15 Years Old

I made this post on Facebook in a moment of amusement, but have not been able to stop thinking about it since. Today marks the day my whole world changed.

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I was diagnosed on August 6, 2003.

Realizing this has been fifteen years almost makes me feel like this is a new diagnosis. I have also just started my menstrual cycle, so it could just be hormones mixing with reality.

Part of me feels like I should be celebrating. Another part of me feels absolutely depressed because I have lost too many mentors and friends in just those fifteen years. Yet, another part of me reflects on all the amazing people I’ve gained in my life and how empty it would be if I had never met them. Then, in the next moment, I remember I have to take my treatment and this spiral pulls me to The Upside Down all over again. The stigma, the loss, the health challenges, the fights for justice, the energy exerted to be whole, the energy just to smile through another day.


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An HIV diagnosis robs so much from you - but dammit, it gives you so much more. Like, you can Google me (maiden name and married name) and I’m like doing stuff. I am building a legacy in spite of my diagnosis. I am living life out loud to show people how amazing HIV can look. I am embracing my healing so others can be whole, I am giving inspiration so others can see hope and I am living victoriously so others will know how they can still find themselves beyond their diagnosis.

I hold on to the beautiful things, but I have to be honest. In this moment that I hit send and go on with my day, the frayed edges of my red ribbon...make me sad. I just want to be the last one. No more diagnosis. No more stigma. No more.


My 1st business card, made by my dad. #TheFaceToEraseStigma 2009

My 1st business card, made by my dad. #TheFaceToEraseStigma 2009

HAWMC: Day 4 - Dear Kamaria, You Have HIV and it's OK.

This is my 3rd year attempt to do this Health Activist Writer's Month Challenge and see it all the way through the month of November. Third time is a charm, right? I have a lists of prompts, I can do this. I will do this. So far, so good since I"ve made it to Day 4 - that's a first!

Each day, WEGO Health, an awesome empowerment network of over 100,000 health activists, posts a prompt and health activists around the world reflect, write and post their experiences with their health in response to these posts. If you've read this far, I thank you. You'll be reading a lot about HIV for the next 26 days. Let's start, shall we?

So, my diagnosis day...was interesting to say the least. Moreso, the circumstances leading up to it, not so much how I was diagnosed. If I could write a letter to myself for that day, knowing all that I know now...hmmm. I like this prompt because it doesn't ask if I'd change my diagnosis - and for that, I'm glad, because I wouldn't. Changing living with HIV would change who I am today and I love myself WAY more today than I did then. I fought hard as hell to be the Kamaria I am today. So, anyway, here's my letter:

Dear Kamaria,

You just became a mother. Life is looking pretty scary right now and adding this diagnosis to the mix is really going to change your life, but not in the way you may think. You are still beautiful. You are still worth the love you crave. You're daughter is going to be an amazing and better version of you. Believe it or not, living with HIV will actually show you who you're real friends are. There are going to be times where you will question if someone is reacting to you a certain way solely because you are living with HIV, and there will be times when physically you aren't going to know if your immune system is suffering or if you just have a cold. The amazing boyfriend you have now, he's a catalyst in your life to remind you that life is not over and that everything that makes you a woman will be appreciated, valued, cherished and honored. 

Here's some things you may be shocked to know...

  • One day, you're going to realize you are the change you've been waiting for and you're going to speak out. Doing this, will cause some people to leave your life. Oh but beloved, the room they make for all the amazing people is going to BLOW. YOUR. MIND.
  • There's always going to be a fight. If it's not against the stigma, it will be with the insurance companies. If not them, it will be agencies that provide services. If not about you, the fight will be for someone else to be delivered to a place of empowerment. Pick and choose your battles, know you're victorious. Beloved, you are MORE than equipped to handle this.
  • Your values are going to change. Things you believed to be right and true before were based on what you were taught, experienced or exposed to. You are now walking into an opportunity of enlightenment to know the world for yourself and how you want to live in it according to YOUR beliefs. Think about it, an abortion made sense to you at one time, in spite of what you were raised to believe. This doesn't make you a bad person, this makes you human. It's what you do with those beliefs that shape who you are. Continue to love, continue to not cast judgment on others and continue to learn.
  • You are going to see pockets of this world and be recognized for things you never even thought of. A passport is in your future beloved.
  • Hug your family more - especially your grandmother. 
  • People are going to judge you - but guess what? They will do that no matter if HIV is in the mix or not. Your skin is thicker than you realize. Bless them with your amazing smile and keep it moving.
  • Right now, you think you're going to have to take a ton of medications. Honestly, because of scientific milestones, that's true at first. You are being diagnosed in the cusp of some amazing breakthroughs with treatments. So, stick to what they prescribe, go to your labs and fight for the doctor you're comfortable with. Ignoring your health, ignoring these letters of HIV will not make it go away. Trust me.
  • That fight I mentioned you'll be in earlier, don't be freaked out by that. Others in the fight will hear your battle cry and they will support you. They won't always look like you, but you have a common bond of solidarity with them that can't be broken.
  • Please remember to breathe. You're a single mom with a lot of goals. Trust the opportunities that come your way, but don't forsake the memories you'll have with your baby girl. You'll blink and she'll be an adult. 
  • And girl...you're not fat. Keep it that way by speaking life over your reflection in the mirror. Be intentional about what you put in your body. It's ok to love fries, but don't let the fries love your thighs. Virtual 5Ks will become a trend and the medals will appeal to your distraction by shiny things. Do them.
  • Any doubts you have about your family loving and supporting you, wash it down the drain. Learn the basics of this diagnosis, breathe and let them know you're going to be ok.
  • I love you. God loves you. You are enough.
Now, don't cuss out Dr. Jardine. She's new to this too. Your mom is going to worry, but you will find strength together. You are not going to die from this anytime soon. So, cry when you need to, laugh more than once a day, sleep in when you need to and know that you're doing the best you can. 



