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Regina Brandon

February 2006

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Disclosure, Relationships and Sex

How have your relationships with family and friends changed since you were diagnosed?

When I was first diagnosed, when I told my dad and [step-]mom, my dad sent me flowers and a "Get Well" card. I sat looking at this card, and I thought, "Hey, I'm never gonna get well."

More recently, my [step-]mom has got more involved, she knows a lot more about it now that before. And my sister has even worked with people with AIDS. They come out and support me when they hear me speaking or doing some kind of engagement. I do a lot of publicity now. I do commercials. I have done magazines. Lots of speaking engagements in colleges. I try and stay visible and put a face on it. As much as I can. I'm sick a lot, in and out of the hospital for one reason or another. But for the most part I have a lot of support. I don't hide it -- I can't!

How do you decide whether to disclose your HIV status to someone?

Usually I ask them first, "What do you know about HIV?" And if they seem to be a little savvy, then I'll go a little bit further. If they're not, if I feel like they're totally ignorant, I'll educate them. Then I'll let them know.

What is the best response you have ever gotten from telling someone? What is the worst?

The best response was when someone said to me, "It is not unto death," and I carry that to this day. While I live on this side, maybe I have this disease, but when I get to heaven, I won't have any disease.

The worst response is I lost a job because of it. My supervisor wanted more intimacy than I was willing to provide. So I revealed my status, to deter him. But instead of just leaving it alone, he publicized my status, and I ended up walking away from that job and getting in a big mess about it. But it was resolved amicably. That security business closed.

How has your sex life changed since you became positive?

Well, I don't sell it anymore! I am very careful about who I allow into my life. I am very much a one-man woman.

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Have you faced rejection from potential sex partners? How do you deal with that?

I've been married and divorced since diagnosis. I've been single since 1998. In 2000, I got engaged, but chose to end it. I'm single right now. I have to say that I haven't found rejection to be such a problem since I was diagnosed, but I do tend to hold myself back from the guys I really want because of fear of rejection. That guy may even be walking to me on his own, but I'll turn and walk away rather than take that risk. I'm getting better with that, though, and I don't think that challenge is any different for any other woman.

For the most part, I haven't found guys to be afraid of HIV. For example, I was dating this guy I really didn't like so much, but it got to the point where we were going to get closer. So I told him, and he was like, "And?" I thought that would be my out, but it wasn't!

But I'm learning that I have choices, too. Most guys don't know a lot about HIV and I find myself educating them, and that irritates me. I tell them, "Go get a test, ask them all the questions you want to ask, and then get back to me." Most of them are not really afraid of getting HIV. They say, "All we gotta do is use a condom, right?" But they don't seem to get it that there is a person beyond that condom.

Some of my girlfriends have other stories. I think it depends on how you approach it. You have to learn how to read people -- you have to take care of yourself. There are times when you can let it roll off your back like sweat, but you have to think about your own attitude and how you're coming off to other people.

Do you have a policy about if or when you tell a sex partner that you are positive?

I tend to tell a partner up front, "Take it or leave it."

Do you feel that if you practice safe sex, it is necessary to tell a sex partner that you are positive?

Yes. Nothing is a hundred percent except abstinence.

Adventures and Wishes

What books, movies, music or TV shows have had a big influence on you?

My favorite movie is probably Crooklyn with Alfre Woodard. It reminds me of my own life growing up. I listen to gospel, R&B, and the blues -- I'm old school. The book that's had the biggest impact on me is the Bible, which of course has many authors.

What's the greatest adventure you've ever had?

Flying in a helicopter.

If you were granted one wish, what would it be?

To find true peace for the world.

Anything else you'd like The Body's readers to know about you?

I try and live so that my outside matches my inside. I'm honest to a fault. I am who I say I am.

Click here to e-mail Regina Brandon.

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This article was provided by TheBody.com.

See Also
More Personal Accounts of Women With HIV/AIDS


Reader Comments:

Comment by: ARBY (Los Angeles, CA) Sun., May. 6, 2012 at 11:48 pm EDT
I love your positivte attitude, I have fear at times if I'm negative or positive, but Hopefully I will have the strength to get tested, I tested before negative but for some reason I put myself in this shock movement that something is wrong, but I truly believe what you said when you said , "But they don't seem to get it that there is a person beyond that condom" your right there is a person beyond that condom and when man and women start to realize that I believe that is then when people will start to care more about themselves and their health . Thank You for sharing your story
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Comment by: jonell (norfolk; virginia) Wed., Jan. 20, 2010 at 12:43 pm EST
I really like your story and like u said hiv is something u can live with 2 educate others cause ppl so inorant and r afraid.
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Comment by: SUSAN N KIMANI (KENYA) Fri., Jun. 5, 2009 at 3:53 am EDT
THANKS FOR YOUR COURAGE AND CONTINUE ENCOURAGING PEOPLE TO CHANGE THEIR BEHAVIOR.GOD HAD A PURPOSE FOR IT SO THAT YOU COULD LEAVE YOUR BEHAVIOUR AND BE A TEACHER TO OTHERS. I AM ALSO POSITIVE AND A NURSE WHO IS DOING A LOT OF ADVOCACY.
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Comment by: Johan JohannesNhlapo (DURBAN SOUTH AFRICA) Thu., Aug. 28, 2008 at 6:05 am EDT
I KNOW IT'S VERY HARD, BUT I WANT TO ENCOURAGE YOU TO KEEP ON DOING GOOD THINGS. I AM ALSO POSITIVE AND IT'S HARD TO FIND A GOOD RELATIONSHIP. BUT I BELIEVE ONE DAY GOD WILL GIVE ME A RIGHT PERSON.HIV IS NOT A DEATH PENALTY BUT ITS AN EYE OPEN. SINCE FROM THE DAY I KNEW ABOUT MY STATUS I SPEND MORE TIME CLOSER TO MY GOD.
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