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A Woman with HIV

What is it like to live with HIV infection? A young woman tells WebMD her story.
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WebMD Feature

What is it like to live with HIV infection? A young woman tells WebMD her story.

The woman, age 18, asked WebMD to withhold her identity. She is a student at a major U.S. university.

"I was born with HIV. My father gave it to my mother before I was born. I have an older brother but he does not have it. When I was born, my father was in the hospital. They didn't know what he had, and they never suspected he was HIV positive. That was the last test they tried.

"My mother was in one hospital while I was being born, and my father was in another hospital. They tested my mother and she was positive. They found out when I was born that I was HIV positive, but they weren't sure at first if it would go away. So they kept testing. It never went away. I have been living it my whole life. I can't say it is a horrible thing. It is sad because my father passed away a couple of months after I was born. And I still worry about my mother.

"A lot of my family still doesn't know. They wouldn't be understanding, so we kept it away from them.

"Growing up I had to go to the National Institutes of Health and get blood drawn. I knew something was wrong, but I never understood the extent of it until I was in fifth grade and began understanding that people were not comfortable and did not understand my situation. The worst part was taking the medications and not being able to eat after it. That was my biggest complaint until I reached middle school.

"I knew my mom had it, too, and she was all I had. I worried about her dying and leaving me alone.

"My mom always told my teachers [that I had HIV] because if I got a cut on the playground they would have to take care of it. And when [I entered middle school], my teacher couldn't handle it and said she didn't want to teach me.

"I was so scared in middle school. I thought, 'I can't tell anyone, no one wants to be my friend.' And it still is like that sometimes. I am OK. I am really healthy. My doctor tells me I am doing really great. I am thankful for my positive mindset. But it is hard having friendships and relationships. By now you'd think people would know a lot about HIV, but they don't. I would never tell someone I was not close to. Even when I do feel close enough to someone to tell them, I wonder. Are they going to say, 'Get away from me! Don't touch me!' The truth is that people really do look at you differently when they know you are HIV positive.

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