Me as a new Mom, 2003 a few weeks before my diagnosis.

So, that was intense to write.Thanks for reading. Feel free to comment and share... I actually didn't go back to edit like I usually do. I want this to be the real deal of what I'd say to the 21 year old, single mom terrified of life, me. It's amazing to place myself back in that space and be aware of how amazing life is now. My mental health therapist will be pleased with this blog post. What would YOU say to yourself at the dawn of your diagnosis? OR if you don't have a diagnosis, what's a point in your life that you felt a shift for a huge change? What advice would you give yourself, knowing what you know now?


www.kamaria.org | #embracehealing | #giveinspiration | #livevictorious | #empoweredlegacies

HAWMC: Day 3 - Quote, Unquote

This is my 3rd year attempt to do this Health Activist Writer's Month Challenge and see it all the way through the month of November. Third time is a charm, right? I have a lists of prompts, I can do this. I will do this.

Each day, WEGO Health, an awesome empowerment network of over 100,000 health activists, posts a prompt and health activists around the world reflect, write and post their experiences with their health in response to these posts. If you've read this far, I thank you. You'll be reading a lot about HIV for the next 28 days. Let's start, shall we?

My quote is actually from myself...Yeah, conceited much? I'll explain...

"Knowledge may be the power, but the application of knowledge is the cure." - Kamaria Laffrey

February 2007 was my first time ever publicly sharing my story. I was at Hurst Chapel AME Church and it was their National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day Town Hall. The local paper came to my house to interview me, people were telling me how brave I was and how inspiring I was. This continued happening, to my delight because I felt like I was spreading awareness to get people tested and not fall into the same blissful ignorance I lived in when it came to HIV prevention. All was well until after a couple of years, I ended my speech and during Q&A, a woman stood to tell me that I was an inspiration and needed to get my story out to more "young people" because "knowledge is power."


True, but why limit knowledge to just young people when HIV knows no age, gender, race, religion, career, etc., and if I'm such an inspiration, which in the correct context of personal application is a verb; what exactly have I inspired one to do? Get tested? Gather these young people that need more knowledge to fuel their power? I was conflicted by this popular quote by Francis Bacon and the context in which it was used towards me. 

I responded to her with this analogy (and I'm paraphrasing because I've said this in many settings in various ways, but this is the gist):

"Knowledge may be the power, but if I KNOW that I am supposed to wear a seat belt in spite of my safe driving because there are other drivers on the road, yet I don't 'wear the seat belt...where is my power? If I KNOW that condoms and having an undetectable viral load eliminate my risk of transmitting HIV to someone else but I don't do either...where is my power? We KNOW a lot of things in our lives, but if we don't APPLY what we know, we perish - physically, emotionally, socially, spiritually, mentally, etc. The application of knowledge is the power, simply knowing is never enough. Plus, we must share what we know with others and not hoard it to ourselves, (therefore, why I speak about my personal experience of contracting HIV to anyone who will listen)."

I got a soft applause and a few nods of agreement after I said that, but no one has engaged me in dialogue that I am wrong (not that I'm trying to be right, but I am trying to prove a point) and I feel strongly about this concept that I have engraved it in the very fiber of being an HIV advocate. I apply this to more than just HIV work. 

I can't just complain about change, I have to BE the change.

I can't just say I am gifted or blessed, I have to walk worthy in that by sharing my talents with others and using them to fulfill my purpose in this world. 

I can't just look at a cupcake and not lick the icing off the top, I have to devour it's buttercream exquisiteness...

Ok, that last one took a weird sugar deprived turn, but you get the point. I hope.

So,there you have it. What's your favorite quote? Or what's a cliche or saying that drives you crazy because people use it out of context? I have a whole list of HIV stigma based ones...but we can talk about that another day. 

