What It’s Like to Be a Woman with HIV/AIDS

There’s still a lot of stigma; HIV’s related to sex and drugs, which are two things that make you “not a good person.” But really, really? Bullshit. Own your humanity and don’t judge people. I don’t care if I slept with 13,000 people and did heroin every day; I’m still a person. And, I might be a better person than you.

Yesterday was the 26th World AIDS Day, a number that both seems frighteningly long and curiously short, given that I, and so many others, have never known a world without AIDS. I often worry that the anxious awareness of the past has now grown stale and the cultural approach has turned cavalier, despite the overwhelming truths: nearly 50,000 people will be diagnosed with HIV this year, adding to the 1.2 million people who are already living with it. African-Americans are 12% of the US population, but account for 44% of people living with HIV, as of 2010. Black women are the second largest group of those diagnosed, after young gay males. This year’s World AIDS Day theme was Getting to Zero, the same theme for the last three years. Let’s hope we’re getting closer.

Refinery29 profiled women who live with HIV and AIDS, and the result is a breathtaking, brutally honest insight into their truths. Many of the women have lived with their diagnosis for years, and the stigma still persists; a few continue to be ostracized. Their stories all vary, but the common thread remains the same: No matter what, I’m lucky to be here. Let their bravery wash over you.

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