Bringing Them to Support Groups

For women with this disease, we are so obsessed with protecting our children and taking care of them that we do it at our own expense. I was the same. I did everything I could to make them feel like everything was normal, as much as I could.

Two years after my husband died, I told my daughter, who was 10 at the time, what was going on. After I told her, I told her not to tell anybody at school, not to tell anybody on the block, not to tell her brother, who at the time was four years younger than she was. So that was a lot of pressure for this little girl.

When my son became 8, four years later, I disclosed to my son what was going on. Needless to say, they were devastated. They were scared. They were scared of me. My daughter would come in the room and sit, and she would change from one seat to another. She wouldn't sit next to me. She wasn't even doing well in school anymore. I didn't know how to handle it all. I didn't know if she was afraid of me, or what was going on.


I got them counseling. That's when they told me that she was not going to get close to me. It wasn't the stigma. It was more about, "If I get close to her, I can't handle her dying." Eventually, I started reading; giving them information; telling them about HIV.

In terms of myself, I attended a support group that was more of a bereavement group. I was the only HIV-positive woman in the group. The guys were wonderful. They were nice. But they were more talking about how, now that they're HIV positive, they're going to enjoy their fine china, take trips to Europe and enjoy having wonderful expensive meals.

Well, that wasn't my world.

My obsession was what was going to happen with my kids. I couldn't even be in the house with them, because when I looked at them, I just saw orphans. I would run in my room and just break down and cry. Because, for me, that meant that they were going to be alone, and they wouldn't have me. Of course, I knew my family would take care of them. But I'm their mother. And they would be left with no mother and no father.

As I shared that, I realized that the guys would just kind of get dismissive, and went on to, "Well, here's what we're going to do for our lives." They didn't have children; they weren't caregivers. So they didn't understand that. They couldn't relate. So I stopped going to the group.

But I did socialize with the group. I'd have my children around these guys. And so they got comfortable being around other people with HIV. They didn't see just me as HIV.

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

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