Thanks for reading - please comment and share...I want to hear from you! 


www.kamaria.org | #embracehealing | #giveinspiration | #livevictorious | #empoweredlegacies

Tips for Media Coverage and HIV

"AIDS is the Wrath of God..."
"AIDS strikes HIV victim"
"HIV man jailed for infecting women"

Can you tell which of these headlines is from when HIV/AIDS was first discovered vs. today? HIV/AIDS has been impacting communities since the early 80's, and while it's understandable that there was fear of the unknown causes and risks, I truly believe that the media played a huge role in perpetuating the stigma that we fight today. Yes, they did their collective job of getting people's attention so that they could be aware; however their bold, sensationalized words brought no comfort to the lives and families that were being torn apart by the unknown virus silently killing men and women.

I want to see a world where HIV stigma is gone. Where all health-related stigma is gone. I know that is incredibly idealistic but I can't help but hope it to be possible since it's our fault it exists. We make assumptions, presumptions, judgments and vilify people that are different than us or that we are somehow threatened by.

Special thanks to Vickie Lynn and Valerie Wojciechowicz, and a host of other powerful advocates that worked together and came up with a presentation that involves People-First language in addressing stigma. I believe that is the first step in changing the way media addresses the issues that are involved with HIV/AIDS. We still want them to report on the important changes; however don't group us as one band of horrible "diseased misfits" because of specific isolated events, especially when it involves criminalizing a person because they are living with HIV. There are situations where disclosure of one's status puts someone's life in danger, there has to be consideration taken into that when reporting.

Let's step away from the fear because the original fear was based on the unknown. Today, we know so much about the virus that people can be on treatment to prevent transmitting the virus to their partner and conceive children naturally. We know so much about the virus that there was recently a successful organ transplant involving patients living with HIV.

So, advocates, researchers and community agencies know this...but how much of this do our media correspondents know? The Positive Women's Network (PWN-USA) created a small list of tips for those that work in the media on how to report on HIV. This short list has a more detailed tip sheet and isn't just for media makers. This can be used throughout the community and for people living with HIV. How we identify ourselves is important. Identify with WHO you are, not what you're living with. This amazing resource will detail why phrases like "full blown AIDS","infected", and "mother to child transmission" perpetuate and anchor stigma in our communities that we are trying to educate. We as advocates can do our part, but if the media doesn't reinforce our efforts, it is all for naught.

The language we choose to use can prevent someone from being confused.

The Movement

Yesterday we honored a legend, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I chose to attend a showing of Selma to remind myself of the fight and was pleased to see that there was a team of people portrayed, not just one man. He had support and was surrounded by people that made great sacrifices for what they all believed in. His wife was definitely one of them. Did you know that while her important work supporting her husband to advance civil rights is undeniable, Coretta Scott King should also be remembered for her work in the fight against HIV/AIDS in the early years of the fight? She was a woman that served as a beacon of hope and saw what was a humanity issue. 

Today, I received a beautifully written email from Executive Director of National Minority AIDS Council , Paul Kawata, that sheds light on how fighting the fight against HIV/AIDS and the stigma associated with it, is carrying on the dream and legacy of what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. believed in. Kawata shares his memory of meeting Mrs. King...

"Mrs. King gave a keynote addresses at the National Skills Building Conference (known today as the United States Conference on AIDS) and the HIV Prevention Leadership Summit. As only she could do, Mrs. King said, “the fight against HIV is a fight for the civil rights of people living with HIV”. She drew a direct link between movements at a time when few wanted to be part of our struggle. She would get significant push back for her stance, but she never wavered in her support of our community. Against the wishes of many in the civil rights community, she opened the door for our movement to be part of a larger struggle. 
Today HIV is at a crossroads. Many people living with virus now live long lives. Medications have given back what the disease took away. Unfortunately, that isn’t true in all communities. The Centers for Disease Control noted that across racial and ethnic groups, 79.5% of white Americans living with HIV had some viral suppression while only 64.1% of African Americans living with HIV had some viral suppression. African Americans who were diagnosed with HIV are the least likely to be linked to HIV medical care. We’ve heard these statistics before, but we’ve almost become numb to the numbers."

We cannot risk becoming numb. People are still dying from this. I recently found out a young, beautiful and talented young lady I had the pleasure of working with when I first started speaking passed away a few weeks ago. I don't know what her direct causes were, but it is still a blow to the community. No one should be dying from this today. Treatments are available, but they may not be easily accessible for everyone. Employability, insurance, adherence to treatment, comorbidities are sometimes all piled up against an individual living with HIV. In the U.S. each state handles access to treatment with a loose blanket of solidarity and globally, numbers are even more dismal. 

It's going to take evolving innovation, strategic aggression and united compassion to change this. The fight to advance civil rights was never isolated to a one-time event, but a chain of consistent and strategic helping hands that never gave up. The same must be done in the work ahead to continue pushing and fighting against stigma, bringing equal access to treatment, and strengthening policy that is harming the HIV community. 

