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Sharon on Getting Sober and Getting Custody After an HIV Diagnosis

An Interview With Sharon Gambles -- Part of the Series This Positive Life

October 12, 2010

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When you first found out you were HIV positive, did you tell your mother?

I told my immediate family. I thought it was really important for me to tell my immediate family. And no one else needed to know. And it's funny, because they didn't even know what it was. They didn't, either. They were like, "What? What are you saying?" "I don't know what I'm saying. I'm just telling you that they told me I had something." "OK." And so, what I did, again, through WORLD and Rebecca, back in '90-something, when I educated myself.

Rebecca Denison?

Yes. I went and educated myself at WORLD. And I was able to go home and tell my mom stuff like, "You can't get it from a fork. You can't get it from me sitting on the toilet. You can't get it from my teardrops. You can't get it from my hug." And they was like, "OK."

They didn't think that you could get it that way, anyway.

No. You know? So that was the best thing that happened for me: I did not get rejected, where other people did. You know what I mean? My family continued to treat me the same way. They continued to love me the same way. They wouldn't spray no disinfect or anything like that.

How many people in your immediate family, or extended family, have HIV?


Just me. Just me.

Wow. So even though many of them were at high risk.

Yes. Yes. And I continue to educate my family. You know, I continue to tell my kid. You know, I'm a grandmother. And my son, he's been with the same person for a long time. I continue to still tell them to take tests. I continue to tell my daughter who has no kids, and [is] in college, to "Always protect yourself. You come first. You know what I mean? No sex ever without your condom, unless you're ready for a baby or ready for an STD. For real." I'm just keeping it real with her.

Do you think it's easier or harder to find love when you're HIV positive? What's been your experience?

My experience is that I am a very romantic, compassionate person. And I feel I deserve the same for me. I love me. And so I know how to love someone else. And so my search: I'm in a good relationship. Every relationship has little bumps and stuff like that, because you're trying to get to know an individual. But I also know that once I let someone into my life I have to remember that I'm carrying on somebody else's feelings, as well. So, me, when I'm in a relationship, what I do is, one, disclose.

How soon?

"My experience is that I am a very romantic, compassionate person. And I feel I deserve the same for me. I love me. And so I know how to love someone else."

If I feel the relationship is going to get intimate, I definitely do it probably the second or third date. Because I'll know if it's going to get intimate by that time. And I give that person a choice. You know, for me, it's not about the rejection; it's about that I give the other individual the choice to be with me. And I have been with negative people. And after our separation, they go get tested, and their tests come back negative. I'm a peer advocate. You want it to come back negative. You know what I mean? And so I know how to protect myself. I know how to protect my partner. My relationship has been good.

So you haven't had problems finding people.

No, I haven't had problems finding women.

Is it because you don't sit at home and feel sorry for yourself? I mean, so many people find that it's such a big challenge, they just can't talk; they can't bear to talk to other people about it.

Right. And I could not pinpoint on why is that. I mean, I'm still beautiful, inside and outside. I'm still a human being. I still need to be loved. Yeah, I know there are good vibrations, and stuff like that. But I want to be touched on. You know, hugs. I get hugs from my kids, my friends, and stuff like that. But a romantic, intimate hug is an entirely different type of feeling. So I want that. I've been that type of person ever since I can remember. And so I search for that, you know -- regardless if it's a romantic fantasy or not, I still want to be hugged by my partner. I still want to be kissed by my partner. I still want my partner to tell me, "I love you." I need those things. You know what I mean? It helps me.

I still need to laugh and get with my partner. We still need to have our funniest moments. You know? Where we can laugh and just think about them, and look at each other and laugh. You know what I mean?

Have you experienced a lot of rejection?

No, I haven't.

Do you think there's a lot of confusion about lesbian women and HIV?

There shouldn't be.

I guess the confusion is based on the fact that it's very, very hard, almost impossible, for one woman to give HIV to another. I mean, there used to be some stat -- like, two documented cases in the United States.

Well, actually, the ladies that I have been encountered with, we usually just sit down and talk. It's really important. We cannot educate anybody overnight; it's just not going to happen like that. It's just not going to happen like that. So I never tend to think something's going to happen because we're laying down next to each other and being intimate. I just don't think it's going to happen. But talking really helped educate, and showing facts. Knowing what you know really helps.

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