Love, Sex, Friends, Medications, Spirituality, Health
I'm a 50 year old mother who has been HIV-positive for ten years. I'm currently in great health and spirits due to loving friends and a spiritual family that has supported me since day one. At first, I thought that my life was over and I wouldn't be around to see my grandchildren grow up. I really wasn't expecting to live to see 50, so I thank God for my health and recovery from substance abuse.
I was an intravenous drug user and shared needles with my mate. Ten years ago, there may have been messages out there about cleaning needles and not sharing, but those messages never reached me. I used drugs for 28 years but never got sick or have had to take any sort of medications even since finding out I'm HIV-positive. My mate is very ill now, but I remain open-minded and prayerful.
HIV is a part of my daily life, but I don't take medications or have health problems other than the things that go on in a woman's life as she gets older. I'm concerned about health issues such as menopause and weight gain. A good diet and exercise can help keep the immune system healthy and stress-free. I realize no one has a stress-free life, but lowering my stress is a major part of my well-being.
Of course I want things to be better, but I'm very fortunate to have programs and resources available to help me. I have lots of the same concerns that younger women with HIV have: "Will I ever take meds?" "How's the quality of my life?" "Am I just existing or really living?" I sometimes wonder if, at my age, my body will hold up against the medication side effects, which is scary.
While remaining strong and healthy often crosses my mind, I have had great experiences over the past year with people who are positive like me. I'm very active. Using my passion for sharing about HIV with younger and older women is what I want to do with the rest of my life. I attend training seminars. I advocate and share my experience with other women who are positive, women who are going through the same things I am. The women's group called SHE (Strong, Healthy and Empowered) at Test Positive Aware Network (TPAN) in Chicago gives me a chance to vent and talk about things like love, sex, friends, medications, spirituality, and health. I went to our State Capitol and spoke with legislators about housing, drug prices, and resources for people with HIV. I felt very proud to be a part of that.
Life at 50 can be very exciting. Keeping busy and active is the key to my strength, along with my Higher Power and my will to live. I'm very comfortable talking about my illness. I find peace and fulfillment sharing about how I became infected, hoping it will enlighten other women to protect themselves.
My family has struggled with me throughout my illness. They have encouraged me and loved me through the whole ordeal. Family is very important! When friends no longer want to be your friend because you are HIV-positive, it's reassuring to have a support system that's there if you need it.
I want to live to see a cure and be a part of research. I'm in a study now that lasts for a year and looks at the effect of HIV on my kidneys, which is a much bigger problem for African-Americans. The older I get, the more I want to be involved.
I'm not afraid of the world because of what I have. I know who I am and what part I will play in making a difference and trying to help make things better.
"Yet I could have confidence in myself if anyone could. If others have reason for confidence in their own efforts, I have even more!" -- Philippians 3:4
Marilyn McBride, 50, lives in Chicago and is a member of T.E.A.M. (Treatment Education Advocacy Management), an advocacy and HIV learning training.
This article was provided by AIDS Community Research Initiative of America. It is a part of the publication ACRIA Update. Visit ACRIA's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.