If you are looking for more ways to get involved, consider becoming a member of NMAC or attending this years conference in Washington D.C. If neither of those are something you think you can achieve today, do not feel that you can't have a part in this movement. Dr. King said it best when he shed light on power in vulnerability:

  • Start a discussion group in your community. Invite someone from your local health department to come out and educate. Many doors can open from this.
  • Involve your elected officials in changing the policy in your state for criminalization of people living with HIV/AIDS by signing petitions or writing letters of your own.
  • Share statistics via social media among your friends. Post it as your insight, challenge your friends to do the same. For help on how, visit Greater Than AIDS or our nations' government site full of educational tools like webinars, testing locators, awareness day information, etc.
  • If you have never met someone living with HIV/AIDS, the opportunity is but a click away for you to learn from some residents in Florida that decided to be the Faces of HIV.
  • If you are living with HIV and are looking for support, that is still doing your part in the movement, because you are demonstrating that there is still a need. Find empowerment and support through these individuals or agencies below and you will be on your way to doing great things!
    • The Stigma Project - geared to eliminate the negative connotations associated with HIV/AIDS so it is looked at in a neutral health issue.
    • The Red Pump Project - creates platforms to engage conversations about HIV/AIDS in a bold and socially driven way.
    • SeeUs: Women Take a Stand Against HIV - utilizes tools for HIV positive women and their physician to address specific health concerns as an HIV positive woman
  • If you are living with HIV and are not covered by insurance, you STILL have time to review and compare health plan options and find out if you are eligible for financial assistance that can help pay monthly premiums and reduce out of pocket expenses. Feb. 15 is the cutoff for open enrollment. #getcovered
  • There are much, much more, feel free to contact me and I can help you find an agency, organization, or individual that will be able to address your concerns, issues and passion to help in the fight against HIV.

Thank you for reading and have a powerful and productively blessed day!

I Can't Breathe...a Mother's Fear of a New "Strange Fruit"

Over the past week I have shared my story of living with HIV and often am asked if I want to conceive another child. When I respond yes, I am sometimes asked if I fear passing on HIV to that child. No, HIV is not my fear. 

Pictured: HIV negative baby Symone '03

Passing on the history of the blood soaked ground that represents "legacy" is what I fear. Passing on the desire to keep my child safe, but inevitably teaching them to be afraid, that's my fear. 

The past few months of deaths have shown me this fear is valid. My rage is at a low simmer only because I've been sick to my stomach with humanity since I was seven. When my mother sat me down and told me what mankind did to Jesus. Then she broke down slavery. Then she broke down Civil Rights. Marching. Lynchings. Movements. Equality. Then I was blessed to see a Black man rise and be President...for two terms. My hope soared. But now...

Now, I'm charged to tell my daughter and any future child I may have why none of that worked well enough to ring true. 

Yes, I trust God. Please know that. Trust that I know His word says, it's best to trust no man. Ps. 118:8. My heart is hurting. I usually remain silent when the pain is in my bones. But I feel like the bones of generations past have been broken for nothing. 

The only freedom in this country my future child may know will be the 9 months he or she is in my womb. 

God bless America. #BlackLivesMatter

Focus. Partner. Achieve...UNAIDS releases Fast Track Report

"The world is embarking on a Fast-Track strategy to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030. To reach this visionary goal after three decades of the most serious epidemic in living memory, countries will need to use the powerful tools available, hold one another accountable for results and make sure that no one is left behind." From UNAIDS, 2014 "Fast Track" report. 

The 40 page document was released Nov. 18 at UCLA and included a forum where UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé shared the detailed strategy and his vision that will take how AIDS is addressed, treated and de-stigmatized throughout every nation impacted by the epidemic and decrease infections, eliminate discrimination and empower nations to thrive.  It's properly titled "Fast Track". 

It's not just graphs and statistics, it's precise information that will hold nations accountable on an ambitious level to their response to the impact of HIV/AIDS. This initiative seeks to improve that response from this point forward, consistently and in unity. It's like a senior in high school, bringing up his 3.9 GPA to become valedictorian. It's not impossible, but it's going to take all hands on deck, compassion, aggressive resourcefulness, and consistent momentum. Or SMART goals on steroids, in my opinion.

I believe we can do it. I'm all about accountability and progression - not blame game and moving forward while others suffer. The consequences completely overwhelm the benefits of us not collectively working together on this #FastTrack. But if we elevate our awareness to the needs of all, a 95% decrease of infections by 2030 will be a great achievement of epic proportions. This year's World AIDS Day theme is "Focus. Partner. Achieve: An AIDS Free Generation". I believe that UNAIDS is leading the charge with this call to action in this report. Time will tell, and I want to be on the frontline, not the sideline. Will you join?

To read more about the World AIDS Day report, visit UNAIDS website http://www.unaids.org/en/resources/documents/2014/JC2686_WAD2014report

What does a generation without AIDS look like to you? 

The Light at the End of the Awareness Ribbon

Now that October is over, for many there is no need to recognize pink ribbons for Breast Cancer Awareness month. They've packed away their posters, ribbons and donation cups until next year. The same goes for another group of individuals for Domestic Violence Awareness month is also recognized in the month of October with purple ribbons.  

