Paying It Forward
By Brooke Davidoff
January 20, 2011
I got an email from BABES (my Seattle HIV Female Support Group) in October asking if I would speak on World AIDS Day. In the financial havoc which is our government for some reason they are looking to cut funding for everything, anywhere. One of the items on the chopping block is HIV testing for pregnant women; seems I am a poster child for this being a BAD thing. Without hesitation I grabbed the reins. Excited, nervous, and proud. Had I not been tested by my doctor when I was 3 months pregnant, my son would have HIV. I would not be on meds, and my viral load and CD4 count would be more scary than they still are.
I was informed the media would be there, and fliers would have my name on it since I'm a blogger from TheBody.com. I made the decision to come out as HIV positive to my office. I'm not a lesbian, I'm not gay, but wow, I can now sympathize with them on a certain level.
I made the decision to tell before people at work read about me in the local Seattle newspapers. An all-company email was sent out inviting co-workers to come out to World AIDS Day and watch me speak. I held my breath and waited to hear people's reactions around the office. Nothing. I waited for people to treat me differently. It never happened. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but nothing was not it.
I've never been one who was afraid to speak to people. I minored in theater. I've been on stage since I was in middle school. Crowds excite me! I LOVE them. The panel was small -- only six people total. Three people with HIV and three infectious disease doctors.
One hundred plus people showed up in Downtown Seattle at the YWCA for the event. It turned out to be standing room only. It was all question and answer, five prompted questions we were emailed the week before the event, and then it opened up to the audience.
I was surprised how many people with the disease have such limited knowledge of it. When I was diagnosed my free time became research time; I needed to find out as much as I could. I guess the problem with a lot of the information is it's super medical. Most people don't understand medical jargon and it turns them off. I don't want to feel stupid if I'm researching to become smarter. I can see the frustration people run into, and after asking so many questions they give up, and shut up. That's not okay with me.
I showed up to the event early. Random people in the audience talked to me about their health issues, asking me medical questions that I'm nowhere near medically educated enough to answer. "You should go see a doctor," I found myself saying to multiple people.
After the talking part of World AIDS Day, I was approached by a pharmacy, Mom's Pharmacy. Andrew ran me down and gave me his card. I just got my meds transferred to them for a lot less money than I had been paying to a normal drug store. Thank you Mom's Pharmacy. My co pays were totally out of hand last year; we actually got evicted from our apartment while I was pregnant, because of the price of my meds. But that's another blog in itself. My pills went from ridiculous to $5.00. I couldn't have asked for anything better.
I will be back to speak on World AIDS Day as long as they want me.
A few weeks later I got an email from my support group BABES saying that they had bags of gifts for Myles for Christmas. People had donated new toys, clothes, gift cards, and formula; they wanted Myles to have a great first Christmas. My husband Keanen, Myles and I went to get these gifts. We almost cried when we saw what people had bought for him. The compassion people have, for people they have never met, is amazing.
Myles got hundreds of dollars worth of new toys and clothing from strangers among us. The only way I can thank the donors is here. So THANK YOU. We were not expecting anything from anyone and you took our breath away.
Anything he doesn't fit into will be re-gifted; we will be paying it forward.
Voice of ONE
Brooke was diagnosed HIV positive in January 2010 -- two months married and 11 weeks pregnant with her first baby -- and has already begun to educate others about HIV. She now lives in Texas, and her poetry has been featured on TheBody.com. Her son was born on July 15, 2010.
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