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This Positive Life: An Interview With Leslie and Andrea Williams

February 1, 2011

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Kellee Terrell: How did you guys move forward together?

Andrea Williams: Through, basically, information and education. Just watching what he was going through. Because when I found out I was positive, I was newly diagnosed, and newly positive. So he, on the other hand, came home with a bottle of pills -- AZT. And he had AIDS. So he started taking the pills. And I watched him get sick.

Kellee Terrell: Taking AZT?

Andrea Williams: Yes.

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Kellee Terrell: What were some of the side effects you were having?

Leslie Williams: Throwing up and in the bathroom all day. I took all the pills that were out there.

Andrea Williams: No, but, originally, in '93, he was taking just AZT.

Leslie Williams: Yeah. But in '93, it started with that.

Andrea Williams: And because I saw him getting sick, I took the pills and I threw them in the garbage.

I said, "You weren't sick before you started taking the pills."

Kellee Terrell: And so when did you start taking a new regimen?

Andrea Williams: You know what? The next time he started medication was probably when Crixivan came out.

Kellee Terrell: OK.

Andrea Williams: Remember they used to deliver it in the mail? So he was taking Crixivan, which was the first protease inhibitor. And I still wasn't taking medication. And I didn't see him get sick. It was different.

Kellee Terrell: And you felt like you were getting better?

Leslie Williams: No.

Kellee Terrell: You didn't feel like you were getting better?

Leslie Williams: The medicine wasn't working for me. Since I had been diagnosed with HIV my CD4s have never been over 300. Never. As of right now, I barely get over 300 to 400. And I had the virus for almost 20 years.

Kellee Terrell: So how is your current regimen now?

Leslie Williams: It's working for me now.

Kellee Terrell: So, let's talk about you. When did you start taking a regimen?

Andrea Williams: I started taking medication when I became pregnant.

Kellee Terrell: And what year did you become pregnant?

"During my pregnancy it bothered me more not being able to really talk to anybody who was going through the same thing."

-- Andrea Williams

Andrea Williams: In 1996. I went into a clinical trial, into AZT 076; they were giving AZT to pregnant women to stop the transmission of the virus to the unborn child. And I went to that clinical trial at Bellevue Hospital.

I took the AZT, and I gave it to my baby for a couple of weeks. But also, the reason why I went into the clinical trial was to know, the day she was born, whether or not she had the virus. So they did a viral load that day. She wasn't positive.

Kellee Terrell: And so how scared were you?

Andrea Williams: Very. During my pregnancy it bothered me more not being able to really talk to anybody who was going through the same thing. So what I did was, I started going to this support group at the clinic, where there were other pregnant women, but they weren't positive. It was a high-risk clinic. So you had women who used drugs and women who had diabetes.

And everybody had issues, worrying about their babies. But it helped just to talk to them. And you know my ninth month was probably the hardest because it was more or less: I'm positive; he's positive. I don't want my baby to be positive. But if she is, we can deal with this.

Kellee Terrell: Were you afraid of people judging you for getting pregnant?

"When I was first diagnosed, I was told not to become pregnant. You know, the counselor here said, "Oh, you shouldn't get pregnant because your baby will have AIDS."

-- Andrea Williams

Andrea Williams: No. I could care less. But when I was first diagnosed, I was told not to become pregnant. You know, the counselor here said, "Oh, you shouldn't get pregnant because your baby will have AIDS." So from '93 to '96, we used condoms. And then I started reading. Through my reading, I found out about the clinical trial. And I said, "You know what? We want a baby." We had kids. We had kids, but we didn't have any together. It was time.

Kellee Terrell: So were you excited?

Leslie Williams: Yes, I was. Every time.

Andrea Williams: Every time what?

Leslie Williams: Every time I tried to give you a baby. [laughter].

Kellee Terrell: You have other children?

Andrea Williams: Yes.

Kellee Terrell: And you had tested positive after you had had these other children, right?

Andrea Williams: Right.

Leslie Williams: Right.

Kellee Terrell: What did it feel like to have to tell that? And when did you tell that? Did you wait until after Jade was born?

Andrea Williams: The oldest one I told right away, when I first found out I was positive. She was, like, 13 at the time. And the little one: I didn't tell her immediately. She was about eight when I told her. And how I wound up telling her was that she was here one summer.

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