However, both of these groups of survivors, loved ones remembered and current victims live with the constant reminder of why an awareness month even exists, in their lives daily. October or not, women are still diagnosed with breast cancer and purple ribbons seen or not, countless women and men will continue to be abused by their loved ones. 

One woman I have had the blessing to get to know, is one of the most beautiful women I've ever met. Her smile comforts, her eyes blaze courage and when she speaks, you are changed. She recently shared her story of domestic violence on Facebook. I've asked her permission to share it because no matter what month it is, someone needs to know there's hope for them. 

I introduce Miss Mary Bowman, nationally recognized spoken word artist, HIV advocate and survivor through perinatal transmission, woman, daughter...just, Mary...

"For #DomesticViolenceAwareness month I've decided to share my story... I don't think I've ever shared this story publicly.

In 2007 I was physically attacked by my father. The attack was followed by a discussion that went horribly wrong. In my telling of this story I am realizing my urge to excuse my father's behavior by saying that he suffered from PTSD and that my teenage vernacular did not ease the situation. I think about how many women excuse the abusers and think of ways it may have been their own fault that caused the countless incidents. But the truth of the matter is my father beat me as if I was a stranger on the street that owed him money. When I looked to my family for support I was met with accusations against me. When the cops arrived there wasn't much dialogue. All they needed to see was the blood running from my face and my swollen eyes. I had him arrested. In the morning while gathering clothes from my house to leave, My mother walked through the door and in followed my father. I couldn't believe it. I felt betrayed. I left. Days later my father's lawyer called me and encouraged me not to go to court and gave me a list of reasons why. It became clear that everyone was more concerned about the well being of my abuser than me, the victim. 

Long story short... My mother who witnessed the whole incident was devastated and very apologetic about what happened. She pleaded with me not to send my father to jail. My father's health was declining rapidly and of course she knew that they wouldn't take care of him the way she would at home. So I caved, I didn't show up in court. I stayed quiet. My family went on the way we usually do... Nobody talked about it much. The thing that bothers me most about this is that nobody asked me how I felt. Nobody asked me about me and I was the one that had wear a face of shame everyday in the public. My face took a while to go back to normal. I am typically understood to be a chill individual that doesn't fight, so to see my face look as badly as it did brought on a lot of questions. I cried a lot. I hated my father for what he did. 

I eventually moved passed what happened to me almost 7 years ago. My father has passed away since then. My family still doesn't really talk about what happened to me. 

I shared this story because I just realized that I am now 1 in 4 women that will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. I am a woman that made excuses for the abuser. I am a woman who loves her father and didn't know what else to do. Think about the other women who deal with domestic violence everyday. Their abusers are fathers, boyfriends, husbands, partners, brothers, uncles...etc. Please help me raise awareness for domestic violence. And let's continue awareness past October!!!"

For more about Mary, visit www.justmarybowman.com 

For more information on Domestic Violence, please visit The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence at www.ncadv.org

If you or someone you know needs help, please reach out. There's no shame in asking for help. Call 1-800-799-7233

HIV 101: Keeping the Youth Alive

It's the Human Immunodefciency Virus - that causes AIDS.

People infected with the virus carry it forever and can transmit it to others through their blood, semen, vaginal fluids and breast milk.


HIV can be contracted through the above described methods by having vaginal, oral or anal sex unprotected; sharing needles to shoot drugs, giving tattoos or piercings (or any other reasons) with another person who is infected with HIV; and lastly can be transmitted from a mother who is infected with HIV to her baby before, during or after birth (through breastfeeding).


You cannot get infected with the HIV virus from sitting next to someone who is infected, shaking their hands or giving them a hug. You cannot get it from dry or social kissing*, using restrooms, water fountains, or telephones after a person who is infected. Eating in the same restaurant, swimming in a pool or using a hot tub, bug bites, and giving blood are also not ways you can get HIV. *Kissing can spread other STD/STI's (Sexuall Transmitted Diseases or Infections), such as herpes. Call the CDC National STD and AIDS Hotlines for more information at 800-227-8922.

HIV weakens an infected person's immune system which makes it easier to become ill with other ailments and infections. As the immune systme weakens and an infected person is not seeking consistent medical care or adhering to medication or treatment, they can then develop AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) or become "full blown". Sadly, for now, HIV and AIDS are a fact of life that cannot be eliminated, and is eliminating people we love.

Every 9.5 minutes, someone in the United States is infected with HIV. Anyone who comes in contact with an infected person's blood, semen, breast milk, or vaginal fluids in an open source is at risk for contracting HIV. The riskiest behaviors in contracting the virus are sharing needles to use drugs, receptive anal intercourse, and vaginal intercourse. HIV/AIDS knows no age, gender, ethnicity, class, height, lifestyle or religion. It is simply a disease that there is no cure for. It is however; statistically higher in youth and black heterosexual women.

Why are the youth more at risk?

