Early on in life, I realized that I had tendencies towards women but in the 1960’s it wasn’t acceptable to come out as a lesbian. So I got married to a man at 17 and quickly had a baby. He wasn’t a good man and the marriage became abusive. I loved my child deeply but the abuse made me turn to alcohol first and before I knew it, I was a full blown junkie. I escaped the marriage after six years but was already so deep into my addiction by that point.
Over the next 20 years, I battled my addiction, turned to prostitution, and experienced homelessness. I wound up going to jail during this time but it was there that I began to have a relationship with God and started attending AA meetings. Since being locked up, I haven’t used drugs or alcohol and I now have eight and a half years clean.
Because of my addiction and promiscuous behavior, I ended up contracting HIV and was diagnosed in 2006. I had already come to terms with my sexual orientation and was married to the love of my life. She accepted my diagnosis and I lived and breathed for her. She was my lover, my confidant and my best friend. She took ill and for the first time in my life, I had to take care of someone else instead of someone taking care of me. When she passed away, I felt like my life was over. That’s when I found Philadelphia FIGHT.
When I first came to FIGHT and Project TEACH I was a broken woman. TEACH taught me how to take control of my life while learning how to maintain my health with HIV. I then started volunteering at FIGHT and found a lot of empowerment because of it. I was taking on new tasks successfully and challenging myself in a positive way. Now, I am a peer educator and I get to teach other people about HIV. I talk to people about the importance of medication adherence, prevention methods, and fighting HIV stigma. I am also a proud graduate of FIGHT’s TREE IOP program which has helped me maintain my recovery.
FIGHT has given me a home and a purpose. Today, I feel beautiful and I thank God for what I have every day. I used to live in the dark but today, I have found the light.