I remember the day I found out about my Aunt Gina's diagnosis. I was hurt and mad. I thought she would die. I did not know much about HIV or AIDS but the little I did know in 1996 wasn't good. But, God knew. It's been 19 years since she tested positive for HIV. Since then she has lived a life that most could only dream of. Two degrees and three jobs later, she is comfortably placed in her destiny. My Aunt has given a voice and a face to a stigma that most knew nothing about. She is an educator. She is one of the strongest women I know. She is the Phenomenal Woman that Maya Angelou spoke about. As her niece who has watched her live a life that has been amazing, I needed her to know that I am proud of her. She took her positive diagnosis and turned it into a positive life. That alone is worthy to be praised in my book. Below is her status she posted on her Facebook page a few days ago:
On this day in 1994 I was given what I thought was a death sentence. I walked into Charity Hospital's OB clinic, made my way to the nurse's office, and immediately knew something wasn't right (she wouldn't look at me) and then she said, "You have AIDS and you're going to die:-(
It was devastating, embarrassing, and heartbreaking (I'd finally gotten my life on track) I was so afraid of dying AND of having anyone find out my HIV status (I told my mother, sisters, and my children's father..and no one else) I was also afraid because I was pregnant at this time. I met an angel named Margot on that same day, she gave me HOPE! She said if I did 3 things I could live; attend all Dr's appointments, take meds as prescribed, and learn EVERYTHING I could about HIV/AIDS. It wasn't always easy but I've always been DETERMINED to live!
I gave birth to a healthy baby girl on November 29th, 1994 (just because she wasn't perinatally infected, that does not mean she can not become behaviorally infected) and I named her Jamanii because it means faith in Jah!
I really grew up after my HIV diagnosis, I became SELFLESS and I still am selfless. Over the years I've laughed, loved, cried, and argued with other positive women:-) Lifelong friendships have been formed and I am eternally grateful to all the women who've mentored me over the years, women like; Linda Scruggs, Loretta Jennings, Mary Boutte, Deon Heywood, Dazon Dixon Diallo, Pat Nalls, Naina Khanna and my PWN-USA sisters:-) Eventually I learned to tell my story in SAFE places (the clinic, HIV conferences, etc.) and then it was time to tell the rest of my family and friends, so I went on TV and diclosed my HIV status, people excepted my status and really showed me that they still loved me regardless of anything else!
I find it amazing that I was born on Martin Luther King's bday and was diagnosed with HIV on the day of his death;-/ Fast forward to 2013 and here I am an educated woman with 2 degrees, a wonderful mother, an awesome (cool) GeeGee, an organizer with a wonderful agency (AU), Board member of PWN-USA and an expert on MY HIV:-) I share this because I know how easy it is to think HIV only happens to "those people", well I'm here to tell you, HIV can happen to ANYONE who has sex without a condom. HIV does not care what's in your bank account nor does it care how you look, HIV is a disease of opportunity, if you give it the opportunity it will come on in! Be safe, Be careful and love you enough to Take the Test, knowing your HIV status is very important and it will save your life! I put myself out here because I truly care and would hate to see/hear that you are sick.
Life has been really good to me. I have had doors opened for me and try to give back to my community. Jah has blessed me with 19 years of living this Positive life and all I can say is, "Thank You, Jah!" Stay tuned y'all the BEST is yet to come! Next year, if Jah says so, I will be having a 20th year blowout!! I love you, now show how much you love yourself by getting that TEST;-) #IneverthoughtIdbehere!
Her story is an amazing one. She has literally turned her life around. She made it happen for herself. The HIV/AIDS epidemic is still real. There is so much information on HIV and AIDS today. People need to be tested and know their status. Gina has been someone I have looked up to since I was a little girl. She is my Mom's youngest sister and is only 13 years older than me. She has been like a big sister to me as well. I love just talking with her about so many things. I wrote this to just shine a little light on her because she is a star to me. If you are interested in finding out more about my aunt, you can watch her story here. This was part of a national program that aired as commercials on channels such as BET. Also, the lady in lilac is my Mommie :) (Hi Mom). My aunt radiates a light that no human can put out. That is God given. She is simply amazing. Love you, G!