Many young people have begun to or are approaching the age where they are preparing to leave home for college or planning for the future to live on their own, gaining independance and are meeting a lot of new people that will influence their decisions. Many of them are not physically, emotionally, or sexually mature in their growth to reach these new levels. College life offers more opportunities to develop sexual relationships as the students are around many like themselves who may be away from home for the first time.


You cannot tell by looking at someone if they are infected with HIV or not. A person can look and feel fine but still be infected with HIV. Many people who are infected are on a medical treatment to where the viral load in their immune system is undetectable; meaning there are fewer copies of the virus in the blood than the tests can measure. While undetectable, a person can still have high measures of the virus in their semen and vaginal fluids and they can still pass it to someone in unprotected sex or sharing needles. The only true way to know if someone is infected is to get tested! Anonymous and/or confidential testing for HIV is offered by many medical clinics. Keep in mind that test results may not indicate that a person is HIV-positive until six months or more after infection which is called a "window period".

The safest way to avoid many things that anyone may not be mature enough to handle including unwanted pregnancy, std/sti's, hiv/aids, broken hearts due to lack of trust, etc is to simply abstain from having sex. Many people choose this as a part of their lifestyle whether it be for personal, religious or health reasons. It is a choice made by those that realize sex is not a "must" or a rite of passage to experience things in life. One thing that a lot of people don't understand about abstinence is that even if you've engaged in sex in the past, you can still make the choice to abstain and wait until you know you are ready - preferably when you are in a committed, monogomous relationship like marriage.

Many couples decide together to abstain which helps strengthen their relationship, build self-respect and open opportunities to really get to know each other beyond physical satisfaction. It is easier to make this decision early in the relationship before things get to a point where it becomes difficult to say no.


If you do choose to have sex, have SAFE sex! That doesn't just begin with a condom, it begins with being honest with your partner, remaining faithful to one another and refrain from shooting up drugs. Just one time is all it takes to be infected with HIV and other STD's.


Condoms are NOT always 100% effective and the packaging clearly tells you that. When used properly, condoms can help protect you and your partner against HIV and other STD's as well as unwanted pregnancy; however... CERTAIN STDs CAN STILL BE SPREAD BY CONTACT WITH INFECTED AREAS THAT ARE NOT COVERED BY A CONDOM!! (See Genital Herpes Transmission).


First, discuss condom use before you have sex with your partner and agree that you will use them with every sexual encounter properly. This will also help you avoid any scare trips to the doctor due to being allergic to certain types of condoms.

Video: How to Put On A Condom

  • Health officials encourage you to use a male latex condom for each seperate act of vaginal, anal or oral sex; however if you cannot use a male latex condom, there are condoms for females as well.
  • Read the labels and instructions on the packaging carefully!
  • Check the expiration date.
  • Check the individually wrapped condom for a pocket of air inside. The condom wrapper should feel as though there is air inside, not flat.
  • Use a water based lubricant for vaginal and anal sex. Never use condoms with oil based lubricants, such as petroleum jelly or with any vaginal products that may have oil. This causes the condom to be more porous, allowing semen and viruses to travel through the condom.
  • If allergic to latex condom, there are also polyurethane or synthetic latex condoms. These types of condoms have not been as thoroughly tested as male latex condoms; however the CDC indicates that they're likely to provide similar protection.


Using alcohol or anything that alters your sober mental state, including prescription drugs increases your risk for HIV infection (and only God knows what else!). A person's decision to say no or remain abstinent or faithful to their partner may be weakened if here or she is using alcohol or other drugs. People with altered states of mind are more likely to forget to use condoms or may not use them properly.


Pressure to party and engage in ccertain activities may seem like a reality in college life, single life, depressed life, etc. but it is important to protect yourself from high risk situations like gatherings centered around alcohol or other drugs. Avoid adding these two dangerous incentives to your dates as it can promote risky or violent behavior including date rape. Do not be afraid to say no and you can do so politely; however be firm. Aside from health issues, alcohol use or possession by people under the age of 21 can result in legal problems and it is important that you know the laws in your state as well as in other countries when traveling for holidays. Your schools, jobs or organizations you may be a part of might have rules about alcohol use by students or employees.

Learn to assert yourself, stand firm in your convictions of what you believe is best for you. Think ahead as sometimes certain stressors and pressures in life may make making decisions like abstaining from sex and refraining from drug use more difficult. It's easier to make these decisions when you think about consequences and decide on your limits and boundaries before getting into a situation involving alcohol, drug or sex. While it may be diffiult depending on the moment, try to always remain calm when choosing to say no and leave emotions out of your decision. Look the person in the eye and stand straight or sit up straight - try not to give nervous laughter or smiles as this may be interpreted as uncertainty. Use "I" statements instead of ridiculing the person who is choosing to be involved in high risk behavior. Say, "I have more fun when I'm not drinking", or "Drinking makes me sick", or "No thanks, I have a (test, interview, meeting) in the morning", instead of "You're a fool for drinking." As you should have your mind made up before you actually say no, stand firm and don't give in or argue your decision.

