Sarah has been living with HIV her entire life. Her mother was given a blood transfusion after Sarah's birth via a C-section, and the blood was infected. Her mother and then her father acquired HIV, as did Sarah after she was breastfed. As a girl growing up in a small, conservative, religious community, she faced all the burdens of what was in the 1980s "a very scary kind of epidemic."
"Even now," she explains, "people aren't that understanding about HIV, but in the '80s and '90s it was a lot worse." She remembers HIV-positive people being told they couldn't go in the swimming pool and even people being forced to move. "Also, HIV was considered a disease that was in the homosexual community," she recalls. "My parents are pretty conservative religious people, so for them to have the disease was ten times worse."
Sarah feels HIV took away part of her childhood, forcing her to "face stuff that is hard for grownups to deal with." Dating in her Christian high school was another tough hurdle for Sarah. The boys didn't mind her HIV status, she says, but their parents were uncomfortable and sometimes mean about it. At one point, her dad posted her profile on an online dating site to help her meet boys.
These days, she looks to her husband (who is HIV negative), family and friends for support and says she would like to be more involved with HIV-positive children: "I know that I would have loved to have been able to see someone who went through it as a child and could still do pretty much normal things as they got older."