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.

Come back often to read more PROMISE stories as we gather them.