By Ann Spikes
My name is Ann. I am a working mother of two beautiful children. I am living with HIV.
Back in August of 2002, I met a man. I was 19 and he was 35. We had a relationship on and off for 16 years. He was going out with a lady and the lady was dying. People told me that he had HIV, but I didn’t believe them. I was blinded by the material things. I left myself behind. I forgot who I was because of money. I did get tested back then, and it was negative.
I was tested again in 2013 and it was negative. We got back together in 2014 and we lived together. At that point, I thought I was the only woman my partner was with so I didn’t get tested. In 2016, I started breaking out in little rashes. I was putting ointment on them, but they wouldn’t go away. I wanted to know what was wrong with me.
I got tested again for HIV on January 9, 2017. Someone from the health department called me and said that they needed to meet with me in my house. They came to my house and told me I was HIV positive.
I cried.I cried. I cried.
When I confronted the man I was dating, all he could do was tell me that he was sorry. He didn’t know he had it or where he got it.
I also had to tell my daughter. She was 16 years old. I gave my daughter the paper and let her read it for herself. I explained to her that HIV is a disease that someday could take my life. I told her everything that she needed to know. She cried, mostly because of the death part of it. Once she started doing her own research, she came back to me with questions. Now, my daughter asks me every single day: “Mama, did you take your medicine?” She makes sure that I take my medicine every day.
I have a one-year-old baby boy. I was undetectable in my pregnancy so I didn’t pass HIV to my son. When he’s able to understand what HIV is, I’ll tell my son that it’s not a death sentence. I don’t want him to be ashamed or scared of me. Yes, I have to take pills every day; but what I have, I can’t give to you.
Aside from my daughter, the only one in my family who knows is my sister. She is the only one who will support me and not judge me. So many people don’t know about this disease. I hear my friends’ kids talk. I hear things like, “you might catch it if you drink off of one of her glasses.” They automatically think that if you have HIV, you have AIDS. I correct them. I tell them the difference between HIV and AIDS. I try to educate them without exposing myself. But you can’t educate someone who’s not willing to learn.
When I was growing up, I didn’t have anybody to tell me about diseases. I didn’t have that type of mama. My mama would wake up in the morning and go to work at 4:00 am. My mama didn’t teach me how to be a woman. She taught me how to cook. She taught me how to clean. She didn’t teach me about diseases. I have to be the one to tell my daughter what my mama didn’t tell me.
I want to share my story because if a young girl is walking in the same steps as I am, I want her to know this: If you’re going to sleep with someone, always use protection no matter what. You don’t have sex with someone just because you love them.
My daughter saw me be in love with this man and make choices that ultimately hurt me. No matter how much you love someone, always get tested, and do not sleep with someone without protection.