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“HIV to me was something that originally messed up my life. But now I found out that I have a purpose,
which is to help others and let people know the truth about getting tested, I feel like the mess became a message.” Ce-Ce

Read the few pages. - Enjoy!

"Life Don't Have To End."

 

Albert C.

In 2001, I got PCP. I went to the emergency room at University Hospital, and they sent me to St. Agnes Hospital. I remember being on the examination table and having two doctors standing over me. One doctor said, “Well, he’s gonna’ die anyway…” and the other one said, “‘Yeah, but I’m still going to treat him.” It was after that I slipped into a coma.


I was in the coma for one and a half months. I gained consciousness to find complete paralysis of my whole body. I had tubes everywhere; feeding tubes, breathing tubes, IVs, the whole works. I couldn't move anything. I had to be washed; to be turned; to be totally cared for. This lasted through 2004. I was sent to a nursing home where I gradually learned how to function, breathe on my own, eat by myself, walk, and use the bathroom. After that, I was sent home.
Home was at my mother’s house. My mother, sister, daughter, and niece helped with my care. My family has always been very supportive. They are there to help me through.


I first got high in 1968 when I was thirteen. I used IV heroin with my older cousin. Through the years, I have done everything short of prostitution to support my habit. I stopped using drugs in 1992. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I kept telling myself I didn’t want it anymore. Cold turkey. I did it cold turkey.
My mom was the type of person who when she said she was done with something like drinking or smoking, she was done with it. I guess I inherited that from her. It took about three to four years to become completely clean because I stopped and started and finally stopped.


I got my diagnosis in 1992. I was incarcerated and was asked if I wanted to be tested - I was incarcerated from 1992-1998. I was HIV positive. I had a dilemma once I found out that I was infected. Now I am HIV positive, but the prison officials really didn’t care. They had to give you the medicines; it was the law. But there was no one there who was the least bit concerned. You had no one to check up on you or to monitor your health. You were pretty much on your own. I had no one to talk to. I couldn’t talk to the other prisoners because you never wanted anyone to know your status. The stigma. Oh, the stigma.


Even though I had a feeling I was HIV positive - my lifestyle told me so, I didn’t look at it as a death sentence. The type of person I am, I always look at things in a broader view. I always felt my immune system could fight off anything. I also looked at Magic Johnson and other people who had it, and I thought I could fight. I thought, “Okay. Maybe I’ve got it, but I’m not just going to lay down and die.”


People ask about how I think I got HIV. It takes me back into the drug scene and I do not like to go there. But for the sake of the book, I’m going to share in hopes that it will be beneficial to someone else.


I remember in 1987 I was getting high and shooting up. I was with this guy who my friends said, “You know, Man, he’s got it.” I was shooting up with him, and I remember seeing a little blood in the syringe, and I just went on and shot it. So that’s how I believe I got HIV. This man died of AIDS in 1995.


I don’t look at HIV as a sickness. I look at it as a viral opportunity. If I had never gotten it I would never have stepped back, looked inside myself, and found all of my gifts.

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outside my window

Outside my Window | Photo by Kithia Gray

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“I was scared when I found out about my HIV. I can live comfortably now, knowing that I have the help that I need. The support group, the doctors, and the nurses poured their hearts out to me. Fountains of love, support, acceptance, and care are everywhere.”

– Joe F.

 

“You still have life with HIV. It is a personal choice to shut yourself off to the world.
Isolation is optional. You either isolate, or you live life to the fullest. Why shut yourself off
when there is so much outside? There is always hope. ”

– Michael B.

 

“I want to tell all of the young girls to be careful about who they are sleeping with ‘cause you can’t trust everybody. You have to protect yourself. You have to follow your dreams.”

– Tymeshia J.

“My baby girl gave me a new look at life. She does not need to know anything about my broken parts, the drug abuse, my HIV, and doing time in the pen. Her love shines through; she brightens up everybody around her. She has given me the ability to look outside myself and see a better future for her and for me.”

Alex Y.

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toilet

Toilet | Photo by Albert Carolina

“When my mother and them found out I had it, my mother told me her toilet was broke so I couldn’t sit on it.”

– Debra H.