If still caught in the heat of the moment and temptation is in your face, learn to flip people's statements to where they can't respond:

But, everyone is doing it. / REPLY: I'm someone and I'm not doing it.

I thought you loved me. / REPLY: If you loved me, you wouldn't pressure me.

I'll still respect you in the morning. / REPLY: Good. I'll see you then.

This blog was written mostly for an informational purpose. As an individual living with HIV and someone who has been to many "sex education" classes in school, I feel that it would be less of me and what I believe in to not put my two cents in. First, I am a firm believer in abstinence. I was taught it growing up, I believe in the Bible and that all in it is what we should follow; however there are many factors to consider when thinking of who you are talking to as an audience when teaching abstinence. I do NOT believe it should be solely taught in schools. Things taught in schools should be reinforced in life beginning at home. If a student doesn't have someone at home or anyone they trust in their life to reinforce abstinence as an example of how to live, can you honestly expect them to adhere to it simply because you tell them to? While in some schools, the reasons WHY abstinence is the safest way to avoid HIV, STD's and unwanted pregnancy, there are less schools that provide or explain (notice I didn't say HAND OUT) the tools available to individuals who choose to not abstain OR for individuals who may get in a situation or even live in a situation where they don't have a choice. I feel that you can't tell someone not to do something without telling them why or without explaining how to protect themselves should something unforseen occur. Yes, in the book of Genesis, Adam and Eve were given specific instructions and then didn't follow them and NO I'm not saying God should have given them candied apple so that they wouldn't have been tempted. I'm saying that because the source of original sin went down the way it did, it caused a ripple effect of more sin. We were then at that point, given free will and our free will has caused deaths, heartache, wars, poverty, greed, etc. and we all have ways to avoid things that are not good for us. Even then... Eve could have had anything else in the Garden of Eden. We can do ANYTHING else besides put ourselves at risk for HIV, STDs and unwanted pregnancy; however we let our flesh (hormones/peer pressure) get the best of us. So if we must be that weak we should at least utilize the methods that are available to us so that we can take advantage of the chances given to us to do better each day.

Also, as well as there are rules regarding proper usage of condoms, there is education on proper disposal of condoms. Do NOT flush them down the toilet!! Do NOT throw them under the bed or couch or car seat. Do NOT use them more than once. Upon removal of used condom, roll in tissue along with wrapper (if it can be found - I know how it is sometimes), and place in trash can. If there is concern of embarrassing discovery later, be sure to dispose of outside. I don't know anyone that digs through their bathroom trash can, this seems like a pretty safe place to throw a condom away.

I thank you for taking the time to read this lengthy blog and will soon return to my personal rants on being HIV positive and trying to keep others from getting it too!

Hey HIV, Will You Marry Me?

People tend to think some things about HIV positive people like that they can’t be in a relationship, that they won’t get married, have sex (yeah, seriously), or anything that someone who’s not infected with HIV can have. They are wrong and I specifically picked a word to discuss in this blog to show that someone with HIV can be with someone who does not have HIV…

Ladies and gentleman, introducing a new word to your vocabulary: Serodiscordant is a term used to describe a couple in which one partner is HIV positive and the other is HIV negative. Serodiscordant relationships are also referred to as "magnetic".

is the term used to describe a couple in which both partners are of the same HIV status (i.e., both are HIV positive or both are HIV negative). Serodiscordant couples face numerous issues not faced by sero-concordant couples, including facing a decision as to what level of sexual activity is comfortable for them, knowing that practicing safer sex reduces but does not eliminate the risk of transmission to the HIV negative partner. There are also potential psychological issues arising out of taking care of a sick partner, and survivor guilt. Financial strains may also be more accentuated as one partner becomes ill and potentially less able or unable to work. Then you have to think of planned parenting. How will the child be conceived? At what risks are you willing to take physically, emotionally, financially? Do you find a surrogate to carry the child? Do you adopt?

I’ve been putting off writing this blog for some time now because I didn’t want particular people taking my blog personal. This is something that has been on my mind for quite some time and I think I’ve finally got it together to put it into black and white.

When the subject of dating comes up in my life, I’ve been asked several times, ‘What are you looking for?” "Why are you single?" To that I usually reply with a hesitant smile or a shrug of the shoulders because I don’t really like answering the question. I always feel as if the person inquiring is looking for some certain answer to make them feel good and I want my answer to be conceived the same way it is given. I don’t want my answer to be taken as though the person that is asking me has to immediately meet my standards or requirements and if they don’t they will no longer get the time of day. As Steve Harvey has said many times on his show how women always settle and they end up in situations where they are unhappy because they don’t state their requirements. Some people like to know that they are measured at some level or that they have something to strive for. Well, at least in my opinion.

