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Reach Out and Teach Others

By Konya Baylis

June 2006

Konya Baylis
Konya was diagnosed with HIV in December 2004, when she was 23 years old. She was two months pregnant with her second child. Konya is an outgoing, helpful and strong young woman living with HIV. She loves to talk (especially public speaking), used to run track, loves to shop, and enjoys taking her kids to the park. Her favorite movie is Back in the Days with JaRule and her favorite music artists are Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder and Ashanti. Konya dreams of one day becoming a mortician and she hopes she will live long enough to see her kids grow up. This is her story.

When I first found out, I felt bad. I didn't know where I got HIV from, whether it was from my boyfriend at the time or the guys who raped me. I felt sad and I wanted to kill myself.

I was at the doctor's office and I broke down and started to cry. I was taking a class for my CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) on HIV, so I knew about the disease. My roommate went with me to the appointment, and she was supportive. The first person I told was my auntie. My family treated me differently when I told them. I broke down, to see someone that I love and trust treat me that way. In my heart, I have found ways to move on. I just try and go forward.

My doctor recommended WORLD. Sylvia Young (Peer Advocate) came to my house and encouraged me to go to the support group. I was isolating myself and I was very depressed. She gave me some tea.

What has been the hardest challenge living with HIV?

The stigma. The community and the public calling me names. People think I am gay, and I get treated differently. People don't want to talk to me. I don't disclose my status to everyone. It's harder to be younger, because you are looked at differently. People think, how can she get AIDS or HIV? Some people think you are a whore or gay. If you are older, they think you are going to die right away.

What positive changes have you seen in your life since you were diagnosed?

I go out and talk in the community. I got closer to my dad. He is still incarcerated. He writes more and calls me more often to check on me. I go and visit him with my auntie. I talk in churches and in schools. I get a sad response from people. I go to the streets and talk to people. When I talk to younger people, they respond more to using safer sex. I am in school now going for my A.A. I also go to EBAC and talk with Lizette Green (Peer Advocate, Circle of Care).

What message would you give to young people?

That HIV is not a bad disease. To protect themselves and use safer sex. That it can happen to them.

What makes it hard for young people to protect themselves?

The men make it harder. Older men take over the younger girls. I see it with my friends.

If you were given lots of money to help young women what would you do?

Take in the battered and abused women living with HIV. I would provide them with a support group, have girls day out, field trips and just have fun.

What message do you have for other young women who are positive?

Stay strong, try to cope, reach out and teach others. You are not alone. There are support groups and people you can talk to.

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