This Positive Life: An Interview With Leslie and Andrea Williams
February 1, 2011
Leslie Williams: Well, my support group: when I was going to my other doctor in Manhattan, we had nice support groups. We had speakers that came out every day. And the room was always packed. We always learned something -- it was worth going to. Even though sometimes they finished at eight or nine o'clock in the nighttime, it was very educating, and you always got something out of it.
The men's support group is just like the same thing as the Sister to Sister group. They come in; it was just like they were depending on me to bring them the information, because they didn't have people coming in and speaking. We would go there. We'd share our problems. We'd tell them what's going on: "What type of medicine are you taking?" "Don't go to this place." "Don't go to this one."
And when we first got tested, nobody wanted to never go to the HIP Center in Brooklyn, because they didn't know anything. All of us always went to Manhattan for our service.
Kellee Terrell: Why didn't you stay in Brooklyn?
Andrea Williams: Well, in '93 -- the people who knew about HIV were the white gays. And they were the ones who were getting treatment; they were the ones who were living; and I needed to go where they were going.
Kellee Terrell: And so how important was it that you two were support systems for each other?
Andrea Williams: It was interesting. It was really interesting. Because I had to talk. I'm the type of person that needs to talk about issues, always. Let's talk about it. He didn't want to talk about it.
Kellee Terrell: You didn't want to talk about it? Why not?
Leslie Williams: I didn't talk about it.
Andrea Williams: I couldn't talk to him about HIV in the house.
Kellee Terrell: Because why?
Leslie Williams: I didn't want to talk about it.
Kellee Terrell: Why?
Leslie Williams: You know, because she'd always come with something that made me feel bad.
Kellee Terrell: Bad about what?
"In '93, the people who knew about HIV were the white gays. And they were the ones who were getting treatment; they were the ones who were living; and I needed to go where they were going."
-- Andrea Williams
Leslie Williams: When I say bad: She was right, but I would feel bad.
Kellee Terrell: Can you give me an example?
Andrea Williams: Sure: "What's your T cell count?"
Kellee Terrell: Oh, yeah. I could see how that could make you feel bad.
Andrea Williams: But his answer was always, "I don't know."
Kellee Terrell: You didn't know?
Leslie Williams: I knew. I didn't want to talk about it. Sometimes she'd told me that her T cells were . . .
Andrea Williams: Let's not talk about my T cells.
Kellee Terrell: Oh, but we can talk about his; but we can't talk about yours.
Andrea Williams: No. Because people hate when I tell them what my T cells are.
Kellee Terrell: So are they are 1,000?
Andrea Williams: More than 1,000.
Kellee Terrell: Oh, yeah.
Leslie Williams: Well, she got the most T cells between us, but . . .
Andrea Williams: I get sick.
Leslie Williams: I never, never got sick in my life.
Andrea Williams: He never gets sick.
Kellee Terrell: Well, let's take a step back, to what you were talking about before. So you didn't want to talk about it. All you wanted to do was talk about it.
Andrea Williams: I had to.
Kellee Terrell: People react to HIV so differently. Some people, the minute they find out about it, they just submerse themselves in educating themselves and then there are some people who are just, like, "I don't really want to talk about it."
Andrea Williams: I had to find the support groups to go to. That's the way I was able to talk because he didn't want to. And how I found out about his CD4 count and his viral load was by going with him to the doctor. We had appointments together. We saw the same doctors. I would sit in the room while he got his blood work, and I would get copies and bring it home. I had a chart on the wall. And we would just put everything on the chart.
"It's something in us . . . we had the virus for so long. And so I'd say to myself, 'This is not what's going to kill us.'"
-- -Leslie Williams
Kellee Terrell: Did you think you would make it this far?
Andrea Williams: Oh, yeah.
Leslie Williams: Oh, yeah.
Andrea Williams: We were going to live.
Leslie Williams: There was no doubt about that.
Andrea Williams: There was no dying here.
Leslie Williams: We never. We never -- even our family would never come to us and say . . .
Andrea Williams: "You will die."
Leslie Williams: We just knew. It's something in us. You know, we're going on 22 years married. And we had the virus for so long. And so I'd say to myself, "This is not what's going to kill us." As of right now, she's still getting it. I got to my different doctor; she goes to her different doctor.
This article was provided by TheBody.