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My Virus, My Self

Summer 1997

About 4 weeks after I began working as the treatment advocate for Women Alive I received a phone call from a journalist in New York City who was doing an article on women and HIV. As she introduced herself to me, I recognized her unusual name as someone I had known when I lived in the city. Had it not been for that icebreaker, our conversation might not have gone on as long as it did. We spoke several times over a period of 6 months and ultimately the product of our chats appeared in an article in the June issue of Self magazine. (Ironically, I had appeared in the magazine a decade earlier as a model.)


Coming Out

Initially the concept of "outing" myself on a national scale was exhilarating. No more piddling around with those pesky individual disclosures! But what I was really after was purely selfish, slam-dunk into self-acceptance. Not self-esteem, not self-respect but a rapid integration of the truth about who I am -- a woman living with AIDS.

By consenting to have my photograph, full name and phone number printed in the magazine I had allowed this to become more than an all or nothing prospect. I was inviting public comment, and I got it. E-mail, letters and phone calls from all over the country. Every correspondence was positive. I received a lot of praise and encouragement from women and men, HIV positive and HIV negative. I had never thought of my choices in life as courageous and yet, that is how these people perceived it. Could this be true? Am I brave?

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In the months since the interview and the release of the article I've witnessed others come out. Some just a little bit, some a lot. I saw a woman, once too frightened to see a doctor because of her standing in the community, hide her badge at the National Conference on Women and HIV, so no one would know her name and she could still stay and learn and share with others. It is brave. And bravery can be contagious. So, spread it around!



  
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This article was provided by Women Alive. It is a part of the publication Women Alive Newsletter.
 
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