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