So, for some time, I’ve been thinking… while I know my worth and I know my place as a woman in a relationship, there are things that I believe should be taken into consideration prior to me establishing my heart and soul firmly in that position. I should be bringing things to the table as well as my potential mate. I should be willing to succumb to certain conditions as well as he. There is no 50/50 in my eyes, it’s give all and take all. Some would consider this unrealistic, but I’m a old fashioned romantic and it’s what I expect, what I require. We should be partners that balance each other, compliment each other. My peanut butter to his jelly, if you will. (Strawberry, if you’re feeling fresh!)

So what am I looking for?

I am looking for someone who is secure enough in themselves to love me at my worst so they can really appreciate me at my best and someone who is secure enough to let me see them at their worst and not always their best. I want to be with someone who appreciates the quiet so when I get loud and want to get loose, they will have the time of their lives (it happens). The person that I need to be with has to be someone that is willing to be in a sero-discordant relationship because I am a woman that openly speaks about being HIV positive, I pass out condoms, I hug drug addicts and I see a doctor every three months. One day, I night be on medication. One day, I might want another child. I give a lot of myself and I do not do so to compensate for some psychological trauma where I feel as though to give is the only way to receive love. I give and want my mate to understand that my love is boundless and intertwining with all man (not MEN, but mankind). I want someone who believes in fighting for what is right, not just because it makes you feel good, but because it’s right and you aren’t afraid of the changes to come. I see me being with someone that can embrace me for all that I am and still maintain their own crazy, sexy, cool… does that really sound impossible? No. It sounds like something that takes faith, work, communication, time, open-mindedness, willingness to laugh at yourself, the ability to show weaknesses, accepting that you are two people that are human, that are bound to make mistakes and to be comfortable with one another when the mistakes happen. That’s what I’m looking for. Can you handle that?

Why has it taken me so long to write this? Because I’m a single mother who has had her share of heartbreaks and has caused others she loved (loves) dearly pain. I am a woman who lives on the edge of not wanting to accept what life has given her and I fight through it daily because I know what God has promised me. I am a human being who is saddened at the thought that one mistake I made could cause me to not live long enough to see my daughter. That sadness sometimes keeps me from getting out of the bed. Can you handle that?

When I get proposed to, when someone wants to be with me that I deem worthy of the above mentioned things, I want them to know that this is what they are saying, “I do” to. It’s not just about the rings, the bridal party, the honeymoon, the living together, it’s about accepting each other BEFORE the joint accounts, before you get the dog… it’s about having the late night conversations, surviving the fights, the in-laws, the haters, the financial upheaval and the let downs. It’s about knowing that there are times you can’t fix everything but being there for each other does count for something. It’s about getting a chill twenty years into the marriage because the spark has never died. Come to think of it, I don’t even want a spark, I want an inferno… but should the flames die down, I know my best friend, my lover, my man will understand that things that can warm me again. It’s about being real with each other. Can you handle that?

I want my future husband to know that there are some days I am so sure in every decision I make and all that comes my way and there are days where I have to remember to tell the storm how big my God is because I just can’t take anymore and don’t want to bring those I love into my turmoil. I want my future husband to pray with me. I don’t mean quietly in his own time, I mean get down on his knees and confess sins, profess glory, give honor and praise to God with me. Can you handle that?

I always tell friends who have been through rough patches, bad break-ups and whimsical flings that the reason we go through our bad times is so that we can truly appreciate the good times. If things were all good all the time, we would completely take people in our lives for granted. We’d take for granted the tender moments where we feel like the most special person in the world. So, you have to be appreciative of those times when you wonder why you ended up with such a loser or why you wasted your time on such a gold digger. When you meet the one who knows your worth, you will know it. It won’t be a temporary feeling. It will be one that will stick with you like that piece of gum you stepped on in the parking lot at the mall and you didn’t notice until you stepped on your freshly mopped kitchen floor. Yeah, like that. LOL

Seriously, though there are times I wonder if I live in a fantasy land, I sit and make lists of realistic characteristics that I believe help a relationship thrive and the things I’ve mentioned are on that list. So perhaps when it’s all packaged together it seems like something that doesn’t exist, but I wait patiently because I know that my God knows the desires of my heart and knows what will break my heart. So I trust in Him to bring to me what is supposed to be in my life. I’d like to think that my list in comparison to who God is preparing for me doesn’t do him any justice. I'd like to hope that the man I receive in my life will exceed all that I ever hoped for.

I say all of this as a woman with HIV who once thought that love forgot all about me and would never know me again. I thought I was destined to be a pill popping-toilet hugging-rocking chair sitting-old maid who would only be touched by a nurse practioner (and what a cold touch they have sometimes)! But I have had to come to terms with things, stop just going through life and GROW through life. I now know that despite it all, I am worthy to have what my heart wants. Some would say a lot of odds are against me. I'm a single mother (who has a normal relationship with the baby's father - no animosity), I speak out publicily (to educate others to keep them from feeling isolated or that it can't happen to them) and I like country western music.

What? We've all got our quirks!

For a real dose of my blog read, When Opposites Attract: