How long ago did you find out you were HIV positive?
My mom told me I was HIV positive when I was, what, six years old. She was like, "Raven, do you know that you are HIV positive?" And I didn't understand at that time what it meant. But I used to see ads on TV and stuff like that. And I asked her, "Are we gonna die?" And she was like, "No, there is medicine that won't take the disease away, but it will just take care of us." At first, when she told me I was HIV positive, I thought it was like a cold or something. I said, "Mommy, so it will go away?" And she was like, "No. It won't go away, but it is something that we live with."
You were born with HIV, correct?
Yes, I was.
How did you feel when she told you?
I felt sad, after a while. And when I started learning about it more, I felt sad and I didn't want to be bothered with nobody and stuff. Like, I really didn't know what to do.
How did your feelings change over time?
As I got older, I understood it more. And my mother, she's an outgoing person, and -- I'm not gonna lie. I had to deal with a lot of stigma and stuff, but my mom would always be at my side and say, "Well, you know, we have to do what we have to do and just get over it." But it was very hard for me to get over because a lot of kids used to make fun of me.
Sometimes my mom would be on Ricki Lake or Oprah, or they'd see us in magazines or TV, and they would be like, "Oh, Raven's got the monster," and things like that. I used to cry a lot. I used to come home. Sometimes I used to stay in the bathroom and not go to class and stuff. It's changed because now I'm in high school and now all of my close, close friends know.
How long do you think it takes to really process an HIV diagnosis?
It takes a while, because there are some people who don't know what to do if they find out.
What advice would you offer to somebody who has just found out they are HIV positive?
I would just say, "Keep trying. I understand how you feel because I went through the same thing. But you just gotta keep your head up. You're still a human being -- but there is just this one thing, that we have the virus."
What do you think is the first thing someone who has just found out they are positive should do?
If they think that they are [positive] already, they should talk to a psychologist, set up somebody to talk to. Let it out and stuff. Don't do nothing stupid or hurt yourself. I would tell them to talk to somebody -- or they could even come talk to me.
How has HIV changed you?
I have not changed my life, because I feel that I am a normal kid. I am a human being. And like I said, there is only one thing -- I have the virus and I have to take these pills everyday. But I feel like a human being and there is nothing else that is different about me.
Are you afraid of dying?
Nope. Because I am going to a better place and, to tell you the truth, I wish I was with my auntie right now. She passed away. She had cancer.
Tell us a little about your life.
I'm 15, about to turn 16. I live with my mom and my older brother in the Bronx -- it's fun -- but my mom wants us to move back to Brooklyn. To tell you the truth, I wish I could live in Trinidad. I miss Trinidad. I miss the hot sun. I miss my grandmother's cooking, and her waking me up in the morning. I miss the beach, going on the boats, everything.
I'm in the 10th grade. Umm ... I'm talking to someone right now, and it is starting to get serious. He doesn't go to my school, but he knows about my status. Oh, and I had a pet. I want another one -- a puppy.
Do you plan to have children in the future?
Yes, I want two kids. No, as a matter of fact, I want four -- two boys and two girls.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in the Bronx most of my life.
Any thoughts of college or what work you want to do?
Yes. I want to go to Harvard and I want to be a lawyer.
Was there anything that you wanted to be when you were younger that you totally changed your mind about?
I always wanted to be a lawyer because my godmother is. But I always used to like ... crime movies, mysteries. I like to solve crimes and stuff like that.
Who are the most influential people in your life?
To tell you the truth, I used to look up to my mother, and in a way I still do. But I look up to my godmother now because, you know, she's a lawyer and I want to be in her shoes.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I like to talk on the phone, go outside, go shopping and have fun.
Are you a religious or spiritual person?
Yes, I am a Baptist. My family is a spiritual family.
Do you attend a church?
Yes, I do.