Wow! Is This Really Happening to Me?

Forty-Six Year Old Judith Dillard Recounts Her Life Since Diagnosis

Hi, I'm Judith Dillard. I'm forty-six years old and HIV positive. I really do believe that awareness is life and that knowledge is power. I am very happy to be a part of a wonderful staff of people here at Women Alive. I have been a member of Women Alive for several years, and in all of my wildest dreams I wouldn't have thought that I would be employed as one of the Treatment Advocates on the Women Alive team. I still have to pinch myself.

From the beginning I have felt at home here. Women from this organization on every level have inspired me. So I have tried to reflect some of the inspiration and encouragement that I have received back into the community; and believe me it's a lot.

Sometimes I have to stop and give thanks for all the wonderful things that are happening in my life today. Coming from skid row in Los Angeles as a homeless woman addicted to "crack" cocaine and doing whatever it took on the streets to survive and get drugs, including spending time in prison; I am blessed to be alive.

Clean and Sober

At this time in my life I am four years clean and sober, and I have a full time job. And the most exciting thing that has happened to me recently is that I have my own car. Who would have thought that the dirty woman with the same clothes on for a week at a time would be a productive citizen in society and living life on life's terms. So now you see why I have to put bricks in my shoes to keep my feet on the ground.

Since I made a change in my life-style I have been involved in so many fantastic things. I've gone to the Staples Center to see Barbara Streisand; I have attended several conferences including the 1999 National Conference on Women and HIV; and the National AIDS Treatment Advocacy Forum that was held in Dallas, Texas. I attended the tenth Anniversary of the American's With Disabilities Act where I personally got to shake the hand of the Mayor of Los Angeles. And just recently I attended a ceremony where the main speaker was Mrs. Winnie Mandella. You talk about hobnobbing with the big wigs; am I dreaming, or what?

The Advocate

I am first and foremost an Advocate in the field of HIV/AIDS. I love to speak out for the cause. I want to do my part to make a safer and better world for the younger generation of people who will be facing this life-threatening disease long after I'm gone. I love advocating for the forgotten population of people like women (for example), because I know that we are just as important "if not more" than any other population living with HIV and AIDS. The Ryan White Care Act monies are allocated for the purpose of improving the standards of care and the quality of life for people living with HIV and AIDS and there has to be consumers to step up to the plate and speak out on behalf of all of our peers. I love advocating! I have a lot to say. If I don't speak up for women, who will?

I would like to say to the woman who feels that she's at the end of her rope, and life doesn't seem worth living; "Keep the faith and don't give up because there is light at the end of the long dark tunnel." I would like to share with you my "Inspirational Eye Opener". When I first read this poem, it had my name written all over it because I felt that I had nothing else to do but give up. It's called "DON'T QUIT!"

Because of my experience in living with HIV/AIDS, I am more loving, more accepting, more sincere, and last but not least more hopeful. I am intimate with people in a way that I didn't know was possible before. I have learned to love and accept myself totally. It is my most sincere hope that other positive women can learn to love and accept themselves too.

Don't Quit

Author Unknown

When things go wrong,
As they sometimes will,
When the road you're trudging
seems all uphill,
When the funds are low
and the debts are high,
And you want to smile but,
you have to sigh
When cares are pressing
you down a bit,
Rest if you must,
but don't quit.
Success is failure
turned inside out
The silver tint
of the clouds of doubt;
and you can never tell
how close you are
It may be near
when it seems so far
So stick to the fight
when you're hardest hit
It's when things go wrong
that you must not quit.