I grew up in Little Neck, New York. We didn't have any houses or condos: it was your typical middle class, co-op blue collar community. This was back in the seventies, and once the street lights hit the wet and glossy pavement after another rainy summer evening, it was time to come home and make the lengthy walk up the stairs into the building.
In the sixteen years of being diagnosed with HIV, I found myself careful when exposing what I refer to as my "situation" to family and friends. I often regretted that I hadn't ever discussed it with a majority of the people in my life.
The moment that sparked this harsh reality was at a family gathering. My four-year-old cousin (whose mother just happened to be a teacher) had been enjoying some ice cream and, as kids do, offered me some as well by sticking the spoon in my mouth. Within seconds of the spoon having been removed from my lips, his mother leaped over the table and ignorantly pulled the spoon from his hand as if she were protecting him from a hand grenade about to explode. In an instant the DNA within my family was against me and their ignorance was the definition of bliss.
This compounded an unnecessary defense mechanism, which I created to alienate those close to me. As I slowly began to reveal my "secret," all I could feel was the sense of fear as I worried my dear friends would walk away from me. I quickly realized that fear is nothing more than a lie and my friends are the true DNA which runs through my blood.
With a broken heart, I felt I would never be able to have children and (although admirable) adopting a child was the only choice that I had. After a period of four years, I found a partner who was eager to have a child herself. We decided to have a child organically, without any fancy scientific procedures or exercises because neither of us could afford them. We felt deep within our hearts we would have the perfect kid.
Unfortunately, the relationship between myself and my ex went south, and we slowly began to drift apart. She began to develop a sense of paranoia and feared she would be taking a chance by contracting the virus if we continued to be intimate. Her neurosis began to intensify to the point where she thought our child would be left without parents if she contracted the virus as well. She soon evolved into this ball of emotional chaos making my life a living hell, since there was no longer intimacy, she told me if I wanted a relationship that the only way I would find one was to go outside the home and find someone new.
I must confess my heart was broken because I felt I was labeled as some kind of monster. I simply existed to provide the seed to create this wonderful and undeniably beautiful little girl. This beautiful little girl who is now my beautiful, wonderful world.
When she was born a myriad of tests were taken to ensure my daughter didn't have HIV, as well as my ex. Both are negative.
Needless to say, I've had a few ups and down over the course of the past 16 years, but my daughter is the reason why I get out of bed every day. I consistently think about what I can do to improve her life and be there whenever she needs me.
Steven Williams lives in North Carolina. He loves his daughter, dogs, the New York Rangers and the Miami Dolphins.