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This Positive Life: An Interview With Rachelle McNair

October 25, 2010

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Since your diagnosis have your children been more involved in HIV? And have they been more open about using condoms and things like that?

Definitely. Definitely. I mean, I've got bundles and bundles of condoms that I give out at my workshops and stuff. And my children are, "Ma, give me some condoms, then." We constantly have discussions now. My disease has brought me closer to my kids, very much so. And now we're in it, we talk about things that we should have been talking about a long time ago -- you know, sexual activities, and what's going on in their lives, and what kind of partners are they choosing. And that plays a great role. As a mother, I'm glad that I'm able to share.

What has doing HIV work taught you?

Mmm. It has taught me so many things. It has taught me I was so ignorant. It has taught me that, I mean, that the tools that I receive from learning is one of the greatest missiles that I could use against this disease -- you know, the awareness.

Going back into the community and getting people, encouraging people, to get tested. I give out pledge sheets, and try to get people to pledge to get tested. And I'm also getting ready to go into trying to get some assistance, where I can get volunteers to come in on a regular basis at our churches, and have people tested.

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Did you get married?

Yes.

When did you get married?

I got married October 12.

Oh, so it's almost coming up on a year. How does your husband support you emotionally now? Now that you're well, what are the things that he does to get you through?

Some of everything. Some of everything. I must say, I've never thought that someone could love someone the way they love someone when they're sick, but he has proven to me that love covers a multitude of faults. Because he has been by my side since Day One. And he is constantly there. I have days when I don't feel so good, and I have days that I do feel good. He's there on the days I don't feel good and the days I do feel good, the days when I don't feel like putting on makeup, the days I do feel like looking glamorous. But he's been there.

He's awesome. He's awesome. Because he encourages me in the Word, you know. And he constantly -- he builds my self-esteem up so much, because he would not allow me to hold my head down, at all.

Has he ever been afraid that he's going to become infected with HIV?

If he has, he's never mentioned it. Because when I got diagnosed, you know, they sat both him and I down. He's negative; he's not positive. And you know, there's a safe way of doing things, and they showed the safe way of doing everything; and it's no problem. We just do the safe way.

You said he's a minister?

Mm-hmm.

How has the congregation been toward you since you've gotten sick?

Wow. My congregation loves me. Loves me. I mean . . .

Because you're like the mother of the church, basically.

Yes.

I have never met a mother of the church that's been HIV positive.

Yes.

I mean, that really . . .

"Don't give up. Learn everything you can about this disease, because you can beat it. You can beat it, through your knowledge, and through you working along with your health care providers, and sharing what you experience."

It does.

That could have made people leave the church, because of the fear. But they didn't leave.

No. Because I think, in our congregation, it's made people more curious about their own sexual activity. And not only that; it causes them to join the cause I have. And they've all been tested, you know. My story alone I think is getting attention. It's getting their attention. And they're learning that . . . I'm taking away all the ignorant barriers. You know, I don't want them to think that because you're around a person that you can catch this, or because of this and that.

And that was what a lot of people were thinking for a long time. And it's not so.

What advice would you give to someone who's just tested positive?

The advice I would give to them: Don't give up. Learn everything you can about this disease, because you can beat it. You can beat it, through your knowledge, and through you working along with your health care providers, and sharing what you experience.

And with that, we have to bring this interview to a close. It's been such a pleasure. Thank you so much.

This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

Kellee Terrell is the former news editor for TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com.

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