This Positive Life: An Interview With Leslie and Andrea Williams
February 1, 2011
Welcome to This Positive Life! We have with us Leslie and Andrea Williams. In 1993, after a brief stint in jail, Leslie, a recovering IV drug user, tested positive for HIV. While most people would have focused on themselves, Leslie was more concerned about having to tell his wife, Andrea, who also tested positive. Instead of growing apart, they relied on each other to cope and live with their disease. The couple talks to us about how support groups helped them cope with their diagnosis; the vow they made that HIV/AIDS stops with them in their family; and how Life Support, the HBO film based on Andrea's life, has given them a larger platform from which to educate people about the epidemic.
Kellee Terrell: This is Kellee Terrell reporting for TheBody.com, and welcome to This Positive Life video series. Today I have with us Andrea and Leslie Williams. So let's start from the beginning. We're going to start with Andrea first. Andrea, what year did you find out you were positive?
Andrea Williams: In 1993. My husband came home and told me that he was positive. So I went and took a test.
Kellee Terrell: And how did you know you were positive?
Leslie Williams: I came home from jail and I went to get a test, and I found out I was positive.
Kellee Terrell: Did you know anyone else that had tested positive?
Leslie Williams: Yes.
Kellee Terrell: And so what did you know about HIV?
Leslie Williams: Well, I know my brother died from the virus in the early '80s. But, I was still getting high at the time, so I didn't pay it any mind. I probably thought it was a gay disease. That's how I knew about the virus then. So my brother died from the virus. And eventually all the people I used to shoot drugs with, they were just vanishing. So when I came home, the probation officer (PO) told me, "I think you should go get tested," so I went and got tested. And they told me I was positive.
Kellee Terrell: And so were you dreading coming home and telling your wife?
Leslie Williams: Oh, yeah. It wasn't the positive diagnosis that I was worried about. It was my wife I was worried about.
Kellee Terrell: What were you worried she was going to do?
Leslie Williams: She was probably going to kill me! Because I always thought I was safe. You know, I always thought I had the clean needles. I thought I was always safe. But eventually I wasn't.
Kellee Terrell: And so he comes home -- "Hi, honey" -- and he tells you that he tested positive. What did you think?
Andrea Williams: Well, I knew that if he was positive, I was positive, because we had unprotected sex. He was my husband. We were trying to have a baby. So I knew I was positive.
Kellee Terrell: And were you in recovery at this point? Had you stopped doing drugs, or were you still using?
Leslie Williams: I'd stopped doing drugs.
Kellee Terrell: Oh, OK. And so how many years had it been between you being clean and you testing positive?
Leslie Williams: Well, I'd been clean, what? '89 . . .
Andrea Williams: . . . to '93.
Leslie Williams: To '93, yes. From '89 to '93.
Kellee Terrell: So you get this news, and you're just, like, "I must be positive." And so did you immediately go get tested?
Andrea Williams: He set up an appointment for me to get tested where he went. And I went to the library and I started reading. I found out that people could live with it. You just needed to educate yourself, get enough information. If you need to take medicine, take medicine. Live right. No drugs. No alcohol. Rest. You know? So I found out as much as I could in '93 -- because in the library, there weren't a lot of books. There wasn't a lot of information.
"I lost my brother. I lost my father. I lost my aunt. I lost about four people in my family to the virus."
-- Leslie Williams
And going to the doctor; talking to the doctor; reading books at the doctor's office. And that's how I really got information. But I did know that I didn't want to die.
Kellee Terrell: Now, in '93, there really wasn't any medicine, other than kind of like AZT?
Andrea Williams: AZT was it.
Kellee Terrell: Leslie, did you ever feel guilty?
Leslie Williams: Guilty about what?
Kellee Terrell: About passing HIV to your wife?
Leslie Williams: Yeah, I feel bad about that. Yes. Because that's the only thing I was really worried about. Because I was going to deal with this no matter what. Because I think somewhere down the line my mother told me, "You know, your brother died from the virus, and you're shooting drugs." So I lost my brother. I lost my father. I lost my aunt. I lost about four people in my family to the virus.
This article was provided by TheBody.