If you are still on the fence about getting tested, look at what other community members have written about taking charge of their health. PROMISE is a series of stories where members of our community can share their hardships and triumphs. We use PROMISE because we believe that we are our community’s greatest motivation to take care of ourselves. You can read our PROMISE stories here.
Mikayla’s PROMISE Story
Whatz poppin! My story starts at 19 yrs old, finding out I was positive after a health scare. I went to the ER thinking I was sick from eating too many sweets, and the doctor asked, “Do you think you’ve contracted HIV?”
With my boyfriend sitting next to me, I was like, Um yes, it’s possible. I was urged to get tested. A friend took me to CATF (now Equitas Health) in Sep 2006. It was my 1st time ever to test and I didn’t get a negative result. I HAD TO ACCEPT THAT I PLAYED A PART IN NOT PROTECTING MYSELF. So being transparent with my medical team, and 12 yrs later, I’m still alive, I’m in good health, and I’m undetectable.*
I won’t lie, this has been a long journey of finding my strength, and power to fight the stigma. I take my self-care and health care so serious and make sure I stay consistently healthy.
Sometimes I sit and ask myself, What if I never experienced having to live with HIV daily? But because that time only lasted a short time, I can only accept the fact that my life changed from a health scare that caused me to end up testing. For my first ever HIV testing experience that fate feel of a positive result. So I don’t know what it’s like to hear your HIV results are negative. So on to a lifetime health change, to a life of taking better care of myself.
Many have said from society or the community many foul untruths about a person who lives a life with a HIV positive diagnosis. So I take great pride in living a life of positive changes and positive health diagnoses. If you take pride in your health care then you can live a long healthy life.
*To be “undetectable” means to have lowered the levels of HIV in the bloodstream so much that it is not detectable during testing and not possible to pass on to another person.
An Anonymous PROMISE Story
I’ve been working in the sexual health field for almost a year, I’m surrounded by dildos, condoms, lube, and PrEP ads every day. I know the stats, I know how to reduce risk, but I removed myself from this narrative. Until recently, I didn’t think sex was a thing that was going to be a part of my life. Not understanding my relationship with gender impacted my willingness to think about that dynamic within my own body. I’ve been overcoming these barriers recently and realizing sex IS a thing I want, but even then, I am in a monogamous relationship with a woman, so I didn’t think about HIV/STI prevention in my own life.
Recently, I started to realize I’m attracted to men and might want to have an open relationship in the future. When my girlfriend and I were talking about this, she asked if we should get on PrEP. My mouth dropped. I know the importance of PrEP, but since I took myself out of the narrative of sex, I also took myself out of the narrative of HIV/STI prevention. Prevention isn’t something I tell other people they should think about anymore, it’s important to my health, too.
I don’t know if I’m ready to start having sex with other people, or if I ever will. If I do, I know how important communication is when it comes to sex and what surrounds it. You need to have honest communication with your partners and yourself. If you aren’t honest to yourself about your risk, you can’t prevent anything. I know all the info and I work in this field, but I wasn’t honest to myself. Honesty, about what you know, what you don’t know, and what you are doing: That’s where it starts.
An Anonymous PROMISE Story
I occasionally will engage in casual or anonymous sex with partners and rarely use condoms. I never really thought too much about it, until a close friend of mine ended up getting an STI. When I found that out, I decided to go get tested immediately with my main partner and the other person I am dating. It was really relieving to actually know my status, and now we make sure to get tested any time we have new partners before we have sex with them. I also started taking PrEP, because I really enjoy having sex without a condom and wanted to take control of my health. Even though I will probably not use a condom very often, I am working to make sure I use one any time I have an anonymous partner or I do not know their status.
Anos’ PROMISE Story
My name is Ano. I just turned 22. I have been out, like 7 years, but being honest though, I don’t think I was ever really in the closet. Ya know, me and my twin been chasing those shortys since no age. I pushed up on my first, when I was like 7, got a kiss and everything! Lol. But my auntie found out and whooped me real good, so I kept it kinda on a low track until like 8th 9th grade. By that time I knew some other studs like me and it was all pretty good. I been datin’ females since then. Sometimes it’s a little rough ‘cause you know girls like to play like they straight until, I turnt them, then they Bi or whatever. I usually understand when they keep going back to their n—gahs cause they family and church pressure, but this one girl keep hurtin’ my heart. Cause I really like her… love her. I mean her baby call me “Dada” and everything, but she keep steppin’ out. Even though the last time her dude got her pregnant AND 3 STDs. I took her back though. The doctor got her cleaned up and it was good for a minute. It was hard ‘cause I had to wait until that shit cleared up, but we kind of good now. She says she uses protection, so I don’t worry too much. I mean they say you can’t get HIV from oral and not being rude but I strap up so, I feel pretty safe. There has been a lot around about AIDS in the black community, though, so I worry if she back slides, she might catch something. I keep telling her she should take that PrEP pill that kills AIDS, just in case she gets drunk and messes up, but she don’t listen. I just pray she don’t catch something bad. I aint trying to be a single parent.
Javier’s PROMISE Story
My chosen name is Javier. I am Mexican and Dominican but I was born in the states. I am a runaway. I got raped 17, it was my senior year by my dad’s friend and my Mom told me to just deal with it and get over it. That she, my grandma, my aunt and great-grandmother had all been raped and it was the curse of being female and Ill survive it like they all did. She said its where strength for women came from and I was no different nor would the life of any daughters I had be different. I packed my bags and left school midday two days later. A month later I found out I had syphilis, I got a shot and thought it was taken care of but I learned later I needed 3 shots now I am good though. Once on the road, I unfortunately befriended someone and ended up in a trucker sex trafficking kink scheme for a little over a year. They forced us to have “same sex.” I was so scared I was going to get AIDS, but it never happened. I think I might just be weirdly immune. That’s why now I don’t take that PrEP drug, cause I never got AIDs so why worry now, especially when I don’t have sex with those types of people anymore. I am really lucky, I survived until now, but I know I am bendecido por Dios. That’s why, I champion for others, to use condoms and to do the blue pill daily. I think God spared me and showed me the challenges, so I could be more help.
Kitty’s PROMISE Story
They call me Kitty. I know, I am like an Amazonian Ghengis Khan in size 12 pumps but its been my nickname since I started doing burlesque in my twenties and my signature number was to Eartha Kitts, “Just an Old Fashion Girl” The audience thought my asian eyes resembled hers. I dont think she was asian though. Like her I was treated poorly because my father was White. I think this lack of Support drove me to leave home at 14. The only work I could fine was on the Street and I learned quick that “lying down” paid way more than being a drug mule or delivery cow (that’s what the pólice and pushers called us.) Sounds bad but the older “girls” taught me how to “run my own” and take care of my resources. There were folks to go to if you got the clap or crabs or “the icky.” I learned how to really work with condoms and hand jobs so I stayed pretty fresh, as they say. You could say that those were my ‘specialties.
An Anonymous PROMISE Story – Peace in The Details
I’ve always been a detail-oriented person ever since I was a child. I’ve always been in control. To the point where some people would call me a Control Freak. I just like being the author of my own destiny but I’m 24 so I like to have fun too! So imagine the shock when I go for my annual check-up and I hear the doctor say words that had me frozen. “I’m sorry, your HIV test came back positive.” My mind raced with so many questions and I could feel my body fill with fear. After the doctor explained what my new status meant in detail, he asked if I wanted to move forward with treatment and I remembered the words of my momma. “Sometmes life surprises you. You just gotta let it go. Fnd your peace. Get back up and fight!” I suddenly felt a peace and confidence that I had this handled. So I worked with my doctor and set up my first appointment. I got this! I just had to find peace in the details.
An Anonymous PROMISE Story
Growing up I was always told, “It’s better to be seen and not heard.” Once I fnally came out I found myself in palces where the same rules applied. I found myself in a place where I couldn’t even speak up for myself when it came to my own safety sexually. I feel into a depression and completely stopped taking care of myself. One day my homeboy noticed I was a little out of it and asked when the last time I went to the doctor. I told him what had been going on and added “if no one out there cares what I have to say, why would a doctor?” He responded with “if YOU don’t care about your health, how can life get better? How can you live your best life if you not at your best?” Something about his words shook me. We went to the doctor together and got tested. I am HIV NEG and I decided to get back on PrEP. It was time for me to get back on my feet and I had to find my voice again.
Come back often to read more PROMISE stories as we gather them.